When I was a little girl, I didn't spend my time dreaming about my future husband or wedding dress. I didn't fantasize about what my bridesmaids would wear or what flavor my wedding cake would be. A lot of my friends, even when I was as young as 5-years-old, talked about how one day they would meet the "man of their dreams" and have the most magical wedding and the rest would be history. But I was different. I spent my time thinking about the adventures I would go on, the kids I might someday have, and what time the ice-cream truck was going to come around. Perhaps I could blame this frame of mind on the fact that my parents separated when I was only 3-years-old and never really had a great example of a marriage that worked and where both parties were happy, fulfilled, and having fun. I grew up being thankful that my parents (who really were quite miserable even when in the same room), made the wise decision to separate because even at such a young age, I knew it would be way worse to be around two fighting parents all the time.
But then I reached my early 20s and things began to change as I started my journey into relationships and I fell in love for the first time. What once seemed like a terrible idea, suddenly made sense to me and despite all the statistics, I told myself that I could be the exception. I began to fantasize about how I would be happy and "safe" for the rest of my life just as long as I could get married. But then, like most relationships, mine ended and I fell right back into thinking that marriage was just a crazy idea that didn't really work or make sense. For a few years after that, I spent my time casually dating and having one unfulfilling experience after another. But like lots of other things, that cycle came to an end and I was right back to the beginning again.
When I was 25, I met the man who I thought I was going to marry. I fell in love again, much faster than I had the first time, and allowed myself to be completely consumed by him and by the relationship. I gave up things that were meaningful to me, lost contact with important friends, gave up a lot of my hobbies, and focused a lot of my attention on the relationship. I was determined to "make it work" despite how many red flags I saw and how many "deal breakers" were present. Once again, my motivation to be the exception to marriage kicked in and I began to fight for something that I didn't even know if I really wanted. But it's what people did and I was determined to be "normal" even if it meant doing something that I had mixed feelings about. Four years into the relationship, he proposed to me and in exactly 10 seconds I thought that marriage would be the savior. In my (semi-delusional) post-engagement bliss, I told myself that marriage would fix the problems we were having, the dislike of each other's families, the major lifestyle and personality differences, and my deep desire to leave the relationship. I assumed that planning a wedding and getting married would distract me from how I was actually feeling. Luckily, one event led to another and we broke off the engagement just two months after the proposal. It took almost an entire year to separate finances, belongings, logistical things, and the "custody" of our dog. I told myself that I would never, never do that to myself again.
A year later, my opinion on marriage has both changed and stayed the same. I turned 30 this past April and people began to ask me things like "Aren't you afraid that you will never meet anyone and get married?" And to this I replied "I am actually more afraid of getting married than not getting married." The truth is, I am 30 and no I am not getting any younger. And I do want to have children at some point, travel, succeed and progress in my career -- and of course I would love to share all of this with someone. However, I am not sure I feel I will ever want to get married. I think one of the keys to life is happiness. And I don't mean the kind of "happiness" that a new pair of Fendi shoes or a trip to Target (I am a little less fancy these days) can result in. Instead, I mean that "from your head to your toes" ear-to-ear smile kind of happiness that stems from somewhere so deep that it's hard to tell where it begins. I want to have fun in my life and experience all there is to experience and if it happens to be that I meet someone who I want to do those things with, then I will. But what happens when 10 years and three kids down the line, I decide that I want to go my own way or try something different? What happens if I reach a point where sex with my partner is non-existent and we can no longer stand the way each other eats or breathes and, for a lack of better words, disgust each other -- then what? If that ever happened, I would want the freedom to explore my options and see what else might work better for me. The truth is that more than half of marriages result in divorce these days and as much as I want to believe that I am the exception to this number, I can't know that for certain. But I can know, though, is that I want to be in a relationship that is fulfilling, fun, meaningful, and that works for both me and the other person. If at any time this stops being the case, I would rather have an option to try something new, if that's what I want to do.
I am not anti-marriage, per se. I believe that what is right for me is not necessarily right for another person. I think there are plenty (at least 40 percent) of couples out there who are actually happy in their marriage and wouldn't want it to be any other way. I understand that for some people, the "piece of paper" is so much more than that and holds a lot of meaning -- and I fully respect that. But when it comes to me and the things I want and the way I want to conduct my life, it just spreads out a little different. I am not cynical by any means and I love all the girly and gushy parts of a relationship just as much as any other woman. I love flowers and dates and sweet gestures and being called "baby." I want nothing more than to share the joys of life, parenthood, and even old age with someone who is not only my partner in crime, but my best friend and my lover. I want the American dream -- but I also want to be happy and I want to feel like I have the freedom to keep my happiness alive, even if at some point that means moving on from someone who once was my teammate. I want to live as long as I can, as healthy as I can, laughing as much as possible and soaking up the beauty of this life. I am sentimental and mushy and loving and fully believe in commitment. But I also believe in renegotiating commitments that are no longer working for me. I want my partner to be with me because he wants to, not because he signed something that says he has to be. I want to fully trust the person I am in a relationship with and not have that trust depend on a ring that sits on his (and my) left ring finger. I want my experience with my partner to be one of choice in the sense that I want him to WANT to be with me. And in my opinion, sometimes having full access to the exit actually ends up meaning that I never want to use it.
It's entirely possible that my outlook could change in a half an hour or tomorrow or in three years. I might reach a point where it makes sense to me and also feels right, but there's no way I can know that now. What I do know now is that when and if I can reach a point where I am not going into marriage for a fear-based reason, I might re-think things. But right now, my opinion is that some people get married because they think once they are married, that they're "safe." I was one of the people who fell into this thinking when I got engaged. I thought that now I was safe because I was "with someone" and it would be "official." In other words, he wouldn't leave me because it would be a giant mess of papers and lawyer fees if he ever really wanted to go through with it. I thought it would mean I would be "safe" from being cheated on or hurt in any way. But it just isn't the case. People cheat all the time, marriage or not. So my thinking is that if my partner has full reign to go out and do whatever he pleases, that he will be reminded that being with me is something he chooses because he loves me, not because he "legally has to."
On the flipside, I want to be with my partner because it's my choice and because out of all the people I have met so far, I choose him. Maybe I have it all wrong and will end up regretting all of this. Or maybe I have always been a risk-taker and have strived to do things my own way, hoping that the path I choose will continue to support and lead me to a fulfilling life. And for the sake of my own longevity, happiness, fun and fulfillment, I am more than willing to take this risk, trusting that whoever I decide to go on life's adventures with will be able to meet me, at least halfway.