February 6, 2014

How to Get Married. Maybe.


There are no guarantees, but there is a kind of energy when a person knows they are good enough, and that they are worthy of love.

You are all that, and I hope you know it, own it, and remember that anything can happen.

So after I wrote about how to stay married, a friend said that was great, but she wanted to know how to get married.

She was joking.

Kind of.

The truth is that I have no idea how I came to be married, but I can tell you the odds were against it, and that I’ve always viewed it as kind of a miracle.

If you’re single, and you want to be married and you’re in despair, check out these facts:

  1. I never had a date in high school.
  2. I never had a date in college, either.
  3. My first serious relationship happened when I was 23, and lasted three months. He gave me Burger King stuffed reindeer for Christmas.
  4. In law school, I found two guys who I thought were so far beneath me that they would have to go out with me if I asked. (They were both named Dennis). They each went out with me once, I paid, and that was it.
  5. When well-meaning friends fixed me up with someone, I was horrified that they seriously thought those men were right for me. Once I had to go into the bathroom of the restaurant and cry.
  6. I hooked up again with the idiot from #3 and dated him again for about a year. He broke up with me by sending a letter saying he had moved and I shouldn’t try to find him.
  7. When I met my husband I was 33 and dating. Who was I dating? One guy who went to prison for trying to strangle his ex, and another guy who claimed the longest schlong in three counties, and wouldn’t I be a lucky girl if…..?

I also hit my mid-30s at a time when a research study indicated that a white, college-educated woman over 35 had only a five percent chance of getting married.  I had no self-confidence, a terrible track record and the odds were against me.

Not everyone wants to get married and have children, but I really did. And I was deeply, incredibly sad. I was a high school dropout longing to be a rocket scientist at NASA.

A month before my 35 birthday, I got married. And I’m still married to that guy, who is heterosexual, not named Dennis and has neither tried to strangle me nor given me a fast food toy as a gift.

I’ve been trying really hard to figure out what changed, and how I went from giving up to getting married. I really know that feeling that everyone else who wants to be coupled is coupled and you are twisting in the wind, and you are trying to remind yourself that you are totally worth loving but every day that passes makes it harder for you to believe that.

And I love you.

Here’s what I maybe kind of know about how, against all odds, I got married to a human being:

I was feeling powerful.

I met my husband when I had just opened my own law office. I was good at what I did, I was making money, and I felt pretty for the first time in my life.

There was something about being on top of my game that made me feel like I was, for the first time ever, not looking for some guy to save me/complete me/fix me. For the first time, men pursued me. I didn’t have to chase them, or beg them or stalk them. I think, maybe, that I radiated a kind of self-sufficient confidence that was like a magnet where my previous beaten dog shtick had been pretty repellent.

I got involved more slowly, and stopped triggering my Desperation Response.

At the time I met my husband, I was seeing a therapist. She zeroed in on the fact that my story with every man I’d ever dated was the same:

  1. A man showed interest and I became obsessed, planned a wedding and made myself available emotionally and physically, then
  2. The guy got overwhelmed, got bored, or got back together with his ex, and I
  3. disintegrated because I had put the entire mass of my expectations atop a wafer of possibility, and it shattered.

She taught me to hold myself back, and to spend time with a man with no physical contact. Three dates was the rule. She also taught me to keep the rest of my life going, and not to shape it around a man—no cancelling Girls’ Night, family events or pottery class.

I suspect many of you are far more advanced and savvy than I was, but you can adapt the idea for yourself, figuring out if you’re radiating desperation, and taking steps to hold some of yourself back until you figure out if there’s really something worth having.

I got really lucky.

The right person appeared. There were obstacles—he was getting divorced and we had to wait until he was single, which meant an enforced period of chaste friendship and a real opportunity to see that his character and intentions were good. I was in love with him, but it was a calm, solid feeling instead of a panicky need to grab on for dear life.

I knew that even if it didn’t work out, he would always be my friend. And I was right.

And you may not believe me, but if I hadn’t had all the disappointment, the bad experiences and the personal growth that came with age, I wouldn’t have known what I’d found. Even if I had, I would have destroyed it by rushing, clinging and giving away everything that made me whole, self-sufficient and loveable.

There are no guarantees, but there is a kind of energy when a person knows they are good enough, and that they are worthy of love. You are all that, and I hope you know it, own it, and remember that anything can happen.

I am living proof.

Love elephant and want to go steady?

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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: HA! Designs-artbyheather on Flickr

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