The Evolution of Us: Make it a contract worth renewing

By : Dr. Steve Yacovelli
Comments: 0
Steve Yacovelli

Steve Yacovelli

Back in the 90s there was a TV show called Earth 2. It was kind of cheesy (about future colonists who were trying to make a go of establishing a human colony on another Earth-like planet) but still entertaining. It did, after all, star the sexy Antonio Sabàto, Jr!

One thing that resonated for me in that show was when two characters’ marriage was “up for renewal,” and the wife wasn’t sure she wanted to renew. In this future society, marriage was indeed a contract, but with an expiration date that you can negotiate for renewal—similar to satellite radio subscription. This “contract” concept of marriage always stuck with me.

Today, as we watch the same-sex marriage debate continue to unfold and celebrate the success of marriage equality in the Sunshine State, what continues to strike me is that the concept of “marriage” seems less like the Earth 2 contract and more like the religious connotations of marriage. Think more “bride and groom at the church alter” and less like said couple at the Justice of the Peace or City Hall.

As a big believer of a true separation of church and state, the marriage debate helped me to see how these two institutions are, well, married a little too closely to one another.

When Richard and I started to talk about marriage, I wanted to think about what were the benefits for us to get into this contract. As I Googled “same-sex marriage benefits I found what I saw as the Top 3:

1. Get married and you’ll have more money.
It’s no secret that couples typically make out better when combining households: more income, less living expenses, double the wine glasses. A 2009 New York Times article put some dollar figures to this for same-sex couples, looking at the fiscal impact of marriage as it relates to health insurance, survivorship for Social Security, avoiding legal hurdles for inheritances, and some IRS tax breaks (aside from the “marriage penalty”). So in theory, getting married provides some financial bump.

2. Get married and be healthier.
In 2013, a research team from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, San Francisco State University, and UCLA found that gay married couples were “significantly less distressed than LGBs not in a legally recognized relationship.” In addition, a 2013 study at the University of Missouri found that happy married couples were indeed healthier than their non-married counterparts. While it’s unclear if this particular study looked at same-sex couples, this is one of so many that supports the link between marriage and health.

3. Get married and your kids will be better off.
A now-famous 2014 University of Melbourne study showed that kids raised by same-sex parents score higher than the general public in areas such as “general health” and “family cohesion” … basically the healthiest of all those analyzed. While this is fantastic for my child-rearing gay brothers and sisters, it’s unclear if this study was also done with canine children (which is my reality).

While all of these studies are good, they really didn’t hit the top reason I felt compelled to get hitched to my partner of 16 years. Then I heard about this article identifying the research by University of Virginia psychologist Dr. Jim Coan. It found that both heterosexual and homosexual “married” couples psychologically benefit from being in their committed relationships. Coan’s research suggests that the brain links “just living together” with a lack of commitment and can’t relax. Conversely, the brains of those in a formal commitment (a.k.a. they consider themselves married regardless of formal legalities or not) are less reactive to stress. In short, marriage is a representation for trust and commitment, which—according to Coan—signals the brain that someone has your back and makes life better.

My little brain really resonates with this. Richard and I have been living together for the past 15 years. He’s been described as my “boyfriend,” “partner,” “significant other,” and—by some of my older relatives—my “special friend.” But none of these represented how I truly feel about him and our relationship. We have each other’s backs.

He’s the equivalent to what my siblings have with their spouses, what my parents (awesomely celebrating their 50th anniversary this year) have felt: my true partner and best friend in this life. I feel a greater emotional investment, more security, and more permanence when I think about us being “husband and husband.” Having a marriage ceremony would fit that correctly. He’s my favorite; he’s my home.

So do I think gays should get married? Of course I do, but only if it’s right. I think everyone—gay and straight alike—feel the “pressure” to get married. For my straight friends I think it has more to do with your stage in life (high school => college => married afterwards => kids).

For gays it might be the “in” thing to do because it’s allowed now, or maybe it’s conveying to the world that your love is like others and deserves being defined by marriage—like I felt.

I share with my newly empowered gay brothers and sisters who are thinking about the jog down the altar (or City Hall) that there’s only one reason to get married—the reason that’s right for you. Not because you can, not because you get health or fiscal benefits, not because it’s good for the kids: but because it’s right for you and your future spouse. And if you get some health advantages out of it: bonus!

And when my Earth 2 contract to Richard comes up for renewal, I’m pretty darn sure I’ll renew.

Share this story: