So you’ve finally found The One (or at least The One For The Foreseeable Future) and you’ve committed to a serious relationship. Now what? In our new weekly column, Life After Dating, women discuss the unique joys and challenges of coupledom.
On our fifth date, eating tacos and drinking margaritas, my boyfriend Tom and I agreed on two things: 1. What we felt for each other was serious and 2. Marriage was off the table for the foreseeable future, and maybe forever.
For me, my mixed feelings about marriage were something I had plenty of time to mull over in my 20′s — when I was single and watching all my friends get married and divorced. I didn’t meet Tom until I was in my early 30′s and at that point, I was just rejoicing the miracle of meeting someone I could actually envision a future with. As our connection deepened, my feelings about getting married came sharply into focus. I could say with certainty that I didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars that I don’t have on a wedding (a romantic trip to Tulum or a down payment on an apartment are much more appealing to me). The feminist in me disdains wedding industrial complex and questions the institution of marriage itself. Getting the government involved in our relationship just doesn’t feel right. And beyond the financial and feminist hesitations, walking down the aisle in a white, pouffy dress has just never appealed to me. Finding a life partner has always been a dream of mine, but the wedding? Not so much.
For Tom, his reasons for not wanting to get hitched are much simpler. He was previously married and after going through an amicable but painful split from his ex-wife, he feels strongly that, like Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, there’s something powerful about continuing to choose to be with a person out of love and not out of legal obligation.
After discussing our stances in depth, we both felt (and continue to feel) really good about our arrangement. More than two years later, we’re in love and deeply committed. We’ve talked about maybe, someday, having a small get together where we celebrate our love — just not legally.
Coming to this agreement was easy. The hard part has been getting other people to buy into it. Since we’ve gotten serious, nearly all of my friends and many of my family members have asked me about our marriage plans. People see it as the next logical step, and have a really hard time accepting/understanding that it’s not in the cards for us. Most questions about marriage are not structured as an “if” but a “when”: “So, when are you guys going to make it official?”
When I reply, “Never,” I’ve gotten a range of reactions from eye rolling, to laughter, to “Oh, he’ll change his mind.” That one pisses me off the most because it’s insulting. When I try to explain, “No, this is what we both want,” people continue not to take me seriously. I want to scream, “No, really! Women are allowed to not want to get married!” But even my closest friends seem to think they’re calling my bluff. “We’ll see,” they say.
On my birthday, a few months ago, my mom asked if Tom was getting me “something special” (wink, wink).
“You mean, like a puppy?” I replied. “We’re not ready for pets.”
I never thought I’d go through dating hell in my 20′s and meet someone I really, truly wanted to spend my life with only to be pestered and insulted about my decision not to get married. For how far we’ve come in the areas of marriage equality, I thought people would be far more open-minded and supportive of me wanting to have a non-traditional partnership. Sadly, my experience has been the opposite.
So, let me set the record straight one and for all, for all the couples like Tom and me and all the friends and families waiting eagerly for your loved ones to tie the knot. Two things: 1. I know you love me, but it’s really none of your business and 2. We’re never getting married means, we’re never getting married. Plain and simple. It doesn’t mean anything about the seriousness of our commitment or the depth of our love. It doesn’t mean our relationship isn’t “official.” It just means marriage not the right path for us, and we’ve accepted that. Now it’s your turn to accept it too.
[Photo from Shutterstock]