Language Problems

Conversations take place using language. The words we seek to use can need to be descriptive but have the right meaning. In the certain situations words are really important because they are loaded with meaning and have been the fuel of endless debate and argument. In seeking to move beyond those arguments and debates it would sometimes be useful if there were a different set of language entirely.

I am struggling with this at the moment because in having general conversations I have been stuck for language recently. We have the terms civil partnership and blessing in relation to what can happen if two people become legal partners and this is then recognised in a religious ceremony afterwards. That’s brilliant. For various reasons I am much happier with this language than “marriage” or “gay marriage” in relation to two people of the same gender making a commitment.

However, what about the period between the decision to make a commitment and the civil partnership itself? My preferred term would be that people are “formally committed” but as I have had pointed out the connection between the word “committed” and institutional mental health care is so strong in our culture it is not useful. Others prefer the term engaged, but that again is connected with traditional marriage. In order to move out of the polemics I really believe it would be useful if we had a similar term….I want to easily be able to explain the situation friends are in without automatically using the “marriage” language, (particularly if they are preferring to clearly talk in terms of civil partnership rather than marriage).

Then there are the issues of how we mark these “new” ceremonies? Do we seek to incorporate the symbols and practices that are associated with engagement and marriage or do we look to create new ones? How do we negotiate it when one person takes a particular position in the debate which another feels uncomfortable with? How do we find acceptable ways of doing things when not only the people involved but those around them appear to have conflicting expectations, partly through the loaded language? How do we step out of the box and away from the polemics without causing more problems? These are all questions I am pondering at the moment.

Additional questions relate to how do people with children show respect for their children in these things? How do they discuss with young people things we have no adequate language for? How do we help young people negotiate their feelings about these things and ensure respect is shown to them without turning into martyrs ourselves, and denying our own feelings?

Basically, as Christians how do we live out our beliefs and act in appropriate counter cultural ways which are based on our biblical understandings of love, respect, commitment, faithfulness and care in a way which is sensitive to the faithfully held differing opinions of others in the church and of others who may have issues with these things?

As they used to say on Swap Shop….answers on a postcard to the usual address.

About tractorgirl

Hi my name is Sally Rush: I'm a Christian, a mother, a community engagement officer, a listener, a dreamer, a partner, an experienced teacher, a friend, a daughter, a sister and so much more.

15 thoughts on “Language Problems

  1. why do you need a different language? Why do you want words that are just yours?
    it sounds elitist.

    Now I know that won’t be what you are after but if your relationship with TOH has the same basis as mine is with my TLM …and as of course it has… why aren’t our woerds good enough for you??

    Don’t mean to sound confrontational but I think that your thinking on this is woolly. Adopting a new language is divisive, and you surely want integration.

  2. I recommend using the term Squiggle to refer to this stage in your relationship. After this you will proceed to become Mesopotamian and finally this will lead to you being Marsupialan.

    This should help avoid confusion with more conventioanl language and will definitely set you apart from others.

    If others do not accept this then you can advise them to go and Conjugate themselves with a Spifflefurking.

  3. Um, I want a different language because….and I know this sounds wrong……but I want the language of commitment without having to deal with upsetting conservative evo’s….and I have a bit too much of Luther et, al in my thinking. I know why their views of marriage were wrong and I know that those definitions exclude those who don’t wish to / can’t have children aswell, but…..well. So I’m not being elitist, I’m being something worse….I’m being someone who wants a language to imply my relationship is second class (even though it’s not).

    Um, I think my problem is I want my relationship but on a basis which is acceptable to conservative, evo’s which of course it can’t.

    Thanks to both of you for pointing out the error of my ways, I think TOH will be greatful to you and Catfood you always have the right to sound confrontational…..too many people aren’t with me, I need people who say it like it is.

  4. I tried – as I recall, you stormed off… As far as I’m concerned, I’m willing to make the same committment that a married heterosexual couple make and have no problem with using ‘engagement’ and ‘marriage’ to describe this. I love you and want to be with you forever. Isn’t that enough?

  5. I was once on a course and we had to describe our family circs. One man said he lived with his “life partner”. So he’s gay, I thought but wasn’t bothered. He then said “she”…. so now I’m thinking straight but not married. After about 2 days it transpired he had been married to the woman for about 15 years. At which point I thought he was just seriously weird since there was the perfectly good word “wife” to explain his relationship.

    I think you would find that people are less interested in what you call yourselves and your relationship than you are.

  6. Whatever you do, you can’t make everyone happy, so as long as you know you’re doing the right thing before God, language doesn’t matter… But of course it does…
    Some gay people are actually quite happy with the term CP because the term ‘marriage’ has too many connotations with the patriarchal institution of marriage (i.e. woman as property etc etc etc). The term CP was used to distinguish it from straight marriage to keep the trads/cons happy but actually people started using the term married etc very soon for the CP. Just trying to look for a term that is acceptable to evos/cons is, on one hand, very honourable, but on the other hand, giving them too much space and power. Don’t be afraid to use the terminology that fits with you and your and TOH’s feelings. And yes, straight people do use the term partner as well. I used it when I didn’t want to come out to people, just to protect myself.
    My tuppence…

  7. I have nothing of any real significance to add to this debate, simply that I wish you both all the best with ‘it’ (whatever you choose to name the thing, I hope that it involves much joy and mutual support and love and all that.) Priorities, hun, priorities.

  8. I agree with TOH. You don’t mince words when it comes to decrying hypocracy or injustice. Why over this?

    BTW Hello TOH, we haven’t been formally introduced… I love this woman of yours like a sister but she needs swatting sometimes, she is so pig -headed.

    Back to TG. You taught me to see my relationship with TLM as something God smiled on even though the same ‘evo’ crew thought it was sinful.

    Physician heal thyself.

    If you love TOH, get Engaged, Marry her…in your time, yours and that which is right for the Third Party/ But be true to yourselves as a family

    Love you x

  9. I’ve just been pointed here from TOH and well, what they all said. May you enjoy your journey from Squiggle to Marsupialian in whatever time that takes to be.

  10. Well, Tractor, did you accept the less than romantic proposal above or make her get down on one knee?

  11. As with Jack, I’ve struggled for a response — for me as I have no idea. But my best and warmest wishes for your life and journey together.

  12. Agatha, glad you’re still reading 😉
    And everybody else thanks for your thoughts and contributions. Catfood…..TOH is coming down to The Bay with me in a couple of weeks so you will be formally introduced.

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