I refuse to have a conventional marriage

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Marriage has been a part of society for thousands of years. Of course it has dramatically evolved. In the beginning, it wasn’t about love but rather the need to strengthen alliances and bare legitimate offspring. Polygamy was actually the norm up until around the sixth century when the Catholic Church interceded. But men still had much opportunity to be promiscuous. Marriage has since become more of a contract with a license being needed and the state’s involvement. Yet women did not have equality in marriage with marital rape still being legal in most states until the 1970s. Some would argue that women still aren’t equal in marriage or in society in general. And of course now, the laws of this country have finally turned to allow same-sex couples to marry.

So that was a short history lesson on marriage. The majority of marriages that have occurred during humanity’s reign on this planet have had nothing to do with love. It was business or a religious necessity. Arranged marriages still happen throughout the world.

I provide this history only because the idea of marriage isn’t some romantic, beautiful experience as we are told to believe by the bridal industry (which is a billion dollar industry). As you can tell by my tone, I don’t buy into any of the conventional nonsense about the sanctity of marriage. So why did I get married? Well for me, and for him, it wasn’t about a contract or the need to produce children. Our ideas and feelings toward marriage are completely unconventional. We cared little about the actual wedding and more about what it meant to us to be joined together, not in a religious manner or a civil manner, but really what it means to be husband and wife.

But I refuse to have a conventional marriage. Justin and I don’t ascribe to traditional roles in the marriage. He’s the cook; I manage the finances and “operational” parts of our life. We play to our strengths, and we make decisions together. However, we don’t have to ask “permission” to spend money or make plans.

I think I’m a good wife thus far. But you won’t catch me waiting on him. I’ve certainly made him coffee before, but he’s an independent man who can take care of himself. He doesn’t need me to do it. Nor do I need him to take care of me. We don’t “need” that from each other so it actually happens very organically.

And I’m not taking his last name, which has always been the custom and another way in which men are provided the lead. It’s not that I don’t want to; it’s just that at this point, I’ve had this last name for 12 years. It’s a part of my brand. You may think it’s odd that I’m still going by my ex-husband’s last name. Maybe it is. Let me explain. I was glad to shed my maiden name. It was liberating because I didn’t want to be that person anymore. That person was gone to me in a lot of ways, and I certainly had no desire to continue with a last name that was relating to my father. So I didn’t change it back after my divorce. It’s a lot of work to change your name. In the end, it’s just a last name. It is completely inconsequential.

So the biggest question is: does it feel any different now than before we were married? We already lived together and had been building a life together. But I would say yes it has changed slightly in a really positive way. I like calling him husband. The permanence of it doesn’t make me freak out. I feel secure and safe in a way that I haven’t much of my life.

I never thought I’d try married life again. But then this amazing man showed up in my life. Any doubts or concerns I had about what marriage is and what it can be disappeared. I don’t really believe in happily ever after. I believe in happy right now at this moment, and I sure am.

Why I Want to Marry Him

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I promise this isn’t mushy. It’s just my version of a love letter.

People get married every day for the wrong reasons; I was one of them. Twelve years later I’m a different person, and this is a different relationship. So I think I’m doing this for all the right reasons. I wanted to share what real love looks like, that it’s far from a fairytale. We don’t always get along or agree. We’ve hurt each other. I’ve yelled; he hasn’t. Real, enduring love is what happens after the “falling” part.

So here’s why I want to marry him.

He keeps showing up for me. All my life that’s all I’ve ever wanted, for someone to show up when it matters. My life has been full of disappointment in this area, especially men. Until him, there were probably only a handful of men who had done this, mostly my Pop. But he shows up for me every damn day, whether I want it or not. Just the other week, I was deathly ill with a migraine. Usually I can manage, but not that day. I called and asked if he could come home. And he did. That may seem small, but to me it was huge. Knowing someone will show up for you and even pull your hair back while you vomit helps ease the burden of thinking you’re in this alone.

I’ve missed him so bad I’ve cried. Again, may seem small, but I don’t miss people much. I miss my animals terribly but people not so much. In a past life, I was a constant work traveler. I had relationships before this one and was gone all the time. Never missed those guys. In fact, I didn’t even call or text much (except to check on Honey). But with Justin, it was different. I was gone several times for over a week, and I missed him so bad I cried. I don’t miss the travel, but should my work situation change and I have to travel again, it will be hard. It’s different when you like who you come home to.

He’s not scared of me. I’ve had previous beaus say I’m intimidating. Maybe I am. I speak my mind and don’t take any shit. I have a backbone and an opinion. He’s heard it all. But he says he appreciates how passionate I am. He’s not scared to disagree with me or present the opposing view. In so many past relationships, the men were so timid. Justin is laid back and easy going, but he once said don’t mistake my kindness for weakness. I never have.

He doesn’t try to fix me. Men want to fix us. It’s in their nature to diagnose problem and solve it. Justin is well aware that I’m not perfect. He sometimes struggles with understanding depression, but he’s never attempted to make me happy or thought he was the remedy. The struggles that I go through, he can’t necessarily relate to, yet he doesn’t discount them. He’s glad I go to therapy (and doesn’t think it’s a big con like an ex did – really?). He knows if I want to talk I will. And that if I need to be “fixed” in any way then it’s up to me to do it.

I don’t see an end. I think in almost all of my past relationships, it was easy to see the end. Nothing before, not even marriage, seemed permanent. I never felt much loyalty to other partners. It was always finite. I could see the end, and it didn’t make me sad. It made me relieved. I don’t have those visions about Justin. I’ve never thought about what will happen next or daydreamed about what I’ll do when this is over. This will never be over; we don’t need an end.

I’m sure there are a million more reasons why I’m marrying him: he’s terribly funny, sings songs to the dogs, has the most spectacular eyelashes, is highly amusing to watch during a Longhorns or Cowboys game, never lies, can cook better than any chef (while also keeping the kitchen tidy), can build or fix anything, tells me I’m his everything all the time and rarely snores.

And when it comes down to it, we know the secret to a happy relationship: a king size bed and separate bathrooms!

I want a marriage, not a wedding

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As my wedding day draws near, I’m asked often if I’m excited. And to be honest, no I’m not really very excited about the wedding. Not because I’m unsure or have cold feet. The wedding itself isn’t something I’ve focused on. In fact, most of it has just given me anxiety. To the point, where the wedding itself has become very minimal. We keep saying we should’ve just gotten married in Vegas last year! The wedding is just one tiny moment; the marriage, I hope will be a lifetime.

All this is in stark comparison to my first trip down the aisle. I planned that wedding meticulously for 18 months. I had a huge binder with every detail noted. It was a big wedding with all the ridiculousness that comes with such events. I focused so much on the perfection of that day, I saw nothing else. I was obsessed with being as tiny as possible so I was very “hangry.” I was equally obsessed with the flowers and cake and a million other things that had nothing to do with marriage. And when it was all over and the details weren’t there to absorb my attention, I was left with a marriage I didn’t want to be in. I know now that I did the best I could. I was just trying to live a conventional life and stay safe. But I’m anything but conventional.

Something big did change after the ceremony. I didn’t think it would, but I felt a shift in my heart. I remember feeling like I couldn’t breathe, that marriage was gripping my lungs and not letting go. I knew I never wanted to feel that trapped again.

This doesn’t feel like a trap though. I’m not sure if I’ll feel different once we say “I do.” I think maybe a little. We already feel like a we. He’s already well informed that I’m a crazy person (but I’m his crazy person). We have differences. We have intense discussions. I think that makes us stronger.

So in a few weeks, I won’t be walking down an aisle in white. I won’t be carrying a bouquet. There won’t be a celebration nor any other elements of a wedding. And I feel empowered by this because weddings are what little girl’s dream of, a magical day where they are the star. I never felt like the center of attention not even on that “perfect” wedding day. But I’m not a little girl. I’m a strong, fierce woman. I want a partner, not a prince. This is why I am focused on a marriage and have no desire for a wedding. However, I am excited about the honeymoon. And cake, there will definitely be cake.

Ready to forgive?

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A wise woman once told me that forgiveness is acceptance that the past cannot be different. When we forgive, we have to accept. And that’s where we all tend to get tangled up.

I am certainly not a champion for forgiveness. I’ve fought against most of my life. It just wasn’t something I could entertain. How could certain people deserve forgiveness?

So I heard a lot from others about how forgiveness is something you have to do for yourself, not the person. That if you don’t forgive then you are subject to hate in your heart, and that hate will just weigh you down. Maybe. But for me, not forgiving you doesn’t mean I hate you. And it also doesn’t mean I’m still hoping things will be different.

So how do we forgive? How do we move forward? We can all attempt forgiveness. I’ve said it out loud on numerous occasions. I’ve reconciled that the past isn’t going to be erased. But in the end, it’s not 100%. Forgiveness doesn’t clean the slate. It doesn’t give anyone a free pass to hurt you again. That’s maybe why they say forgive but don’t forget.

There’s no innocence with forgiveness. It doesn’t rectify the hurt. Ultimately, forgiveness may mean something different to each person who has the capacity to forgive. When I have forgiven, it helped me stopped playing the past over and over – waiting for a different ending. It stopped the blame. It’s way too easy to blame yourself for everything, especially when you are a kid. As children, we aren’t sophisticated enough to understand we are not the cause. When something traumatic happens, a child can’t comprehend the way an adult can. It’s either blame the adult or blame yourself. Children blame themselves. To blame the adult would seem unfathomable for many kids. Because we usually love and trust the adult. This creates an internal struggle and a rejection of self-love. We don’t learn to love ourselves. We learn to blame.

I’ve blamed myself for much of what has happened to me. It’s a vicious cycle, often hard to correct. I’m better than I was, but the question is, have I forgiven myself? And this may be the hardest part of forgiveness. I’ve come to realize that forgiveness for myself is the first step. Everyone else had to wait.

Self-awareness can empower you to forgive. It can help you see the logical side of any internal argument. I’m still my biggest enemy in many ways. To forgive myself, I have had to accept my actions and choices; some of which were really bad. I can’t change the past. I can only hope that I honestly believe now that it cannot be different.

I’ve forgiven exes. Most of which didn’t ask for it. I once wrote a long email to a man I had loved. I had ended the relationship well over a year before. It took that long to heal. It took that long to forgive. I think he needed my forgiveness. It wasn’t easy to give. When someone hurts you, someone that you love, it can be hard to come out the other side. I did, although with some wounds that may never completely heal.

I’ve forgiven friends who have hurt me, knowing that we all make mistakes. I’ve forgiven my mom for not being perfect. I’ve forgiven my former bosses for treating me terribly. And yes, I have forgiven myself a million times. I’m sure I will a million more times.

But I haven’t completed my forgiveness journey. I still find it not within my current grasp to forgive one person. This person let me down my entire life, never there when it mattered. This person isn’t in my life anymore and hasn’t been for some time. No matter how much I want to forgive, there is something that stops me from being able to completely. There’s never going to be any resolution; I know that. Nothing will change the past. And I don’t have to ever give this person another chance to hurt me.

For now, the forgiveness is still a work in progress, as am I. Eventually, I think I’ll be at 100%. Forgiveness is not something this person ever asked for, and at times, I think it’s something undeserved. I’ll let go of it all one day. I’ll be brave enough to forgive.

When people hurt us, it’s hard to recover. It’s hard to stand back up and pick all the little shivers of pain out of your palms. When we are hurt, it changes us. Forgiveness doesn’t change us back. It simply helps us from wishing every day for a new ending. History cannot be rewritten. I will keep trying every day to forgive a little more.

Conflict and Kindness

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Conflict is a part of life. No matter how much we’d like to avoid it, it’s inescapable. After all, we are all different and unique. We can’t all agree on everything. Nor should we because that would probably be a very boring world.

But when we disagree, does that mean we have to be enemies? Does that mean we have to be hateful? It seems pretty simple to say of course not, yet that doesn’t seem to be where we are as a society.

Before the advent of social media, we probably kept our opinions and our beliefs a bit more to ourselves. Now everyone has a platform. And everyone has an opinion, which is fine because you are entitled to your opinion. Just remember it’s yours. That’s right, it’s your opinion. You can’t make it be someone else’s. Opinions aren’t facts. They are what we believe about a certain situation, which could include a lot of different things, including bias.

I have lots of opinions and beliefs. And I have plenty of people in my life who have polar opposite opinions and beliefs. This includes in my own home. Justin and I have a great love for one another and also respect. But we are different. We came from different environments and have experienced different things. On the core, non-negotiables, we are pretty aligned. Other things not so much, including politics. I loathe politics. I feel like we have a very dysfunctional system. So does he. We just have different thoughts on how to fix it. Yet, we can live together and be happy. With the current state of the country, it’s hard to miss all the hate and rage being supplied by both parties. We try to keep our differences on these matters out of sight. Although sometimes, I can’t help myself. I will honestly admit that I threw a dog treat at him a few weeks ago. I apologized. Not my finest moment.

So here we are cohabitating, not arguing. Because I know what matters is that he’s a good man who treats me well, is a great father and is respectful of everyone; not who he votes for. Although, I’ll be honest, it’s sometimes been hard to separate the two.

Apparently, we are the only ones that seem to be able to get along. People are spending hours on social media being vicious and disgusting to one another. Why? What will this solve? I don’t post anything on social media about my political beliefs. This is private. The only thing I will publicly speak out on is the discriminatory and unconstitutional passage of HB2. If you want to attack me because of this or no longer be my friend, I’m okay with this. I stand proudly with all those in the LGBT community and their allies. I will never support anything that chews away at the basic human rights of any citizen. Not to mention the financial ruin it has caused this state and how it makes us look to the world.

Other than this, I’m going to keep my thoughts to myself. It’s funny how people will just assume you are on their side about something and begin spewing away. Don’t ever make assumptions about how others feel. You’ll be wrong. I am reminded of a dinner I was at many years ago with friends and acquaintances. A controversial topic came up with many at the table saying some terrible things about anyone who was on the other side. I did not join the conversation. I simply got up and went outside. I came back later. The conversation had moved on, but it changed the way I felt about some of those people that day. It made me realize that if I didn’t want to get attacked, I should probably keep a lot to myself.

I’ve also been sickened by the way people have taken down those in the public eye for having an opinion. If you are a celebrity or famous, you do have a platform. You can use it as you wish. My girl Sara Bareilles has been vocal about her vote. It’s her opinion. It in no way impacts her music or the amazing, talented person she is. But she’s got people almost threatening her for having a voice! Just unfollow her if it bothers you so much, but why hate her and tell her she’s scum because she has a different opinion than you.

So as we head into the final few weeks of this election, can I please persuade you all to be kind? It’s not too much to ask. I don’t have to agree with you or even like you to be kind. At the basis of human dignity is kindness. I am not your enemy because we disagree. I am not delusional, despicable or repulsive because of my opinions. I know they are mine. I don’t plan to force them on anyone. So take all that energy you are using to fuel your hate and do something wonderful with it. What kind of world could we really live in if we practiced kindness? It’s not a rhetorical question. It’s a possibility.

What Love Means to Me

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I once thought love was about finding someone you couldn’t live without; that loving someone was the same as your need for air. Because this is what I learned about love, beginning with fairy tales and reiterated by rom-coms and just about everything else I absorbed as a young girl. Popular cultural has been teaching girls for ages that love is something that envelops you and sinks down into your every pore. And that without it, you’re nothing.

The reality of love is far different. But it took me a long time to come to the conclusion that love is really about finding someone you can live with, flaws and all.

I am not an expert on love. I have been an utter failure at it most of my life. I do know that my thoughts have changed, and even though love has been heart breaking at times, when it’s right, it’s a wonderful thing. I’ve only been in love three times. Here’s how I found my own meaning of love.

I was probably always a little boy crazy. Most of the time in elementary school I had a boyfriend, whatever that meant. Although I do recall kissing in kindergarten during nap time. In middle school, I bloomed and got noticed more by boys. I never had a problem with boys liking me. I just usually liked a different one! Pop culture allowed me to believe that someday I’d get the boy I wanted; after all Molly Ringwald did.

But I never really had real heartache until high school. My first serious boyfriend was much older and more experienced. And for some reason he liked me. I felt special. I thought he really cared for me, and he probably did. But I was naive; life had not hardened me yet. I still remember when he broke up with me at the movie theater. I cried for days. I didn’t understand why. Hadn’t I done everything right? Hadn’t I been the perfect girlfriend? It was a good learning experience about “love.” I didn’t really love that guy. I did trust him and cared for him deeply. It changed me. It made me realize that I should protect my heart more, and that’s about the last time anyone broke up with me. Many years later he apologized to me, and I really appreciated that.

The only guy I really loved from my adolescence was a guy I met when I was dating his friend. Then he and I realized we had feelings for each other. We didn’t date long. Instead we stayed friends. I went on to date others, but my heart was always his. What I remember most about him were the late night phone calls that lasted for hours when we were really honest about everything. A few years later when I was in college, I told him I loved him. He told me he loved me, too, but he couldn’t be with me. He didn’t think he was good enough. I didn’t know what to say so I put some distance between us. And in that distance, he met someone. Not long after, he told me he was going to have a baby and was getting married.  That summer was brutal. I still remember him telling me; nothing was ever the same. 

A few weeks later, I spent the last night in the house I grew up in with him. But he still got married and became a dad. He still called me all the time until one day I said stop. I didn’t want those calls to stop, but he had made his choice. I needed to get on with my life. I never stopped loving him or thinking there might be a time for us in the future. Then he died. I hadn’t seen or spoken to him in years. I knew his life was kind of a mess. I only hope that he always knew that someone loved him.

I didn’t really fall in love again until my 30s. My early 20s were full of lots of non-commitment then I met my ex-husband. But as I clearly know now, I never really loved him, at least not romantically. I was not in any condition to love at that time, which is why I married a man I didn’t love.

This next love was after him, and it was a train wreck from the start. We were co-workers. I was still married when we met. We were just friends at first. After separating, he and I knew we couldn’t start something. It was too soon. But there was something very intense between us. And honestly, I had already fallen in love with him over the many months of long conversations at the office. I tried to move forward and not think of him. I started dating; met some guys I liked. It was him I wanted though, and we couldn’t stay away from each other. About a year later, we finally made a go at it. It was never easy. There was a lot of baggage. There was fighting and anger. I loved him fiercely. I stepped on my heart until it burst to stay with him. Slowly, I fell out of love with him and had to go so I could save myself. I’ll always care about him. I have forgiven him. He wasn’t my happy ending, no matter how bad I wanted him to be.

After that, I needed to just work on me. It took a long time to heal from that heartbreak. I was fine being alone. And when I was in a good place, something amazing happened, I fell in love for the last time. We were friends at first. I wasn’t sure where it would go, and that was okay. When you’re older and wary from what you’ve been through, you have a different expectation, which is that you don’t have any expectations!

He won me over with his easy way about him that’s just so relaxing to my soul. He is bright and kind. He is a good father and a wonderful partner. I never knew it could be so easy to be with someone. There’s no drama; our only fight is what to have for dinner (and that topic itself could be a blog – coming soon!).

What he has taught me about love is that it can be unconditional when it’s right. He lets me be me. I let him be him. Yes, we still have to work on our relationship, but we do that every day by talking to each other or not talking. Regardless, it’s honest and sincere. It’s a really nice way to live. I once had this checklist of what I thought love would be. It’s long in the trash! That’s not how the real world works. As I get closer to becoming his wife, I absolutely believe we will make it because he’s the one I can live with.

The Secret of Shame

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Shame is a terrible feeling, like the worst case of heartburn coupled with a swift quick in the gut. But what is shame really? And more importantly, why do we give it so much power?

Shame is defined as, “the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable or improper done by oneself.” Shame is a nutshell is about self-inflicted pain. Shame doesn’t just stick around in the immediate aftermath. We think we need to carry it around, hold onto it, keep it alive.

Is shame useful? Well, sure we’ve all done things we needed to feel shame over. However, most of us in the world don’t go around doing really horrible things. Yet we still want to keep our shame! That’s not okay. Shame is a secret self-hate that we polish with additional feelings of disgust and inferiority. Shame means we don’t deserve forgiveness or the right to move on.

Shame is something we are taught to feel as a child, as in “shame, shame I know your name.” In a way, it teaches us right from wrong. Then we grow up. As adults, we mess up a lot. But there’s shame to greet us and remind us we’re terrible human beings. We welcome it. We let it cloud our minds, making us completely irrational. Shame doesn’t allow us to let go of what happened. It sticks out its tentacles and lashes on. We’re stuck in shame.

I am not immune to shame. I’ve been my biggest disappointment many times. I’m sure I will be again. Shame doesn’t have a hold on me anymore.

I’ve felt episodes of shame many times in life; the biggest being due to the many bad decisions I’ve made in relationships. I’ve hurt people. I’ve hurt myself. Probably the biggest shame I allowed to invade my life was the shame of divorce. Nobody wants to say, “I’m divorced.” I didn’t grow up dreaming of my divorce, but I certainly knew what it was since I was so young when my parents divorced. Divorce is very common in our culture; some people do it a lot! I don’t think, though, that most people go into marriage thinking about divorce.

My shame about divorce was really about the fact that my ex-husband was not a bad guy. We had problems, but it was never ugly between us. He loved me very much and was good to me most of the time. I hurt him badly. There’s nothing I can do that will ever change that. I’m sure he has healed from it and moved on with his life, hopefully to find love. But the fact is I married someone I didn’t love, and three and half years later, I finally had the guts to say so.

So I became the bad guy. I was the bad guy. He didn’t really see me this way because that’s not the kind of person he was. But others did. So I let the shame roll over me. It was intoxicating. I deserved it all. I messed up both of our lives for a little bit. I never meant to hurt him or myself. Sometimes, we do the best we can.

In the immediacy of the break-up, it was not something I wanted to reveal to anyone. There have probably been many people I’ve known between then and now who didn’t know. And occasionally when I was honest about it, I would get interrogated as to why! Sure, it’s personal, not really something that comes out naturally. But I was a bit shocked that even the doctor’s office wanted to know. That’s right, on the form there was a checkbox for single, married or divorced. Why is this information their business? Does being divorced mean the doctor gives me a sad face? So I knew logically this was ridiculous, but I still checked single. That was shame winning. I was too ashamed to check the right box. Even though, I don’t believe this is information they should be privy; I still felt too ashamed to check the damn box.

So how can we shed shame? It starts with forgiveness. You can hope that you’ll be forgiven by others, but don’t count on it. Instead, forgive yourself. What’s done is done. You can’t change it. You can be accountable and remorseful. You can try to be a better person.

No one is perfect. We are a breed of imperfect creatures. Life is hard enough without the added deluge of shame. If you can shed that shame today, just think of how much more room you’ll have for joy and acceptance.