Yesterday, Z returned from working out of town for a few weeks. We spent the day together lazily, him jet-lagged and me still coughing, doing a few errands, eating home-cooked food, and generally doing a lot of nothing.  At the risk of being predictable and insipid, I am delighted to have him back.

I am not a romantic. I haven’t anticipated finding a soul-mate or other magical interpersonal connection since high school. I don’t mean to suggest that other people who believe they are divinely destined to be with their partner are wrong. A good love story is a beautiful and useful thing.  But for me, a relationship is based on intent, on an agreement between two people (or more, but personally I’m conventional that way). If Z were eaten by a shark, or up and left me, there would be other fish in the sea. Multiple other people could make acceptable partners for me, and for him too.  That idea could be depressing or confusing – after all, how do we know that it’s best for us and our community that we devote our energies to each other? On the other hand, it’s kind of beautiful to recognize that our relationship is whatever we have built.  As long as we both are willing to make the necessary effort, relationship issues can be resolved.

Next month will mark five years since our first date.  Z was a friend of friends, and came highly recommended as kind. I simultaneously entertained the paradoxical ideas, even before our first date, that we were too different to possibly get along, and that we’d end up together anyways.  He drove a car, ate meat, seemed disturbingly stable and grown-up, and lived 90 minutes away by bus and by boat… I was hopelessly analog and poetic,and lived for music in a filthy crumbling house by the university with a large rotating cast of roommates and one toilet. My old journal entries from our first summer together recount concerns that he might not have enough substance to his character, he might “rely on other people to structure his life”, I might “have trouble respecting his lifestyle,” and anyways he was so nice I might just walk all over him. Mostly, though, those journal entries exclaim what a ridiculously nice person he is. In the intervening years, I have gotten to know his flaws as well, but to this day I am still marvelling over his genuinely sweet and thoughtful character. Even my mom, who so vigorously disapproved of our relationship back in the day, seems fond of him now, sometimes.

Now, above all people, he knows what is on my heart. Our lives are functionally interdependent. He has lived in the apartment I own for two and a half years. We file our damn taxes together. As of eight months ago when I finally bit the bullet and went back to school, he has been paying all the bills. Financial dependence was hard for me to accept gracefully, but I really do apreciate the gift of his support.

But damned if I feel like getting married. There are so many reasons not to do it:

  • Trepidation and cold feet! (that would be me, worrying.)
  • Giant pain in the arse and significant expense! (even for a small wedding with fewer than 20 guests)
  • Great potential to piss off beloved family members because not everyone could be invited to said small wedding!
  • The thought of scheduling a personal event in addition to the chaos of the next year or two of my life gives me panic attacks.
  • I regularly attend plenty of weddings as a musician, and do not appreciate the conventional rituals.  They can be very sweet if they are meaningful to the people involved, but they sure don’t speak to me personally.  Getting dressed up in white and being led to an altar reminds me of animal sacrifice.

On the side of motivating me to plan the damn wedding already, there is what?

  • There is some part of me that thinks it would be nicest, or at least classiest, to be married before having a baby. My cousin critically probed this assumption of mine – do I really think it makes a damn difference? Who am I trying to impress?  The truth is that I am trying to impress said nonexistent child. Children don’t understand things like adult relationships, and I suspect that a child might find it comforting if his or her parents are married.  It’s not a big deal, and if we accidentally got pregnant right now, there would be no quams about being unmarried. Nonetheless, this is the most compelling reason I can think of.
  • My best friend from university, R, once explained to me the rationale for her own wedding. She thinks, as I do, that getting married doesn’t magically change anything about your relationship – doesn’t make you more compatible or loving or better communicators.  She sees having a wedding as formally declaring “Hey family/community! This person here is someone I intend to be meaningfully partnered with in the long term. We hereby ask for your recognition and respect for this partnership.”  That’s a pretty good reason, although I feel like we already have the respsect of  the relevant communities.
  • It might be sort of marginally cool to have a ritual to mark this stage in our lives, for the sake of memories, pictures, and a family gathering. My life does suffer at present from a deficit of poetry. I’m so committed to burning through school and getting on with my life that I’m definitely missing out on some joy and reflection. Maybe weddings should be undertaken from a place of spiritual and emotional reflection. In that case maybe we should prioritize quiet togetherness and reflection, or alternately wait until retirement.
  • Um… nope, that’s all I’ve got. We already share every aspect of our lives together. The government and our employers (you know, if we weren’t a self employed dude and a student)  already consider us married for the sake of benefits and such.  Our families basically consider us hitched… so what is left? Cake?

Z and I have talked about my sense of trepidation already. What if after these years together, it’s a giant mistake? We don’t have enough in common! We run out of things to talk about! We dislike each other’s cooking!  He replied that of all his friends who have gotten married, the only ones who did not express some level of trepidation to him about the whole idea, the only ones who were absolutely sure about their marriage was one couple who got married in their early twenties and divorced a few years later.

Meaningful relationships are complicated, and rightfully so.  He is willing to wait patiently for me to find enthusiasm for gettin’ hitched. In his mind, we are married already.