WEDnesday: Why Marry?

Back from a brief hiatus (traveling, enjoying the downtime between the end of my job and the start of my classes) and sharing something I’ve had on my mind for a while. The question of why marry? Why not just be perpetual boyfriend/girlfriend? This has been on my mind from my interactions with two mindsets: the marriage-is-pointless camp and the OMG-must-get-married camp.

I know a lot of people who don’t believe in marriage. Heck with a national divorce rate around 50% it does seem a bit risky. The theme I’ve noticed in these exchanges is why bother, it’s so much easier to split when you’re not legally entangled. Breakups are easier than divorce. Marriage is just a title, you can be perfectly committed without it.

On the other hand are those desperate to get married, regardless of the partner. Friends that think 30 is the deadline for marriage. People that have comfortable but perhaps not spectacular relationships. You marry in your 20s because that’s simply how it’s done (totally not true BTW).

Deciding to marry is an enormous and very personal decision. Each couple has their own reasons for pursuing or not pursuing legal recognition of their relationship (local government permitting). Our decision was our own, but the basic reasoning was this: we love each other an awful lot. Marrying is our way of declaring that this person is so close to my heart that I want to recognize them legally, socially, and publicly as the most important person in my life. To create a bond equivalent to those created by the accident of birth: family. In making this leap we are recognizing that we will fight for this relationship because yes, divorce is harder than a breakup. And that’s why we marry.

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WEDnesday: How do I love thee?

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The first question my dad asked me after we announced our engagement was, “Are you 100% sure about this? As long as you’re sure I’m fine with it.” I answered, “I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life.”

I’ve been in and around enough relationships to know that it’s not always the case, the kind of confidence I have in us. Sometimes we are caught up in the initial infatuation only to find that the person you are with annoys the shit out of you six months later. Sometimes we think we can shape the other person into exactly what we want. Sometimes we think we have a good relationship while simultaneously hiding part of our being from our partner because they wouldn’t approve. Sometimes we just don’t want to be alone. Sometimes we’ve been together so long it seems easier just to stick it out and hope for the best.

I love my sweetheart for all of the usual reasons: funny, cute, makes me laugh, shared interests. But the things that stand out for me aren’t even really about him. It’s about me. It’s how I’ve grown being with him. It’s how I’m my best from being with him. We met when I had just graduated from college. The whirlwind of working 3 jobs and doing research and taking classes left me with no time to even think. I could barely keep my head above water. Graduation brought me relief. Freedom. Time to actually explore the woman was becoming and decide how I was going to live my life. I was a little confused. Ideals were forming in my head but they were blurry and I couldn’t quite make them out.

Then along came this guy, this guru with a confidence in himself and a totally empowering worldview. We spent so many late nights discussing life, the universe, and everything. Culture, consumption, the lack of spiritual nourishment in our society, the busy trap. His words were the lens that brought those blurry ideals into focus. He encouraged me to live how I wanted to, with intangible experiences at the forefront and affection for people. The whole world opened up to me. I could see everything for what it was, without the illusions and facades we place on ourselves and our surroundings. We don’t worry much (only about our loved ones) and we play a lot. He was the sunshine that helped me grow and I have never been more at peace. The lessons he taught me and those we have learned together are what makes me proud of the person I am. And that makes me sure.

The Proposal

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So I’m taking a break from Minimalist Monday this week in favor of a rather exciting development. Tristan and I are now OFFICIALLY engaged (following like, 11 months of “we’re totally getting married but we’re not quite engaged”) and since people can’t help but love a good proposal story, here’s mine.

We took a lazy morning, I made breakfast for us, then we headed over to a winery for a glass of wine and a walk around the cute little winery village. After, we picked up some shrimp cocktail, cheese, and crackers and headed over to a park for a romantic picnic. We rode the antique steam engine around the park then found a secluded spot to enjoy our picnic. We spent 10 minutes trying to open the shrimp cocktail packaging, only to discover they were completely frozen. Fail. We snacked on our cheese and crackers and laid out on the picnic blanket listening to the band that was playing in the park. Tristan started talking to me about how I was his best friend and inquiring if I felt the same way. Of course I did! Then, as the music swelled to a fanfare he whispered, “I have one more question, will you be my wife?”

It was sweet, peaceful, and understated.

The thing that surprised me the most was how not different I feel. We are exactly the same people, although now Tristan insists that I refer to him as Beyoncé since he feels fiancé is way too fancy for us (too true). Actually the biggest difference is now that it’s official I have no desire to wedding plan. I just want to float around in the contentment of being engaged.

We Almost Never Met

It was about 9pm on a Friday night. Donald, a good friend from high school, was in town from his new job in Hawaii. I could barely make out his invitation over the noise of the pounding music and shouted drink orders at the bar when he called. I was in my pajamas, my hair still wet from the shower, did I really want to drive down to the beach for a drink in a noisy bar? Reluctantly, I pulled out a pair of cutoff shorts and a blank tank top, threw on my Rainbow sandals and haphazardly ran the blow dryer over my hair. “I should go out,” I thought to myself. After all, I was 21, it was Friday, and Donald had come all the way from Hawaii.

Pacific Beach on a Friday night is a zoo. Street parking was non-existent, so I pulled into a lot and paid my $3 for two hours of parking. When I arrived at the designated bar there was a line out the door. It was my biggest pet peeve about clubs or bars, or clubby bars. I hated lines. Like seriously? What’s so great about this place that I have to wait in line just to get in? I could walk right into the little dive across the street (and probably get cheaper drinks). Donald was already inside with his friends, so I called and explained that there was no way in HELL I was standing in line. He came out and tried to sneak me in, to no avail. We made a detour to the uh… classy little tavern on the corner for some vodka tonics. I could already tell Donald was sufficiently wasted.

After a drink or two we returned to the original rendezvous point. The line was gone so I agreed to go in. $5 cover. Fuuuuck that. I feel the same way about covers as I do about lines. Drunk Donald graciously paid my cover so I could join the group. A few guys he knew from high school, one I had met before. Some blond girls.

A few more drinks in and Donald became obnoxious. His inhibitions lowered, he attempted to make a pass at me. I deflected, explaining that I was trying to salvage the tattered remains of my college relationship. He persisted. I defended. He announced to the bar, “She has a boyfriend everyone!” The color rose in my cheeks. I needed some space. I sat next to this blond guy, one of Donald’s high school lacrosse teammates. He was quiet, mostly alone and refreshingly not drunk. I spilled everything. Everything I hated about clubs and bars, how my relationship was crashing and burning, how in my tipsy haze he kind of looked like Kevin Bacon (I had no idea what I was thinking), how freaking annoying Drunk Donald was. Then Drunk Donald got kicked out and they had to leave.

The next morning I had a Facebook message. The sender thought I was cute and sweet, wished me the best of luck in my relationship, but left a phone number just in case I wanted to give him a call in the future. It was from a name I recalled but couldn’t put a face to. Tristan. The lacrosse kid from the bar.

Children or No Children: A Deal Breaker?

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When you are considering spending the rest of your life with someone, all of the pre-engagement literature says the same thing. Make a list of relationship deal breakers. Ask your partner this list of questions. The subject of whether or not to have kids will be on both of these lists and it will be a big one.

Growing up I always assumed my life would go like this: go to college, get science degree, become a medical professional, find a nice man, get married, move to a big house in the suburbs, have kids, raise kids, maybe be a stay at home mom. I never thought much of it. That’s how life was supposed to go. So when Tristan and I started discussing marriage the kids conversation naturally happened. I assumed I wanted two kids. He told me he would possibly want kids someday.

Then after a while the truth came out.

He wasn’t sure if he wanted kids. He always pictured his future with his wife and a couple of dogs, having outdoor adventures and traveling the world. Maybe someday he would want to have kids but he couldn’t picture himself with them. And not once did I ever consider moving on because of this. Tristan is 100% my soulmate. I have never in my life met someone I could be so completely honest and happy with. Someone who was like a mirror into my own soul and gives me more insight into my personality than I had ever had. Would I really throw all of that away over some hypothetical future person that I wasn’t even sure I wanted?

Within 24 hours of this revelation, I found myself relieved. I had always felt trapped by this idea that I had to have a certain lifestyle and that lifestyle was a prestigious career and a house in the suburbs with two kids and a dog. I had never considered the idea that I have a choice. I can write my own story, and it doesn’t have to be dictated by society. I am not a vehicle through which society projects its expectations. I am not a puppet on a string doing what someone else wants me to.

Honestly, Tristan’s visualization of his life sounded pretty awesome to me. So now I think I might not want children, or at least none of my own. But that is a story for another day.