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Thread: Anyone else feel this way?

  1. #1
    Platinum Member Fudgie's Avatar
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    Anyone else feel this way?

    I've been in therapy for a while and have been working on myself and I've recently come to the realization that I do not want to get married, ever. I have been dissecting myself in therapy and the awareness that it has to do with my own control issues in my life, my fervent desire not to be "tied" to someone in that way, my intimacy issues, etc. has had no change on me. I've worked on my issues and have improved a lot but I have such an inner aversion to getting married. Nothing changes that. I am tired of trying to change. For what?

    My partner, who has long since wanted to get married, is accepting of this. He knows I tried and told me staying together is more important. Although I'm not sure if our relationship will last past the summer (unrelated, has to do with long standing issue not relationship conflict, he is aware) but I suppose that's good to know. We are domestic partners so he is on my insurance so it's all good.

    Something that really crystallized it for me was finally getting a job that pays really, really well for me. I can afford a mortgage on my own if I wanted and also fund my 401k. I can go back to school, paying very little tuition, and then I can make even more money.

    Having a husband meant more financial security because 2 incomes is better than 1. Now that I'm making a lot more, I feel so differently. I didn't expect that. I guess that was the one thing holding me back. I didn't care about anything else...the wedding, the commitment, the love, anything. Am I worth getting hitched to? Absolutely, I think I'm pretty good wife material at this point! But that doesn't mean I want that for myself.

    As I'm approaching 30, more of my friends are getting hitched. A couple people in my extended family got married. I didn't enjoy the wedding because my own ambivalence made me anxious and uncomfortable. Now I finally feel like I can be happy for others who are getting married because I am giving myself permission to not want the same.

    The one thing I'm sad about is my parents. I know they've love to see me get married. I'm likely the only one of their children who will ever get married. But I can't live for their happiness, only my own.

  2. #2
    Platinum Member bluecastle's Avatar
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    Marriage certainly isn't for everyone—even for those who give it a try. I can relate to this post, in ways, and will offer some words for whatever they might be worth.

    I spent my 20s pretty adamantly against marriage. Saw it a bit like a cage, or like knee-jerk conformism, or like this thing people did to stave off the fear of being alone or incapable of paying the electric bill on time on their own. I also didn't love the idea of my love for someone—the wild, mysterious force you harness and invent with a single person, at once universal and deeply personal—needing validation by the government to be true. I was always most inspired by couples who weren't married but who were clearly partners; they seemed to me both more free and more honest and somehow radical.

    Without question my upbringing (divorced parents, deadbeat dad, independent single mom who never remarried) informed this thinking.

    That mindset carried over into much of my 30s, which are now almost over. But it wasn't as brash. I judged myself less for not wanting marriage, and judged those who wanted it less. Some people, for whatever reasons, seemed to gravitate toward marriage, toward family building, longing for it in the abstract (when they're single) and in the concrete (when in a relationship). I wasn't like this. When I was single I liked being single. When I was in a relationship I liked being in a relationship. Either were fine, and neither states triggered thoughts about the next step, about what was needed to fix or elevate the present. When I indulged in romantic, fantastical thinking about what might be on the horizon, something I'm prone to do, it was about a country to visit, a creative project to get lost in, a hobby to take on, a new life to make real—and generally being able to build a life that was autonomous, financially and spiritually, and both rooted and mobile and always adventurous.

    Now, at 39 my feelings have changed, softened even more. I'm not married, never been close, never lived with a partner. That rooted/mobile/adventurous life has been largely realized, on my own, and it's lovely. I've seen a lot, done a lot, and shared it with people I love: friends, family, lovers, girlfriends. If it ended tomorrow, there would be no regrets. The cup is more than full.

    But, curiously, much of what once made me cringe about marriage now kind of excites me. Maybe it's getting older. Maybe it's that I've checked off some boxes that once seemed elusive. Maybe it's seeing friends get married, which most of mine have done later in life, so I've only in recent years become the outlier. Marriage still seems kind of insane to me—but beautifully insane and something I could see doing with a person who shared that mindset.

    Rather than thinking of it as a kind of illusory bunker against the winds of reality, I see it, potentially, as holding hands at the edge of a plank, jumping wildly off, committing to do your best on the flight down and in whatever comes in the waters below, and celebrating it with some booze and dancing with those you love. That's basically how I live anyway; doing it with someone sounds even more radical, and the silliness of it all being documented in a government file—well, I kind of like silly. Silly can be pretty radical too, I've realized.

    Anyhow, don't know if this resonates. Guess I'm just saying that it's fine to feel whatever you feel about this, and it's fine if those feelings stay still or change. Someone will meet you on that plane. For all the ways we've become open to various lifestyle choices, an openness I support and fight for, I think there remains a tremendous pressure to be married that is at odds with the natural spirts of a lot of people. When people are single we ask if their dating. When people are dating we ask if they're thinking marriage. When people are married we ask if they're thinking children.

    Ignoring that pressure is hard. It's lonesome. Makes you question yourself. Can feel like swimming against the current, because it often is. (Side note: I never ask my married friends if they're thinking about children; I do ask them how their marriage is going, which they always seem to find shocking, and welcoming, the recognition that even inside something conventional you can feel lonesome, pressured, against a current, and should be free to talk about this.)

    Lastly, I can relate to the parental pressure. My father—who cares? He wouldn't be invited if I got married. But I know my mom would love to see me married, making a family, that it would be a kind of cherry on top for her, that she could exhale a bit. A few years ago she brought this up, with a casual comment asking when she was going to have a grandchild. I was a few months out of a long relationship at the time, single and heartbroken, and the comment totally irked me. The selfishness behind it was impossible to ignore, and in my fragile state I couldn't let it go. I told her, "Mom, I don't know when or if that will happen. I love you. I'm so grateful to you. But I don't want to ever have this conversation again, because I can promise you this: if I get married, if I have children, it will not be to make you happy. It will be for me, for my happiness. Because I met someone I want to marry and have children with."

    That led to a great talk between us, a place where we, already close, got closer. I felt more seen and accepted, that the path I was on was okay.
    Last edited by bluecastle; 12-07-2018 at 08:55 AM.

  3. #3
    Platinum Member Fudgie's Avatar
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    Hi bluecastle, it's good to hear from you. What you said was really helpful, and I really relate a lot to this:

    Originally Posted by bluecastle
    Rather than thinking of it as a kind of illusory bunker against the winds of reality, I see it, potentially, as holding hands at the edge of a plank, jumping wildly off, committing to do your best on the flight down and in whatever comes in the waters below, and celebrating it with some booze and dancing with those you love. That's basically how I live anyway; doing it with someone sounds even more radical, and the silliness of it all being documented in a government file—well, I kind of like silly. Silly can be pretty radical too, I've realized.
    I'm glad I'm not the only one who sees marriage as complete bonkers. I don't mean that in a derogatory way - I mean more in a crazy, leap of faith sort of sense. I just can't really wrap my mind around it or even envision myself being mildly okay with it. During the past couple years, I found myself making excuses and boundaries. "Well, if I have x job, if I have x money saved up, if my partner does xyz...THEN I'll be ready to get engaged..." Now I realize that I was just stalling. No amount of "preparing" is necessary for that walk off the plank. I was only delaying my (seemingly) inevitable leap. Now I don't think I want to do it at all.

    Perhaps like you, my mind will change as I get older and that's okay. I have some idea of what my life is going to be like in about 5-10 years but who knows how my experiences will change my opinion on this. However, I'm fully prepared to not change and that's okay too. I am no longer going to "count" on this change and assume that it's inevitable. Right now I'm excited to turn 30 during the next year and eager to continue enjoying my life as it is.

    I completely agree with you about societal pressures. I felt this very recently, as I was driving with my partner and his younger sister to dinner. My partner was resting in the backseat, unresponsive as his sister opened up to me about how her boyfriend of 1 year had bought an engagement ring and she was expecting the big question soon. She didn't quite ask me about why my partner and I haven't gotten engaged (3+ years together, living together for much of it), but she made a big point to wax poetic about "the human experience" (what does that mean, anyway?) and how marriage was part of said experience, and "It's okay if you get divorced, it's important to get married at least once!". I felt quite uncomfortable and that way of thinking does not jive with me at all.

    I'm glad you could have that talk with your mother and it lead to a positive place and you feel closer to her as a result. That's a beautiful thing. My mother is aware of my lack of desire for children (and has not pushed it but I have voiced this since I was young) but I have not been open with her about not getting married. I am hoping she won't ask me. But maybe in time, I could be more open with her. It's something to think about.

    This is the "final frontier" for me, so to speak. I underwent permanent sterilization a few years ago. The child door is nailed shut and I find myself looking at the marriage door and seeing it close for me, although unlike the child one, it is not nailed. It's the last bastion of socially acceptable relationship milestones that I could reach. I am learning to let go of the anxiety I felt about marriage, feeling like a lot in my life was riding on my choice to marry or not. However, I see now that my life is my own and it is what I make of it, and that's true regardless if there is a husband or not. To realize that marriage doesn't hold much influence over my life is freeing, to say the least. I only wish that I could have seen this earlier in my 20s rather than now at 29.

  4. #4
    Platinum Member bluecastle's Avatar
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    Oh, don't we all wish we knew in our early 20s what we know in our later 20s, early 30s, and so on?

    But, hey, that's what your early 20s, and 20s in general are all about. You're kind of out there without a tether, trying on this whole adulthood thing with no adult experience to compare it to. I think that's why your 20s feel so pressurized, so consequential. There's this idea that you have to get it all figured out—those xs and ys—before the bell of 30 goes off. At the risk of sounding cynical, I do think that some people lean on relationships and marriage become a salve to all that uncertainty.

    Don't want to pry, but I can't help but wonder if part of your hesitance about marriage in general is connected to your hesitance about your partner in particular. 26-29: those are ripe years, years in which a lot of husks are still being shed, and sometimes the person who is perfect for us at 26 isn't the right co-pilot as 30 nears. I've been there, on all sides of that equation. Been with the wrong person and, instead of just owning that simple, sad fact, I've gotten super philosophical about institutions, conventions, and whatnot.

    Anyhow, sounds like you're the midst of an awesome chapter.

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    There is no right or wrong in the marriage vs. no marriage, or kids vs. no kids discussion.

    We can all give our own stories and our own opinions, but none of that matters.

    What matters is how you feel.

    The only relevance, other than your own feelings, are the feelings of your partner. But, your partner is an adult, so he is free to make his own decision, with full knowledge of how you feel.

    Some people stay partnered up/never married their entire lives, while others marry their childhood sweetheart. Neither is right or wrong, and neither is better or worse. It's all about what's better or worse for you.

  7. #6
    Platinum Member catfeeder's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Fudgie
    Now I finally feel like I can be happy for others who are getting married because I am giving myself permission to not want the same.
    I've felt this way for most of my adult life, although I've dropped the word 'never' to avoid hemming myself in with politics. My position is based on the idea that I want to wake up with a partner every day knowing that we're both 'in this' because we WANT to be here, not because we made vows during happier times.

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    Interesting thread, Fudgie. I'm glad I came across it.

    To be honest, for many years I wondered if marriage was for me. When I was younger (I'm talking about 10 years old), I told my parents that I never wanted to get married. Lol. I remember thinking to myself, "I just can't see myself married". The thought of being tied to one person for the rest of my life and not being able to do what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it, scared me a bit. I've always liked my independence and space, but definitely love the feeling of being in a healthy, loving, exclusive relationship (provided it's with someone who doesn't want to be tied at the hip). For what it's worth, my parents have been been married for many years and have quite a happy marriage, so my thoughts on not wanting to get married were not influenced in anyway by their relationship.

    My older brothers always wanted to get married and have children, which they have, but I was always on the fence. To be honest, my feelings on marriage would frustrate me. As a woman, I think I felt like I should want to get married and have children, yet I was never convinced that I wholeheartedly wanted these things in my life.

    Within the last couple of years, my mindset has changed, a bit. Catfeeder's post actually resonated with me regarding the word 'never'. I've come to conclude that I can't say I'll never get married. I think I'd consider it, with the right person. However, if that time comes, I can't help but wonder if I'll get cold feet the night before the wedding, or become the runaway bride (ever see that movie?). Kinda kidding here. The thoughts have crossed my mind, but I highly doubt that would happen. I think I do fear losing some of my independence and space with marriage, but also the possibility of finding myself stuck with the wrong person, or personalities changing, falling out of love.

    That said, you're not alone. But I have always wondered if my thoughts on marriage were normal. I mean, I haven't really talked to my friends who are married about whether they always knew they wanted to get married (maybe because I just assumed they did, for some reason). I have always truly been on the fence, but for some reason, have had a hard time accepting that I felt this way.

    But I'm happy to now recognize that should the opportunity present itself, I think I'd do it - nothing fancy. Only a small intimate gathering of all of my favourite peeps. Heck, I'd even attend the courthouse to get it done, to be honest - followed by a nice, celebratory gathering with my loved ones.

    Just wanted to chime in and say that I can see where you're coming from. I get it. You must be relieved to have come to this realization, no?
    Last edited by milly007; 12-08-2018 at 12:33 AM.

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    Well, I will tell you that I had a lot of the same fears about marriage, but there is nothing to be afraid of. Marriage doesn't change you or your relationship. It does do one thing, though. It protects you and your partner. In the event that one of you dies that person will inherit your money and your stuff and will be able to carry on with their life. It also allows your partner to make medical decisions for you in case you're incapacitated, not your parents. And you also build your lives and your relationship together. It gives you a warm feeling to know that you have another individual who is looking out for you, who is waiting at home for you, and who loves you. That is very comforting and it's probably why married people live longer.

  10. #9
    Platinum Member Fudgie's Avatar
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    Blue castle,

    I have struggled with the question of marriage for the entirety of my relationship. I've always been ambivalent and he's squarely in the "I want to get married someday" camp. He knew of my ambivalence since early on in our relationship and decided to be with me regardless.

    Our relationship has been lacking in some ways. He has some health problems now, is taking antidepressants, and as a result, I haven't had sex in many months. I make do but it's difficult and I'm having trouble imaging a future like this. Even back when we did have sex more regularly, I still had moments of "can I live with this for the REST OF MY LIFE"? And the thing is, I'm not sure.

    I am so looking forward to my 30s. I do agree with you, that some people cling to relationships like a salve in the face of uncertainty. My coworkers in particular are very milestone focused. They are always getting dogs, getting pregnant, getting engaged/married, buying a new place, buying a new car...and I hear a lot about it and I am happy that they are happy. I have been asked a few times about my "milestones" (my words, not theirs) and judging by their "Oh" reactions, I don't think they are too impressed by the fact that I've lived in the same apartment for 5 years, I love my older car, and I have no real plans to get engaged/have children.

    I am past the point of caring though. This is my life, not theirs.

    Catfeeder,

    I can really relate to what you said. I would want someone to be with me because they want to, not because they have to, or feel like they have to. My parents are still together but their marriage was unhappy/stressed during my childhood. They stayed and were praised for doing so, and I am thankful that they did. Their marriage is better now but I keep thinking back to the many years it wasn't. My father used me as an emotional tampon, treating me like a wife and not a daughter, and I will always bear those scars.
    So yes they stayed together, out of duty and such, but at what cost?

    If I were in that situation, what would my life be like? I shudder to think about it.

    Milly,

    I too have always wondered if I would be a runaway bride. I have read stories of that happening and I could always see myself doing that, not out of meanness, but out of fear.

    I still judge myself, like you do, for feeling this way. Intellectually I know it's stupid and that I can be a woman and still feel this way but a small part of me still thinks "what's wrong with me?". Therapy helps a lot with this. It's hard to undo what is engrained. But I am getting there.

    I am thankful that I am not like one of my friends, who is rushing into marriage/children and she clearly has her own issues with it/the relationship, but her own deep seated insecurities and desire to be seen as "wife material" make her press on.

    DanZee,

    A lot of the "protections" you mentioned I already have. See, I'm domestic partners with my boyfriend. He is on my insurance. It also gives me the right to be his spokesperson when he's in the hospital. I am his health care proxy, although he is not mine (by choice on my part). As for inheritance, that's what wills are for and I do have a will but the assets would not go to him, but rather my intermediate family, again, my choice. I have basic life insurance but he is not the beneficiary. The payout would be to my parents because they would be the ones who would have to bury me, not him. He could carry on with his life as he works and is able bodied and minded.

    Again, I'm fortunate to live in a place that allows me these things without marriage or common law.

    As for living longer, maybe I will feel differently in the future but at this point, I don't much care. I care about my parents and my siblings. I strive to outlive them but once they are gone and I'm old, who knows. I want a good quality of life, not length. I've been through some health issues to confidently say that there are some things that I'd rather die than live through. Once I lose quality of life, I want to be gone. Marriage may just tie me to a person that I feel responsible for and will keep living a difficult life for them. No thanks.

  11. #10
    Platinum Member catfeeder's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Fudgie
    Catfeeder,

    I can really relate to what you said. I would want someone to be with me because they want to, not because they have to, or feel like they have to. My parents are still together but their marriage was unhappy/stressed during my childhood. They stayed and were praised for doing so, and I am thankful that they did. Their marriage is better now but I keep thinking back to the many years it wasn't. My father used me as an emotional tampon, treating me like a wife and not a daughter, and I will always bear those scars.
    So yes they stayed together, out of duty and such, but at what cost?

    If I were in that situation, what would my life be like? I shudder to think about it.
    I understand. I've found it helpful to skip making future decisions until I cross the bridge that makes a choice necessary. Given that you're not in an ideal relationship right now, it may feel tempting to solidify your politics, but you have a free hand to draw your future any way you see fit.

    In this day and age, the numbers of people who aren't all that interested in taking marriage vows is at an all time high. But it's helpful to consider that not interested is a much gentler position than taking a hard core stand against the institution.

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