I was twenty when I met my husband, and was a year or two into a relationship with someone else.
I didn’t think I was meeting my soul mate, I recognized what anyone with eyes did: he looked like a Ken doll. And after a few minutes of conversation I knew what anyone else would, he’s incredibly smart and funny. It would take a little while longer for me to uncover the qualities that keep me tied to his side, the ones that will be there long after the muscle begins to atrophy and his mind isn’t as sharp; his empathy, his quickness to forgive, and the ease at which he can take ownership for mistakes he makes. (I’m resistant to the idea that I make any mistakes at all, so this was a bit of a revelation.)
You will meet a few people in your life that you know it could work with, not the missed connection at the party or the guy so hot you could hardly stand it. People that you admire, that you would be proud to call your own, even their flaws somehow make them more endearing. I added Alan to the list of unforgettables and continued on.
A few months after my relationship ended and a few years after we had initially met, Alan and I started dating. Our first date was in April, we moved in together in July, and we had our names tattooed on each other by fall. (A series of events that our daughter is strictly forbidden from knowing.)
He was and is, by all accounts, a total catch. But I had to leave him.
I felt under appreciated and under loved by a man that I was nagging to take me to the alter. Yes, I left him before we got engaged and my fixation with marriage is partly to blame.
If I had been more attentive to the state my relationship was in, not where I wanted it to go, I probably would have noticed that somewhere along the line my boyfriend stopped treating me how I would expect a husband to.
And I see it ALL OF THE TIME. Women complaining about how they’re being treated, how they’re incompatible with their mate, how he won’t make time for them or prioritize the relationship and also, how they’re NOT engaged yet. I’ve listened to friends talk about their boyfriends so negatively you’d think they were on the cusp of a break up, but the promise of an engagement in the future keeps them unaware of the cracks in the relationship that should keep them from getting married in the first place.
As if a ring on your finger magically changes who he is and who you are as a couple. If you are unhappy in your relationship, why do you want to make it a more serious one? Leveling up your commitment is a mistake; some boyfriends aren’t meant to advance to being husbands. It doesn’t matter how old you are getting, how long you’ve been together, or in my case… how great they are. Are they great for you?
Besides, imagine how old you’ll be once you inevitably divorce the man you shouldn’t have married in the first place.
Marriage (in theory) is going to solidify your commitment to a person. It doesn’t make their bad habits good ones; it just makes them yours for life.
Our desire to be married can make a bad guy seem good, and a good guy seem bad.
I wanted to be married, so every gift that wasn’t an engagement ring wasn’t good enough. Every birthday, holiday, and vacation that passed without a surprise proposal was a disappointment. And every day I spent with my witty and kind boyfriend was a reminder that he didn’t like me enough to commit for good. Chasing after wedded bliss made me an equal contributor to our misery.
I shouldn’t have married that man, but he shouldn’t have married me either. Your fiancé deserves a person who didn’t bully them into their position. Picking out a ring shouldn’t be motivated by an ultimatum; he shouldn’t be avoiding a break up with a diamond. When you do become engaged, I hope you feel joy, not relief.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t talk about getting married, but talk, don’t threaten and don’t nag. Communicate your desires for the future clearly and early (not second date early, CHILL). And then stop. A person that wants to marry you will demonstrate that to you. Quit obsessing over how many halos your engagement ring is going to have and pay attention…. close attention. Because a man that intends to marry you won’t string you along either, not one worth marrying anyways.
My husband had every intention of marrying me and I knew that, it just wasn’t on my timetable. I had expectations for what I wanted my ring to be like (which is disgusting, I should have been embarrassed.) My expectations didn’t align with reality. My husband has this wacky thing where he likes to buy things that he can afford or save for things and pay in cash. He didn’t want to go into crippling debt over an engagement ring, pretty rude right?
He was looking out for our financial future; you know… the things that actually matter and help determine the quality of life you live. Money is the leading cause of stress in a marriage, yet I would have gladly spent money we didn’t have if it meant getting me closer to a life event I’d been told was important… by family, friends, and Western culture. (America is selling you Big Macs, normalizing debt so you can have the things you want but can’t afford, and killing your happiness with stress because now you have the things you wanted before you figured out how to afford them.)
I did two things, I let go of what I couldn’t control and I left. I didn’t know where my relationship was going and I was sick of living my life for a future that I was uncertain of, while squandering away the present. I chose myself and in the end he chose me too; I learned I didn’t need him or a replacement. And that’s why our marriage works – there is no fight for the upper hand anymore. Be aware of the power dynamics, because if someone is in a position to win, then the other is losing. Are you fighting for them or are you both fighting for each other.
How important is being married? So important that you would marry the wrong person, or ruin a good relationship with the right one?
When you imagine your future, look past your wedding. Picture navigating life’s most difficult and significant moments with your partner: the loss of jobs, the death of parents, the raising of children, the career achievements. And then remember life’s most mundane: the long winters, the pumping of gas, and the unloading of groceries. Don’t let your idea of marriage distract you from the pain and joy that a life together will be. Make sure you want to stand beside your husband through everything, not just when you’re wearing white.