I think I changed my mind about marriage.
Over drinks the other night, a few friends of mine were talking about—you guessed it—relationships. The topic turned to friends who had gotten married right out of college; or as we called it, the ‘non-arranged, arranged marriage.’ Last year I dated a man in his mid 30s. Our relationship started out strong: friends for a little over a year, followed by a healthy crush and dating period, followed by holidays, trips, and “taco night.” And then, counseling. I don’t know if it was baggage, timing, or incompatibility, but after an exhausting series of breakups and reconciliations, we sought some higher help to figure out just what wasn’t “right” with us and why this pressure to ‘decide’ on one another had crippled us. Or him, rather.
I can recall very clearly a moment in breakup #2 last summer when he looked at me sadly and said, “You really are 99% of what I’m looking for. I just can’t figure out what’s missing.” In his defense, I had noticed some of these things that caused him to question us as marriage-worthy. We are different in a lot of ways: I’m late, he’s timely. I’m messy, he loves to clean. I’m a tad bit too flirtatious for my own good, he is Southern-Baptist-modest. He tends to be serious, I’ve never met a joke of mine I didn’t like. But more than that, what he was hung up on most were the incidentals that he had slowly gathered about me over the years: my penchant for pre-teen nail painting, my mild disdain for Disneyland, my preference of neons to neutrals, hiking to running, sitcoms to sports. In short, he knew too much.
I have noticed that that my friends in their 30s are a little frazzled when it comes to relationships. And not in that jaded, on-our-ways-to-becoming-cat-ladies, cliche’d way you’re thinking. But more so in our inability to make a strong, final choice and stick with it. I know 3 couples who have gotten back together and broken up more than 5 times. I am one of them. After watching our parents split up and now watching many of our friends do the same, we are attempting not to make those same mistakes. We’re being hyper-selective in an effort to predict the future, prevent pain, ensure success. Love, while a choice, isn’t one to be made on legal scales with rights and wrongs, pros and cons, or percentages. It has to be whole or it cannot be at all. You get the good with the bad, the annoying with the amazing, the banal with the beautiful. In fact, it’s exactly those things–those minor, ancillary, freckled features–that are the collectives of what makes up a person. Lose one, you lose the whole thing.
So maybe we need those rose-colored relationship glasses that those 21-year-olds are wearing after all. Maybe choosing someone who has lived 30 years of complexity and loss and baggage is difficult, if not impossible, without them. Maybe the part of our brain that makes the choice on someone forever and asks the same in return, isn’t located near the logic and reasoning part. Maybe, what we actually need for (marital) bliss is just a touch of ignorance.
Everygirls–are you single? Married? Divorced? We’d love to learn more about you and hear your thoughts on this issue.