The assumption was that I would go with him. The whole time that Zack was filling out his applications; that we were reading and rereading his submission essays; that we were laughing about ending up in Tempe or Boston or Pasadena-–-the assumption was that I would go with him. Two years earlier, he had left San Francisco to help me pursue my dreams in New York City. Now we were both ready for a new adventure, a global roll of the dice, letting fate and admissions officers decide where we would land. On the day he would hear back from his first choice school in London early that March morning, his whole body was shaking as he clicked open the email. “I got in,” he said, his eyes telling me and questioning me at the same time. “I got in.” In my mind, my bags were already packed. And then the government stepped in. I’d assumed that, with my freelance job, I could simply pop over to Europe whenever my tourist visa for the UK expired. A quick search online proved me wrong. On a tourist visa, I would be allowed to stay in the UK for six months out of every twelve. Period, or as the Brits say, full stop. I looked at the screen despairingly, picturing seeing my boyfriend for only half of every year, of being unsettled and without a real home to call my own for the next two. We had our relationship to consider; we had my mental health. We had, perhaps most importantly, a very needy cat.
At this point in the story, my friends and family often ask why Zack and I didn’t just get married. It’s a fair question-–-we’ve been dating for almost five years and still actually like each other. We talk about the future as a statement, not a question, and split holidays between our family’s houses. It would’ve been an easy visa to get, the only kind of romantic relationship that, for better or worse, is accepted without question around this country and the world.
When I get married, I want it to be because there was a moment where a man-–-my man-–-looked at me and decided he couldn’t foresee a life without me. I want to get married because my partner and I are ready not to build a family-–-kids, in my opinion, have little to do with marriage-–-but be a family, just the two of us as a unit, together. As a fairly pragmatic person, there’ve been too many events in my life that have taken place for the sake of convenience. Zack and I moved in together after six months because his lease ended and it was cheaper. I spent years wondering when I would have made that choice naturally, if it were left as simply a choice to make. I don’t want my marriage to be like that.
I’m proud to announce that Zack and I are happily unmarried partners. Thanks to the state of New York, we now have a document that declares us in all of our unmarried glory. It means we’ve been living together, in a serious relationship, for at least two years. It means I can ride in an ambulance with him, and that’s about it. I don’t have access to his healthcare (national health care in UK, here I come!). We can’t file tax returns together, he doesn’t get access to my money or I to his, and, if we choose to, either of us can dissolve our partnership with the click of a mouse on an online form. It’s exactly enough to get me a visa to go to London, so that my partner and I can continue to live our lives together, happily unmarried. There’s plenty of time for the rest later.