I love it! I’ve finally gotten my first advice question here on The Explorers Blog. Interestingly enough, I was just chatting about this on Yelp.com.
“Hey. How did you know you were ready to get married? Thanks.”
You’re welcome. Well, you didn’t ask me about you, you asked about me, so I’m not sure if this is really an advice question. Regardless, here is my response.
A good friend of mine, who is a marriage therapist (I used to be one, too) started asking a similar question to married or similarly committed couples. The ones who were in distress all said, “Because I was/am in love!” while the solid couples all said something about how their partner makes them happy, helps them laugh, etc., and almost never mentioned love. Sure, they were in love, but that was the prerequisite and not enough to make for a good marriage. Sometimes love just ain’t enough, or perhaps love is never enough by itself.
In my case, we’ve been together 7+ years and had our union 3.5 years ago. I had no particular interest in ever getting married, although I wasn’t against the idea either, except for political grounds. We had been dating about four years and were about to move out of state for our PhDs, and I was thinking about whether I wanted to rent with this guy, live near each other, or what. The relationship was serious enough to move together, but was it serious enough to sign a lease together, which would be horrid if we wanted to split? As I got to thinking, I realized that he had become a part of all of my preferred life plans. I didn’t need him for any of them, but they all were happier plans with him in there. Not just with a partner in them, mind you, nor with my idealized version of him. But really with him, just the way he was.
We had gotten to the point where we had learned how to laugh and smile together far more often than not. Neither of us required the other to survive, but we made a fantastic team together. Some boring stuff was less boring with him, most of the rest was a calm and pleasant kind of boring. The not boring stuff, good or bad, was better together. Yet we still had our own identities (which we lost for a bit while dating, but rediscovered) and passions. My friends and family liked him quite a bit, and I respect their opinions. I could deeply trust him, trust being defined as knowing that the other has your best interests in mind even when you’re not there. Things weren’t perfect, but we were decent at working out problems and shared a strong respect for each other. We both prioritized our relationship but not above our own well-being, which made both better.
At that point I called my parents and a few very special friends to tell them my plan, so I couldn’t back out. On New Years Eve we smooched my folks at the door and went to a fund-raising party. During the fireworks I got down on one knee and asked him. He stared at me and I waited. He asked if I were kidding and I said no, my knee getting cold on the outdoor cement. The response was a quiet and nervous yes. I stood up and he asked me if that was a real proposal, which it was. We hugged, shaking, and I drank both of our champagne toasts. I then turned to the drunk strangers around us, shouted out our engagement, and we hugged everyone. Four months later we flew to Vermont with my folks and his dad & step-mom. Mitzi, a justice of the peace, presided over our civil union among the trees, near a large rock at the base of the mountains. Afterward we celebrated with a tour of the Ben & Jerry’s factory. What else can I say? We’re still working hard, and we’re still happy.
I can’t begin to guess whether you are just curious, or whether you’re wondering about the possibility of doing something similar. Regardless, I hope that this helped address your question. I welcome you, dear readers, to post your own thoughts.