The form begins with your standard information, full names, birth dates, address, contact information. I fill these in all caps that are meant to make my handwriting more legible but just make it seem like I AM YELLING. I’m not, I’m just trying to make my answers understood. There are pages and pages, question after question but I’m flying through, I am acing this, I’ve got all the answers. When did you first meet? easy! Where did you meet? Got it! How long have you lived together? I can do the maths on that. When did you commit to a shared life together to the exclusion of all others? —- Wait what?!
The American and I are applying for a partner visa, meaning I am sponsoring him to come and live here in Australia so he can avoid deportation and the treacherous possibility of President Trump. This has been a long time coming and although we’ve prepared the documents we’ve needed in this long year lead-up, it’s only now that we’re beginning the actual application process. For those of you who have made the practical decision to shack up with a fellow citizen, you’ll be spared the process of having to prove you are in a genuine and continuing relationship although you’ll never know the mix of hilarity and horror as you clinically examine the origins, history and progress of your relationship through the modern lens of skype logs and facebook messages, emails and tagged photos.
We’ve been together for coming on three years now, have lived together in three countries, travelled together to many more and have recently met all each other’s relatives. He makes me chilaquiles and I do the washing up. We go grocery shopping for the week ahead and on Saturdays read books in parks on picnic blankets. He makes lame puns and I try really hard not to encourage him by laughing. Yet at what point between holding hands and moving in did we commit to a shared life together to the exclusion of all others? Or did we?
I know the question is about monogamy but the phrasing ‘to the exclusion of all others’ makes it seem like we must merge into a single entity incapable and unwilling to function in the wider world to be eligible to answer. What kind of life could you have with just one other person to the exclusion of all others? Without best friends, without the in-laws, without sisters and brothers, without support and community? Relationships are hard enough without cutting off the life line.
Relationships demand effort, attention and take an epic reorganisation of your brain to allow for the consideration of another person on a daily basis. You make room for them and consequently give up things that are taking up that space. You have to change the way you think and make decisions and go about your life. You have to be unselfish. To forfeit that part of you that wants to live only for yourself, for your dreams and your desires and your whims exclusively.
Somewhere along the line all of these things happened and the American and I did commit to a shared life together. It happened in waves, some slow and calm – the kind that lap up on the shore in whispers. Others came upon us sooner than expected and crashed loudly and with force moving the ground beneath us. The waves always took what needed to be taken and left new patterns and buried treasures in the sand.
As the waves fell we came to rely on confidantes and childhood friends in new ways. If we built the relationship from the ground up, it was supported from outside by those who shared and continue to share their words and experience and laughter with us. When we committed to sharing a life together it was to the inclusion of all those in our wider circle with whom we wished to celebrate it.
What we did exclude from our relationship were the parts of our old lives and old selves that no longer served the us that was emerging. We gave up, we let go, we said goodbye to a life led untethered in favour of one that we could walk together. That’s love, I suppose.
Now I wonder if the Australian Immigration and Border Protection will accept that answer…