Complicating dating

Marriage is the carrot

This past springa friend asked me to join him and another guy at the gay and lesbian wedding show. My friend was rather desperate; in the week since agreeing to go he started picking up hints that the other guy had plans for him and that the wedding show was the first step in making those plans more concrete. I was a discreet way of making it clear that their visit to the show was not a date. For my part, the opportunity to play virtuous home wrecker was too sweet to pass up.

Back then I couldn’t think of a more extreme manifestation of marriage mania than choosing a trip to a wedding show as a first date. It was only a matter of time before I came across a more tragic example.

After seven months of being earnestly courted, another acquaintance of mine was abruptly dumped. When the guy who ended things was guilted into explaining himself, the harsh truth was that he had never found my friend sexually attractive. His compelling desire for a husband had fuelled the pursuit. He had ignored the messages from below the waist (who’d a thunk a man could do it?) and charmed both himself and my friend with visions of marital bliss.

Ultimately he couldn’t ignore what to some of us seems patently obvious – sexual attraction is an important ingredient in a sexual relationship. This (hopefully memorable) insight came at a very high price in terms of my friend’s feelings.

Now, I’m not against gay marriage in principle, but the relatively silent but sizeable number of queers who aren’t enamoured of marriage have some valid points. Equality under the law has meant the loss of the freedom to structure our romantic lives without legal consequences. That loss extends beyond romance. Marriage means the assimilation of gay and lesbian relationships into the mainstream; it erodes our status as outsiders. That feeling of not belonging freed us to choose our own values and create new communities with rich cultures.

Perhaps most damagingly, gay marriage validates the monogamous ideals of “good gays” and vilifies the sexual freedom that has been a hallmark of gay liberation. It provides yet another whip with which to castigate ourselves for our “abnormal” behaviour and thereby internalize heterosexism and homophobia.

My friends’ experiences suggest that there is another price that we are paying now that marriage is no longer denied to us. The already troublesome ritual of dating has, in some cases, become a blood sport. The old trap of seeing a lover as a way to fill gaps in our lives becomes even more treacherous when we are husband hunting.

My theory is that marriage holds a rather dysfunctional appeal for some of us because it harkens back to the point in our childhoods before the realization of our sexuality played havoc with the vision of a happy future that we are spoon-fed by the world around us: a spouse, a house, and kids playing on an immaculate front lawn with the family’s golden retriever. How many of us findthe idea of marriage appealing because it symbolizes all that we feared we lost when we came out of the closet?


You have to want a long-term relationship in order to succeed at having one. Dating is rarely smooth sailing and there isn’t much motivation to stick it out through the squalls if life as a single person is just as appealing. The desire for a relationship can see you through the storms. There does come a point at which wanting a relationship can’t justify the challenges to having one.

Marriage provides some pretty, off-the-shelf wrapping paper with which to disguise the imperfections of a romantic situation. If the allure of marriage is causing us to gloss over problems that are fundamental, somebody’s gonna get hurt.

The irony of the dating situations that I have been party to in the last couple of years is that it’s only once the relationships have ended that real honesty is possible. Granted, it probably isn’t helpful to be honest with someone about the degree to which I am prepared to overlook their flaws just because I feel it’s time to settle down.

It may, however, be a good question we should start to ask ourselves – in order to avoid getting hurt and to avoid hurting others.

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