I have always imagined I would get married one day. The dress, the chapel and the elaborate planning has never appealed to me, but creating a home with the person I love and opening myself up to that level of intimacy and commitment, does. I view marriage as a creative and serious life endeavor: two people coming together and building a shared life they can both thrive in as individuals.
Then I fell in love and about three years into the relationship I thought to myself: I understand this person and I like it here. In fact, I think I could do this for a very long time. My boyfriend is adorable, loving, talented, funny, thoughtful, intelligent and above all, very kind. He shows up for our relationship every day in small and large ways. It’s the relationship I have always wanted and it may never, ever lead to marriage. How do I know this? He told me so.
My dad took me out to dinner one night and looking at his face that particular evening made me want to solidify the other important man in my life. I realized that I was finally one-half of a highly functioning, very loving and healthy relationship and this brought up some questions for me, one question in particular. Needless to say, I came home that night ready to talk. My boyfriend, always up for a conversation, sat down.
Our first talk about marriage turned into an argument real fast. My boyfriend was not saying all the romantic things I wanted him to say. In fact, quite the opposite: he told me that he has watched most of the marriages around him fail and that the institution of marriage didn't carry any weight for him. He said that he loved me very much but that he did not see marriage as the next step. Instead, he viewed marriage as an afterthought, something a couple does after many years of proving they can stay together. I think his exact words were, “It’s not even on my radar.” I picked my jaw up off the floor and stormed out of the room.
It’s been a year since that revealing conversation, and I have learned a few things about being in love with a really great guy who is not at all impressed by the institution of marriage. If you are in a similar situation, I hope this helps you.
1. My boyfriend’s views (on marriage and otherwise) are really not about me.
At first I took his opinions about marriage very personally, which is an understandable reaction. I felt this way until I really understood that my boyfriend’s views on marriage were formed long before I came into his life. It's crucial that I recognize I cannot, and will not, measure my self-worth according to his ideas about marriage — or any of his (or anyone else's) opinions, for that matter.
Rather than gripping tightly to my desire to get married or ideas about what a healthy relationship should look like, I have chosen to respect his beliefs and enjoy the commitment that is already present in our day- to-day lives together. With this new attitude, I enjoy the deep love and commitment that is already present in our day-to-day lives together.
2. There is a difference between wants and needs.
This was huge. I started by asking myself, Do I want get married one day? The answer? Yes. Then I asked, Do I need to be married in order to be happy? No. From there, I asked, Do I need to be in a relationship where I feel loved, respected, and understood? The answer: yes, absolutely.
To go even further I then asked myself a series of hypothetical questions: If my boyfriend never wants to get married, will I feel resentful? Will this ruin our relationship? Will I be missing out on something really important? These took me weeks to answer. Every morning I looked around at our life. At the laughter, the friendship and the love. No. The answer was no. How could I ever feel resentful for all of this?
3. Consistent, honest communication (even if difficult) decreases the likelihood of fight flare-ups.
My relationship involves two people who have never been ready to settle down but who are in the most significant relationship of their lives. We both know it is a big deal to find true love and we feel fortunate.
Whenever I get insecure about us not getting married, like when there are four wedding in one year, I go to my boyfriend and we talk it out. We listen each other. We find common ground. We practice respect. We keep the conversation going. This is really important.
Above all, here is how I have made peace with the situation: I am now, right now, with the person I love and if I never get married, I will not look back on my life and say that I did not spend my years, my days, my moments with the person I most wanted to. Because I have and I am and this is what matters most to me.