When I was about ten years old, I told my mother that I did not want to get married. I can’t remember exactly when or why it started, but I was certain from a young age that marriage just wasn’t for me.
These thoughts did not stem from my home life. My parents have a happy and relatively normal marriage. As two full-time bosses, they support one another in business matters, share social circles, and plan large family gatherings, like weddings, together. They have grown together and been behind us and beside us through highs and lows over the past thirty years of parenting three children. I just thought they were an exception to the rule.
[bctt tweet=” I was certain from a young age that marriage just wasn’t for me.” username=”wearethetempest”]
That instinct was later confirmed by all the representations of marriages that I saw in movies and on TV. I saw couples that seemed to be putting up with each other more than they were loving one another or sharing in true partnership. The wedding day was all hyped up, but the actual relationship always seemed to sour.
Besides overly saccharine portrayals of marriage in some shows like Seventh Heaven, being married seemed a little miserable.
Permanent cohabitation and vowing to be with only one person felt like a hoax. Marriage, to me, was an antiquated relic of an age when families’ children were united for economic benefit or social mobility. Throw in my college-age revelations about heteronormative expectations and societal power dynamics of marriage and children for most young women around the world, and I knew it. I was definitely going to be single. I decided that if I wanted to be a mother, then I would adopt a child on my own.
But marriage was out of the question. I told the people I dated, I confirmed it with my mother. Marriage and I were not to be.
I decided that I would forge ahead with dating and even falling in love, meeting new and interesting people with whom I was open about not wanting to get married.
Then my older sister got engaged. And that changed everything for me.
She and I have always been close, sometimes too much so when we were in our adolescence.
Being so close in age meant that I would steal her clothes, try to be just like each other or the exact opposite, and we both felt very competitive. But, in the years since teenagehood, we have put in a lot of time and effort into having a mature and open relationship. We have healed old wounds and got to know each other as adults. She has been one of the greatest influences on my life and we have both leaned on the other in defining times of need.
Because of our closeness, when my sister got engaged, I finally had the opportunity to ask some real questions about the commitment of marriage. She shared her hopes, joys, fears, and expectations of life with her now spouse.
I began to look differently at the people I was dating. Living in New York City at the time, there were plenty of opportunities to go on dates. But now I felt less able to put up with major character flaws and general douchebaggery. I went on a lot of first dates. I wasn’t out searching for a husband all of a sudden – in fact, I started to believe more that if marriage wasn’t a hoax, then maybe I just wasn’t meant to find someone.
I certainly wasn’t going to lower my standards.
At her wedding, I ended up meeting the person I married. He was a longtime trusted friend of my brother-in-law and turned out to be my life partner. We didn’t hit it off right away, but the immediate mutual attraction and honest conversations that followed were refreshingly new.
He lived over one thousand miles away, however, so we got to know each other over the phone every night, talking for hours when we had the time. We traveled to be together as often as we could afford and when he proposed to me after ten weeks on a corner in Brooklyn by my apartment, I didn’t hesitate.
[bctt tweet=”Being married seemed a little miserable.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Looking back on that quick courtship and the ensuing fourteen months before we got married, I notice how my attitude changed after my sister’s wedding. I am grateful for her honesty with me about her commitment to her fiancé and husband and why she believed in marriage. It helped me to snap out of my dating daze and I found myself being much more honest about my time and those with whom I was spending it.
With my now-husband, I didn’t put up a front about who I was and dedicated lots of time and attention to getting to know him, as he did with me. The foundation of honest and open communication that we built together as a long-distance couple in those early months has survived to this day and helps us get through minor hiccups and bigger bumps. I didn’t have wi-fi in my studio apartment back then, so we couldn’t Skype or FaceTime.
And, when you have to share everything over the phone, you have to be very open and specific.
I am especially glad that in that time I talked to him about my past ideas of marriage and how I was looking at it in a new light now. We asked each other and ourselves hard questions about our presuppositions around marriage and our expectations from long term relationships or partnering. Together, we openly discussed the spiritual aspects of marriage, the depth of permanent commitment, the gravity of vows, and more. Through this honesty and difficult, long talks, we decided that we both wanted to marry the other.
It was a mutual decision, made with both an acknowledgment that we truly can’t know much about marriage until you’re in one, but also that we have both done the work to question it and get uncomfortable enough with it to know that we aren’t jumping into the commitment blindly or with the expectation that it will make us whole or that the other will change.
[bctt tweet=”When you have to share everything over the phone, you have to be very open.” username=”wearethetempest”]
He’s now my husband of three years, but if I had been closed off to the idea of marriage as I had been before, I may not have been open to seeing him as a potential partner. I’m so glad that I did.