Sunday, July 11, 2010

Ever After

The Boy and I went to a wedding this weekend. The Groom is one of the Boy's closest friends from college. He met the Bride in the summer of 2008, while the Boy and I were dating in Round 1. It was clear that these two were meant to be from the first time I saw them together. And this wedding was just part of the natural progression of their relationship.

Weddings can make me feel uneasy, but probably not for the reasons you might think. Even though I personally don't want to get married, I can still appreciate the beauty in two people making a life long commitment to each other. It's just that wedding ceremonies seem so impersonal. Especially religious ceremonies where they recite the same worn out vows like a broken record.

Most of the time, I don't even really listen to what they are saying because it is so cliche. "Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife. To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, honor and cherish until death do you part?"

We have all heard those words so many times that, in my opinion, they cease to have any real meaning. But this wedding was different. The officiant was a woman and there was not a hint of religious affiliation with the entire event. The vows were unique and I found myself intently focusing on every word of the ceremony, just to hear what would come next. I could try to recollect all of the beautiful words that were spoken, but I could never do it justice. You just had to be there.

What I can tell you is how it made me feel. I was inspired. Which is a word I have never used to describe my feelings walking out of a traditional wedding ceremony. It was the first time that I had ever heard marriage vows presented in the way I think they should be. And I felt validated because a lot of the things she talked about as keys to making a marriage work are the same principles I have used to make my romantic relationships work.

After the ceremony, the Boy went to get some pictures taken and I headed over to the reception with the other wives and girlfriends. There is nothing like a wedding reception to shine a spotlight on all of the unanswered questions about your relationship. I came into this particular event feeling pretty happy and secure in my relationship with the Boy. By the time we got through the horsd'oeuvres, I realized that it wasn't my questions I had to worry about. It was everyone else's.

As you can probably imagine, the number one question we heard all evening was when will the Boy and I be getting married. Of course, many of his friends had no idea that we had broken up after Round 1 and then gotten back together for Round 2. Especially the ones who live out of town and had only met me once or twice. So they all thought we were together continually for the past two years.

It is interesting to me how the Boy and I choose to handle the questions from inquiring minds. I tend to interpret them as an assault on my personal beliefs and I feel obligated to expound upon my entire philosophy about marriage as an institution. In contrast, the Boy simply explains that we are happy with things the way they are right now.

On the way home from the wedding this afternoon, I asked the Boy if he felt uncomfortable with the grand inquisition from his friends. "Not really," he replied. "They are just trying to fit us into their mold."

I have always envisioned the relationship continuum like a giant game board where everyone is expected to move along according to a specific time line. If you stop for too long on one space, the pressure starts to mount until you take the next step.

If you are single, they want to know when you will meet someone. Once you have met someone and start dating, they want to know when the two of you will get married. After you get married, they want to know when you are going to have kids. When you have had your first child, they want to know when you plan to have another one. And so on.

Weddings are the perfect place to observe couples in various stages of the relationship continuum. In fact, I was able to spend some time with all of them after a few drinks, which is the best truth serum available on the market today.

Let's start with the Pressure to Get Married Couple. They actually met and started dating around the same time as the Bride and Groom and they have been living together for about a year. Since they moved in, there has been a lot of pressure from his family to get engaged. But every time I hang out with them, they both seem to be content with the status quo. Last night she confided in me that a few weeks ago she told him she might be ready for the next step. But he is still not sure what he wants to do.

Later, when I was talking to him alone he kept complaining about all of the pressure from her and his family to get married. Then he proceeded to get really drunk. I think it was his coping mechanism to just avoid the topic. I have known this couple since they started dating and they are adorable together. Deep down, he probably knows that he will not meet someone who is better suited to him. But if they are not careful, the pressure is going to tear them apart.

Then there is the Married But Don't Want Kids Couple. They started dating right after college and have been married for just over two years. Of course everyone is asking them when they are going to have kids. They are about 95% certain that they don't want to have kids, but there is still that 5%. Late in the evening after several cocktails, the wife was telling me that she had a pregnancy scare a few months back. Both of them completely freaked out about it. She went on to explain that she is already 35 years old and if they wanted to have kids they probably would have done it by now.

I also hung out with another interesting couple who I will put into their own category, the Kids at Any Cost Couple. They have been married five years and their connection with each other could best be described as polite but distant. Which is why I was surprised when the wife stated that they would be trying to have a baby starting this fall. Even though there are some major red flags in their relationship, her only option if she wants to have kids is to keep moving forward along the continuum. If she goes back to the beginning and has to start all over again with another guy, she might run out of time. And that is a risk she is not willing to take.

Despite the party atmosphere, there was a discernable level of tension in the room. All of the couples seemed to be trying to justify their choices, regardless of where they were on the continuum. I walked away from that experience feeling pretty good about my relationship with the Boy. Maybe I was even feeling a little bit superior to those other couples. After all, their relationships were so complicated. While the Boy and I seem to have it all figured out.

When we got home this afternoon, the Boy and I grabbed some lunch and decided to do some shopping. He asked me to help him pick out a few things for "staging" the new house because he is getting ready to put it on the market next week. We walked hand in hand through the parking lot and into the store. I stopped in the doorway for a minute and suggested that he grab a cart just in case we found some rugs or other large items.

As the Boy pulled the cart away from the wall, we both realized at the same moment that it was both a cart and a stroller. Not just the typical shopping cart with the flip down seat. This one was a full size stroller seat in the front with a mesh shopping bag attached to the back. As we both glanced down at the empty child seat with the little seat belt dangling haplessly over the edge, I realized that maybe we don't have everything figured out after all.

After what was the longest 30 second pause in recent memory, we both composed ourselves and headed back to pick out bath towels. Neither of us said a word about the stroller cart for the rest of the day. But I made a mental note that I was missing one combination in my relationship continuum: the Don't Need to get Married but Still Want to Have Kids Couple. I think that maybe the Boy would like to be one of those.

While it is certainly not a revelation that the Boy wants to have kids someday, the impact of his decision is starting to hit a little closer to home. We have the rest of this year already planned out and now we are talking about a trip to Europe that may not happen until 2011. Clearly the Boy and I are in a committed relationship. Sometimes I think we both forget that it has an expiration date.

Earlier in the day, we were talking about the wedding this weekend and whether it was really necessary. "The thing is that they have already built their life together and they have been living it for over a year," the Boy explained. "The wedding was just a big party to acknowledge what already exists. I don't see why you even need to do it."

I have always known that I don't need a big splashy wedding. But what if I do need the Boy? It's funny because I used to be afraid of spending the rest of my life with one person. Now I am starting to worry about what my life would be like without him.


Anonymous said...

Don't worry about the future, AG. Just enjoy the present. You will figure it out!

Anonymous said...

PS Remember that if you put an actual kid in the stroller thingy, it would have jumped out, ran around the store and then probably bit the Boy as he tried to get it back in. Now does anyone really want that?