Love Lingers Here: Enduring Intimate Relationships VII. The Marker Event—Establishing A Commitment as A Couple
For Kevin and Alan, a couple who have been together for eleven years, the marker event was not a definitive point in time, but rather a short period of time, during which other people around them began to identify them as a couple. Specifically, Kevin and Alan were friends with a straight, married couple and Alan felt as though he and Kevin were a. couple when they were with this straight couple. According to Alan, “it had to do with acceptance. I felt like a couple when we were with them.” However, they both noted that they were not at that time identified as a couple by their families or by other friends. This identity — and the accompanying acceptance — took quite a bit more time. A similar process was described by many of the other gay and lesbian couples we interviewed.
For some gay and lesbian couples, such as Lita and Celia, there has never been a marker event, because they have never been able to disclose their sexual orientation in a public forum. They have their own private sense of being a couple—but have never had this status acknowledged or supported through a. public event. Unfortunately, in the case of Lita and Celia this lack of public recognition impacted negatively not only on. the two of them, but also on Lita’s children, who had to directly confront their mother’s orientation after Celia moved in with them (six months after she met Lita). Because there was no public recognition of their relationship and because of the hostility exhibited by Lita’s children, Celia moved out within seven months and returned to her former lover. Celia hated confrontation and conflict. She tended to retreat or sulk rather than confront either Lita or her children.
Even after leaving Lita’s home, Celia knew that she should be with Lita. They gradually began seeing each other again and, after a long, stormy period of time, found a way to live together, despite a lack of public acknowledgement or family support. Two years prior to their interview — and twenty-nine years after they started living together — Lita and Celia participated in a Holy Union ceremony at their church. When asked why they waited so long, Celia replied: “we didn’t know that we could until we started attending [this church.]” While Lita said that this really didn’t make any difference, Celia painfully and emotionally recounted (after Lita left for a doctor’s appointment) that this ceremony and public recognition was very important to both she and Lita. Through her tears, Celia disclosed that Lita’s cancer may have returned (following two previous bouts with the disease) and that this public commitment was a way in which she could fully express her deep and abiding love for Lita.