Last week, the while-haired woman behind us at Costco noticed a bag of macadamia nuts in our cart and gasped, asking where I’d found them. My boyfriend immediately offered to go grab her a bag and I smiled to myself, still proud of my catch six years in.
Once I’d checked out, I explained to the cashier that the woman behind me had a bag of nuts on the way, so he could scan mine to add onto her receipt. The bespectacled lady in a yellow dress beamed as she proclaimed, “This lovely young lady’s husband went to fetch me a bag!”
Neither of us wear a ring, nor any other trappings of tradition. And yet, like clockwork, we’re mistaken for married at least once per week. Whether at the grocery store, on our evening walk or meeting one anther’s long-distance friends for the first time, people think–no, insist–that we must be married.
We always let it slide, smilingly knowingly at one another and then joking about it when we’re out of earshot. “I’ve got you on lock-down, buddy, and everyone can tell!” I can always see when a couple is choosing love versus trapped in a marriage. Our most subtle actions speak loudly. Yet, I’ve always wondered what it is that people see with us. Is it assumed we’ve formalized our commitment because we’re in our 30s? Do we act like we’ve been together for an eternity? Or is it the way we gaze longingly into each others eyes and then slap the other’s butt before bolting away?
Those that know us well love to ask the question: So, when are you two getting married? My boyfriend’s favorite response is the following:
Oh, we’re married. We’ve been married for six years. We just haven’t told the state yet.
I adore that answer because it’s true. Our love need not be a public affair. Those who know us can see that we’re committed. Hell, even complete strangers can recognize our affection. And, to me, that is a much greater accomplishment than spending a full year planning how to spend $35,000 to entertain distant relatives for five hours. The seamlessness of a wedding has no bearing on the success of the marriage, and I think many fail to recognize that the foundations of a marriage are laid far in advance of the ceremony.
Why is it when you conduct an internet search of “true love,” you’re met with wedding and engagement photos? In the most honest moments of affection, there is no cameraman standing by. You don’t need to provide indisputable evidence that you are, in fact, deeply and head-over-heels in love. Or, at the very least, blissfully content. The internet is painting up unrealistic expectations.
My most popular post, by far, is 5 Valuable Lessons From My 5-Year Relationship. The premise is simple, but it seems everyone is desperate to understand how to my love work. In short, love is a team sport. It take a shared vision, constant communication, acceptance of mistakes, and the drive to cross the finish line together. None of those tasks require a state-issued certificate or a hall full of cheering friends. When training for the big game, you can’t afford to take more than a few days off.
Some people spend their lives dreaming about that special day where they parade down the aisle in all white, and I complete respect that. Yet, the longer I’m with my partner, the more clear it’s become that I am not interested in a wedding. I don’t need a ceremony because the things I’d hope to obtain from a marriage–love, commitment, companionship, and support–I already have, no state-issued string attached. Though, eventually, I’ll likely compromise with a small, backyard get together with family. No dress and no ceremony; just good food and good people.
Ultimately, I think we each must decide individually what’s best for ourselves and our relationships. That famous internet guru doesn’t understand the subtle nuances of your partnership, and nor do I? While strangers and friends can offer us hints and clues, in the end we must each learn to think critically, act with compassion, and choose to forge our own path–in love, and in life more generally.
What are your thoughts on love, marriage, and weddings? It’s quite the tangled web of tradition, familial expectations, social pressures, financial constraints, and personal preferences, isn’t it?