Sara and Rita
We met in 1980 in South Paris, Maine, at a time and in a place where women falling in love with each other was something that didn’t happen. Back then there were no role models in the public eye, so people struggled with who we were. To be honest, we struggled for a while, trying to figure it all out ourselves. We have learned a lot about ourselves over the years and lovingly embrace who we are individually and in our relationship.
We have been in a committed relationship for over 29 years and now live in Scarborough. We are each retired from professions we loved -- Sara Jane as a financial consultant and Rita as a school guidance counselor. We are busy with our families, community activities, and our Quaker Meeting. Over the years we have watched our seven children grow up, leave home, and start families of their own. We now have eight grandchildren and love having them visit. We ride bikes, play board games, walk on the beach. The children enjoy having two grandmothers -- all the better for good fun and great food!
In our hearts we consider ourselves an “old married couple." We have many friends and neighbors who have come to know us well and to realize that our lives are very much like theirs, with one huge difference. Our relationship has no legal standing and therefore very few legal protections. We seek the peace of mind that will come when we no longer have to rely on people being willing to honor our durable and health care powers of attorney if one of us is in crisis.
Our lives are very rich, and we are grateful for our many blessings. But as people who were once in heterosexual marriages, it is unmistakably clear that our relationship is not understood or esteemed in the same way as that of a legally married couple. We remember the assumptions that people made about our relationships when we were married to men: that we were a family, that we were each other’s closest friends, that we belonged by each other’s side.
It is not so much that we mind explaining, but we are concerned that in a time of illness or need others will not understand that we are family, that we are each other’s closest friends, and that we must absolutely be by each other’s side.
There are also the questions that bother all loving couples as they grow older. If one or both of us needs nursing home care, will we be considered a family and allowed to be together? Or will we, for the first time in many, many years, be separated?
Or, what will life be like when one of us dies and leaves the other behind? For us the sadness will also be compounded by the fact that the deceased’s pension and social security benefit will disappear if one of us predeceases the other. That would represent a significant loss of income for the surviving partner and we both worry about what the impact would be.
But, most of all, we want to get married for the same reason that any other couple does: because we love each other.