Aug 9, 2014

What Marriage Means to Me

What Marriage Means to Me

I know there's been a lot of marriage posts lately, but I promise I'm getting it all out of my system this week and then I'll be done for a while.

I am not married. That's probably obvious to my regular readers (the few who aren't family).

So why does my input matter and how can I possibly have a relevant opinion on a topic I haven't personally experienced?  I'd say that fact is exactly why.

I'll take a step back. Significant and I have been dating for 3 years. Long enough for our friends and family to start questioning, "When is it going to happen?!"

To be honest, there have been times (numerous) that I've questioned it too.  But I'm glad it's been 3 years. And I'm glad we're not rushing into marriage. Because it's given me so much time to question EVERYTHING and form my own thoughts and opinions. It's also been great to see the thoughts of other people in the same boat (great relevant post over at the Daily Tay).

The fact that we're not engaged yet after 3 WHOLE YEARS (heavy sarcasm there) is one thing that causes people to doubt our commitment. At least 10% of Americans doubt mine due to my desire to hang on to my own name and identity. And there's also the fact that we're not joined at the hip (do you sense an anecdote?  There's totally an anecdote).

On my recent trip to the west coast, my sisters and I went 3 days without any kind of internet or cell signal. By the last day, Sister2 needed to check in with Soon-to-be Brother to make sure he wasn't worried, and he had already sent an email asking her to get in touch. And I think most people would agree that's normal.

But when we finally found our Wi-Fi haven to check back in with the real world, I didn't have any great need to reassure Significant. In truth, he probably hadn't noticed any particular absence. When apart, we frequently go a couple days without talking, and then we'll check in when it's convenient.

And to all of those things, it'd be very easy for an outsider to look at us and say, "Oh, it won't last." Or "You must not be very committed to your relationship." And it has been said. But I think that's bullshit and here's why.

We haven't rushed into marriage. Instead we gave it space and a lot of thought. We're adults, and we make logical decisions. Why should marriage be any different?

To me, marriage means being on the same page. It means we want the same things for our future, have decided to commit for the long haul and not just because there’s not really anything better going on right now, and have respect for each other and each other’s values. To me, that means time, especially if you're young and barely know what your own values are.

I think of marriage as a promise, not to enjoy a life made easy by some magical true love, like in the fairy tales, because that doesn’t happen, but to work through the tough times with the thought “How can I make this better?” on the forefront instead of the thought “How do I get out of this?”  I think the primary difference between marriages that last and marriages that end in divorce is how people approach problem solving.  And it's taken me these past 3 years to stop coming up with boundary lines and ultimatums, and to choose to stick with it for the long haul.  "This is just a disagreement and we can fix it," is an attitude that I have just discovered and, for me, radically changes everything.

People often say that marriage changes everything.  I think a good marriage should change nothing.  Because deciding to get married should mean that you have something that works, that you’ve accepted it for what it is, and are willing to deal with these things in the long run.  It means you’ve talked - about what is and what will be, it means you’ll continue to talk and you’ll do your best to be honest and set fair expectations based on these discussions.

There’s nothing magical about marriage and the elegant, sweeping weddings we all yearn for tend to set things off in the wrong tone.  Marriage means a lot of things, but it shouldn’t entail anything your relationship didn’t already - it’s only a symbol of what you had already.  And maybe, for me, and for others of us, it takes a little longer to reach this realization and to be ready for the work that is entailed in a real life marriage entirely unlike the story books.

What are your thoughts on marriage?  In what way does your relationship not follow cultural standards?

Note: I had a couple great conversations spurred by this.  Long story short, I'd also like to direct you to this post at Just Beachy about choosing not to get married at all.  I focused on the things that marriage symbolizes to me, but the fact remains that you can have all those things without marriage.

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  1. I'm not married either, and I completely agree with this post. I think a lot of people get in trouble because they assume that after they get married, any issues within their relationship will automatically be resolved (so untrue!).

    I've been snooping around your blog and really enjoy the things you have to say! Because of this, I nominated you for the Liebster award (not sure if you've heard of it, but it's just a fun thing to get to know bloggers). Here's a link for more info :)

  2. I wrote a whole post on why marriage isn't for me at all, I even titled it I Don't. Ha!

    Tyson and I have been together for 13 years and we have a four year old daughter, what we have works for us without marriage. I don't want to be married and while he would be fine being married he is also fine not being married. Everyone's relationship is different and they do what works for them, I'm not sure why people try to fit every relationship into their perfect relationship framework.

  3. We've been together 12 years. In September it'll be four years of marriage. We dated for 7 years without being engaged or anything. I would've been happy never getting married, but MFD wanted to and it was important to him. Compromise.

  4. Love this. Bryan and I have been together for over 5 years now and we bought a house together so this is definitely a topic that comes up often. I have had countless people tell me that I just don't understand because I'm not married and how marriage will change everything, but I just don't see that. We live together, share a mortgage and many other bills, support each other through all of lives ups and downs, and celebrate all the best times together, I just can't think of a single thing that a marriage certificate will change except my last name and the fact that the government will treat us as a single unit. We have already intertwined our lives together and neither of us can picture a future without the other, other than the legal document we are by all other definitions married.

    I have a weird relationship with the idea of marriage though, I don't think it will change our relationship at all, I don't think that there is any reason we need to stand in front of all our friends and family and make promises to each other (quite frankly the idea of standing in front of everyone and talking scares the crap out of both of us and we have made plenty of promises verbally and non-verbally to each other over the years that won't be made any more or less true if they are said in front of others). All that being said, I want to be a princess, I want to buy a beautiful dress and have photo's taken of us, and I want to plan a big event. There are so many parts of wedding I could completely cut out, the ceremony for one, the speeches, the receiving line, the formal dances with everyone staring at just the two of you, etc. which really leaves me standing in a gorgeous dress in front of a camera with Bryan and that seems like a terrible reason to go through the entire wedding process for.

    Now I'm just rambling so I'm going to stop. To summarize though: Bryan and I minus the legal paperwork are married, we are in a life long relationship and we share everything with each other. Neither of us want to stand up in front of everyone and profess that, because why? But I still want a wedding and I can't figure out why.


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