Today’s post is from Emily, who you’ll remember from her fabulous New Orleans elopement. It is ostensibly about the process of getting married and dealing with the immigration process. We’ve never gotten a chance to talk about just how hard this is, and allow those of you who are going through it a voice on APW, though we’ve done our share of multi-national weddings. But really, today’s post is about faith, and about how we each struggle with knowing what’s true for us, and what’s true for our marriage. Because the thing is, life isn’t perfect, and we know this. We don’t always read our partners correctly, painful things happen, and people leave each other all the time. But amidst all that, we need to find a way to listen to the still, small voice inside of us and have faith (or not). And how we navigate that question is a huge part of figuring out what marriage is about, for us, for now.
Do you love your partner? Prove it.
Not to me, not to them. Not to yourself. Prove it to the United States government. Oh, by the way, if you don’t do a convincing job, you could be convicted of a felony and possibly go to prison for up to twenty years, depending on which state you live in. No pressure.
When I got married, I knew full well that my husband would be applying for a green card. Of course, I hated to mention that to people, because talk of immigration status can change the reaction to your wedding. More of a “Hmmm…” than an, “Awww!” (Can I get an amen from the pregnant brides?) When I was open about it, people were determined to put the fear of God into me. “No one ever got married for a green card and later thought it was a really good idea,” someone said.
But we didn’t get married for a green card. We got married because we wanted to join our lives together. Having just lost my father, I was aware that life was short and unpredictable, and I was in love and I didn’t want to wait. I didn’t want to wait for my family to be okay with it, I didn’t want to wait to plan a wedding, I just wanted to be married. Period.
I was also incredibly naive. I’m a citizen, I thought, and I married someone who isn’t a citizen. Surely there’s someone out there that can just fix that right up. I imagined applying for a green card would be a lot like applying for our marriage license. There would be a big building, a beige room with receptionists and paperwork. It wouldn’t be romantic, but we could get it over with as soon as possible. Ha!
Due to circumstances beyond our control, our marriage is automatically assumed to be fraudulent. We were asked to collect proof of our relationship and, again, demonstrating my naivete, I gathered journal entries, poems, love notes, and the room service bill from our honeymoon. “No, no,” our lawyer said to this. “We need legal proof.”
Legal proof is difficult to gather when you’re two twenty-somethings fresh out of college still living with roommates. So far what we’ve been able to scrape together is in a small half-inch binder. Phone records with our calls to each other highlighted, our car insurance policy, our tax return from this year, our lease on which I’m listed as “authorized resident – friend.” I know there will be an interview. I know we’ll be taken into separate rooms and asked inane questions about the location of our toothbrushes and how much our rent is. I know that our ability to give similar answers will somehow be further proof for the legitimacy of our marriage.
I have always struggled with faith. I am skeptical. I question everything. I can be a cynic. But since I started preparing for our interview, I keep looking over at our binder, that thin little stack of official papers, and I think more and more that proof is just an illusion. It doesn’t always mean as much as we think it does.
I picked out our wedding bands. Matching, because I liked the idea of equality. They were from a jeweler in my home state. Most importantly, I chose ones that were made of silver. Our rings are humble. They felt appropriate for us, starting out in the world and in our marriage. A lot of people don’t like silver because it tarnishes, but do you want to know a secret? One of the best ways to prevent tarnish on your jewelry is to wear it. The oils from your skin protect the metal.
On the drive to our ceremony, I confessed to my husband that I was afraid. “I don’t know anything about marriage,” I told him, panic rising in my voice. Without taking his eyes off the road or his hands off the wheel, he told me, “Here’s all you need to know about marriage: I’m your husband and I love you.”
Now, almost a year later, as this immigration process drags on, I wake up every morning and I slip my ring on. It’s the first thing I do. I like the way it looks on my hand. I like the daily reminder of the commitment I’ve made. I may not know how our problems will be resolved, or when, but I do know that we will handle it together. That I will handle it as my husband’s wife.
Photos by Maile Lani