Marriage rites and wrongs: Why we should heed go-slow Graham
Graham Norton is nobody's idea of a shrinking violet. However, the flamboyant talkshow host is an admirable model of reserve when it comes to the increasingly overheated subject of marriage. Norton has been dating Canadian Trevor Patterson for 18 months but is in no hurry to transform his partner into a spouse.
"I kind of think it is very soon in the relationship for something like that," he told an interviewer this week.
Endless political wrangling about the whys and wherefores of same-sex marriage has created the misleading impression that the gay and lesbian community is a hotbed of wannabe Bridezillas, ablaze with couples who are delirious with desperation to settle down 'til death do they part. In reality, this is not the case.
Norton's reluctance to rush into the promised warmth of what's become a ridiculously romanticised institution provides a useful reminder that homosexual opinion is as diverse as any other branch of public behaviour and attitudes.
Despite his professional pose as an unshockable cynic, the Cork-born entertainer admits to growing alarm at the speed with which many of his gay friends are swanning up the aisle.
"I would be very cautious about going down that road," he insisted.
In truth, caution is the only prudent approach to the taking of wedding vows but, in some circles these days, it's an unfashionable consideration that's more likely to be thrown to the wind like a handful of confetti.
Campaigners against the bigoted exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage are undoubtedly fighting the good fight. The introduction in this country of civil partnership did not cause the sky to collapse and shrill warnings that same-sex marriage would trigger an apocalyptic effect on the social climate seem destined to impress nobody but the congenitally fearful.
Nevertheless, the politicisation of marriage, by the hottest heads on both sides of the ideological argument, is an unhealthy development that is bound to lead to domestic strife for many. In countries where it is permitted, same-sex marriage has allowed many devoted couples to formalise their commitment to each another. For some, however, gay weddings have become a trendy form of political expression -- a sure sign of impending trouble.
Marriage does not come with the happy-ever-after guarantee that some gay activists seem to suggest it does. Its usefulness as a demonstration of support for a political ideal is also extremely limited.
And, here, the so-called 'straight' community can justifiably claim the benefit of superior knowledge. Contrary to what the propagandists contend, marriage can result in the destabilisation as well as the strengthening of relationships.
Rising divorce rates tell part of the story but there are even more salutary lessons to be gleaned from the enduringly dismal experiences of people who feel trapped in unhappy marriages.
More often than not, the couples that suffer the greatest disappointment and turmoil are made up of individuals who stampeded towards what they saw as wedded bliss in a haze of lust, impatience or naivete. Many discovered too late that their union wasn't so much a match made in Heaven as a torch-paper lit in Hell.
There are, of course, plenty of good reasons to get married. But a very bad reason to do so is any notion of striking a blow on behalf of a cause or a community. Tying the knot as a political statement is a twisted folly that's doomed to land the knot-tiers in, well, knots.
Anyone tempted to indulge in wedding exhibitionism should heed the accumulated wisdom of Norton, who regards rash betrothals as a manifestation of profound immaturity: "When I hear about people getting married quickly, saying stuff like: 'Yeah, after seven months we got engaged', I think: 'Really?'. They must be very young."
Everyone should have the right to marry but that doesn't mean marriage is right for everyone. Straight or gay, some rules are universal: marry in haste, repent at leisure.