First Comes Love is an exploration of modern marriage, not-marriage, and everything in between, considering how it relates to sexuality and class and gender and what marriage really means to people. Tom Rasmussen considers their own relationship, what it’s like going to weddings as a non-binary person, and how various queer (and straight) friends and acquaintances relate or don’t relate to marriage, as the book takes a journey through what marriage might be currently and whether it is all it’s cracked up to be.
Part-personal memoir/essay and part-discussion of marriage history and interviews with other people, this book provides an interesting look at what marriage might mean to different people, including open marriages, polyamorous relationships, and people who choose not to get married. Written by a non-binary author, the book also looks at the history of equal marriage, what it means, and briefly touches on where it falls down (trans people face huge difficulties with marriage, especially if they want to be seen as the right gender in the eyes of the law when getting married or transition whilst married).
The look at less traditional relationships will probably be a selling point for many people picking up the book (it was for me) and even better than hearing different people’s stories is hearing from Rasmussen about their own thought processes around marriage, and how these thoughts intersect with class and queerness. The book doesn’t have a simple answer about marriage and its pros and cons, or whether it is still necessary (though some of the legal protections might suggests sometimes it is, and other times it gets in the way of other areas of life), and that feels important, perhaps opening some readers’ eyes to really consider what the point of getting married is. The closing chapter is particularly powerful, a consideration of the need for an audience looking at your own relationships and how lockdown changed this, raising the question of if marriage is focused on what other people see, rather than your own private relationship.
If there’s anything I would’ve liked more of, it would’ve been a bit more of a look at asexuality and relationships that wasn’t about someone who married a ghost (there is one other mention of asexuality I think, but partly about the author being confused about it), though as this isn’t something the author personally has experience of I can see how it doesn’t fit so well into their journey.
I’ve never read a book about marriage before (I was drawn to this one by the author and the fact they look at varied ways of being together) and this book doesn’t need you to have thought about it much (or, alternatively, you might’ve thought about marriage a lot): it explores people’s experiences (obviously, it can only fit in so many) and also one person’s journey to consider what marriage might mean to them. Ultimately, it’s a sweet look at how varied relationships can be and an interesting exploration of what marriage is in the modern day.