One woman’s personal story and encounter with the relationship police….
Popping the question: To wed or not to wed?
By: Jenn Clark
“So, are you and Jack going to get engaged soon?” she asked.
Considering I’d just been singing his praises to her, I suppose the question wasn’t completely out of left field. However, I found myself taken off-guard and barely managed to spit out and stutter a pseudo-response.
“Ummm, yeah, no, you know, I’m not really looking to get married.”
And then came the excuses…
“I mean, we’ve both been married and divorced and I guess, maybe, you know, it’s just not that important to us have a piece of paper.”
“I don’t plan on having kids so, you know, what’s the point, really?”
“I want a partnership and all but, you know, I don’t really want to get married again.”
My inquisitor’s eyes glazed over as she went suddenly silent and began nodding in response. The poor woman! I’m sure she had no intention of opening that Pandora’s Box.
I’d all but put this conversation out of my mind until a week later. This time it wasn’t a near-stranger who poised the question, but one of my oldest and dearest friends.
“Do you two ever plan on getting married?” she asked after I told her Jack and I were about to celebrate two years together.
Unlike the woman at the party, my friend was aware of my thoughts on this subject. And I was able to reiterate them to her in a more articulate manner than I did the week before.
As a result of both conversations – as well as my upcoming anniversary – I got to thinking: Does marriage have to be the “end goal” for a relationship? If you don’t get married, does that make your relationship (or your life in general) any less valid or fulfilling?
Let me start out by saying that I’m not anti-marriage. Marriage can be a great thing if it’s entered into for the right reasons, with the right person and at the right time. All too often, however, women feel a very real pressure – from their friends and families, from society, and even from themselves – to get married by a certain age or at a particular point in their lives. Sometimes, they’ve been in a long-term relationship and it just seems like “it’s time.” Sometimes, they get tired of all the crap they’ve encountered in the dating world and rush to find a “nice guy” to settle down with. But marriage shouldn’t be seen as a necessary step or an escape route to what you think will be a better life. The strongest, healthiest marriages occur between two people who’ve already established their “best lives” independently and then work together to combine them. That’s what makes for an equal partnership.
I guess you could say I’m currently marriage ambivalent. After my divorce, I didn’t picture myself being single for the rest of my life and assumed I’d eventually get remarried. I’d also had a nice marriage and a relatively painless divorce, so there weren’t any psychic scars or feelings of “I’m never going through that again!” But in the months following that moment when I took off my wedding rings and began living alone for the first time in over a decade, my thoughts about marriage began to change. Was it really necessary? Did I have to get married again to be happy or to feel like my life was fulfilling? The answer I eventually arrived at was a resounding “No.”
The great thing about being alive today is that there is no one-size-fits-all rule for how your life has to look. More and more women are passing up on getting married and having kids by the time they are twenty five and instead, are focusing on their careers and passions and developing themselves as individuals first. (Notice that I said “passing up.” It’s not that these women can’t get a guy; it’s a choice!) How fantastic is that? Waiting to get married until your own life is established and in place is never a bad thing. In contrast, being dependent on a man, a relationship, or a wedding certificate to fulfill you almost always is.
I can’t say, with 100% certainty, that I will never get remarried. Life has shown me that it doesn’t always go according to my plans, and that I’m terrible at predicting my future. But here’s what I do know: I love my life. And I love my boyfriend. He is absolutely the most amazing man I have ever known. For the first time, I know what it feels like to be really loved and to really love in return. And either the presence or absence of a marriage license doesn’t make that any less true.
She is the author of the book “How to Be a Goddess (A Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming the Woman Men Dream About…),” which is based on an article she wrote that went viral and has been viewed nearly half a million times. She is also a monthly columnist for AVID Magazine, a featured writer for a variety of websites, and a frequent radio guest. You can find both her and her blog at www.facebook.com/jennx30somethingandsingle and on the YouTube channel “Jenn X: 30Something & Single.”