"If he asked you tomorrow, what would you say?" they always ask.
"I'd say no" I reply. But they don't believe me.
I'm approaching 30, and I've been dating him for over half a decade. We've lived in four cities together, and we share our home, our creative work and our dreams with each other. He's the one, and I plan to marry him. But not today. And even after all the progress we've made in the name of women's independence, I'm still shamed for it.
One total stranger even said "Well, if you've been together that long and still not ready to marry the guy, something must be really wrong." And actually, he's right. Something is really wrong: I'm not where I want to be emotionally or professionally yet.
I see marriage as the collaboration of two complete, fulfilled people to form a third entity together. I'm not that whole person yet. I still have work to do in the way of realizing personal peace, reaching professional goals, and defining the morals upon which I'll set my compass for the rest of my life.
Yes I know I'll still be an individual and my own person when I'm married, but I'll have promised a part of my life -- namely, my future -- to someone else. I value him enough to be relentless about the quality of the partner I offer him. It's because I love and respect him so much, I'm not willing to promise my future until I have that future on a constructive, stable and personally fulfilling trajectory. I won't subject him to the possibility of me becoming dependent on his love for validation.
This is about me being my best for us both, and an arbitrary rush to the alter for age or social status is simply not as important as my potential.
The median age of marriage has pushed back to 27 for women today, giving people like me more time to finish degrees, establish careers and identity, and consciously set parameters for our own comfort. But it's also giving us essential time to groom ourselves within a relationship after we've found the right partner. In other words, you can date a dude for years and improve as you go until, apparently, you reach my age or the five year mark and people shame you again.
If there is such thing as a "one," I'm certain he is it. He fuels me creatively, supports me emotionally, empowers me intellectually, and thrills me socially. He's my best friend, and I'm still butterfly-inducing crazy about him. He helps me be a better person, not just a better girlfriend. And the more I improve as a person, the more I realize there might be no such thing as "the one."
"The one" implies need and scarcity; that without finding this very specific person in the entire planet, we'll miss out on a key factor of our purpose. The idea of "the one" only limits me. It doesn't help me be confident in why I choose to marry someone, it takes away my ability to see him as he really is. If he's "the one," he has to fit all the definitions of perfection I have right now. Those definitions evolve as I watch him evolve. If instead I allow him to be himself, I can love him as he evolves. I can support him as he changes without resenting him for not meeting my expectations.
As he helps me become my best self, I realize that if I'm strong enough, self-sufficient enough, and true to myself, I could love anyone because I don't need someone to balance me or fix me. I choose to love him, which gives me freedom and power, not neediness and dependency.
But here's the most important part of this equation that most people miss: he isn't going to propose because he knows I'm not ready. It's called communication, and it's vital. He understands that if I'm not ready, we're not ready. A great partner (and great friends, hint hint) will work with you in our relationship not just for you, and should respect your needs not judge them.
Speaking of judgment, don't even get me started on what they say when I tell them:
"I'll propose to him when I'm ready."
Rachael Yahne is an award winning blogger, writer and cancer survivor. After years as a fashion journalist, she now writes lifestyle articles about purpose, passion, well-being and asking life's biggest questions. You can catch up with her on Twitter ( @RachaelYahne ) and read more of her work at HerAfter.com
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