When I married my best friend in Melbourne Beach Florida almost 10 years ago, I would have broke down and cried my eyes out had you told me that my tightly tied nuptials wouldn’t last a decade.
The scattered imaginings of an unknown future and blatant uncertainty would have infuriated and frightened me to no end.
I would have been shocked, the blood would have drained from my heart and I would have cried out, “No! What’s the point of getting married if you can just divorce each other?”
On my wedding day, I vowed to him and to myself that it would never happen. We would never throw in the his-and-her towels. My husband was what my friends and I called a “total keeper,” and I intended to literally “keep” him to myself, for ever and ever. I had more love for him than my heart could even contain. So duh, that is why I planned to marry him and be his wife until the day that I ceased living.
But I’m here to admit that it wasn’t love that drove me to want that deeper level of commitment.
He was so wonderful to me that I actually felt like I needed him to sign on the dotted line in front of God and everyone else before I could even enjoy our relationship.
During our courtship I had thoughts like, “When we get married we can live together! When we get married I will know that he really loves me! When we get married we can do big things together!” When we argued, every quarrel caused me a fair amount of anxiety. Have we done irreparable damage? Might we break up? Is this the end?
When I daydreamed about married life with him, I got to envision fights where neither of us could walk out the door without coming back. I felt solace in knowing that no matter how big the spat, we’d still share the same bed. Heck, I even fantasized about going to couples counseling; something only married couples get to do. What a privilege!
I cherished the thought of us always being together. No matter what. I realized that even if he wanted to break up with me, it wouldn’t be that easy. We’d work it out, because we’d be married. The idea of it gave me so much peace. I loved him that much.
We enjoyed almost two years of dating before sealing the deal and tying the knot. He proposed (after quite a bit of prodding from me) and we had a lovely wedding, and we did share a wonderful bond and did do many great things together.
Just like in my fantasy, we ended up getting couples counseling after a few years, although it wasn’t as fun as I had imagined it would be.
However, I did feel that peace and security that I had wanted from our legal agreement to be married to one another through thick and thin. And despite our ups and downs and my insecurities, we did share a great love for one another and managed to have a beautiful relationship.
In about the 6th or 7th year of my marriage I started to sense that my husband had thoughts of divorce. What a dreadful feeling. Despite my unhappiness, I wasn’t there yet. What he emoted was very subtle but I could tell he was tired of our pretty regular disagreements and conflict. We weren’t exactly the best match, but we had so much fun together, it was easy (at least for me) to look the other way when it came to our many incompatibilities.
But, true to form, being the great man that he is, he was dedicated to our marriage, so I knew he’d probably never bring up the “D” word. My plan had worked—our marriage was keeping him bonded to me even though we weren’t happy together anymore.
Is this what I really wanted?
I walked around with this “knowing” for a couple years before I got up the nerve to give him permission to divorce me, to take the chance and see if what I was picking up was correct. To take the risk that he’d say, “Yes thanks! See ya later!” It’s not like he needed permission, but I felt like I needed to give it to him. After all, the reason I married him was to take away his right to break up with me.
Some would argue that I married him because I loved him, but that really isn’t why. Before we married, I was his girlfriend, caring for him and committed to him because I loved him. I married him because I loved myself and wanted him all to myself. I knew I would love him forever, yet I needed some kind of tool to ensure that he would love me (or at least stay with me) forever.
I think some people may read this and think that my thoughts here are borderline psychotic, as they sure read that way to me as I type them, but I don’t think I am alone. My intent with sharing my story is to question people’s motives for getting married.
Why do you need that extra security? Why make it hard for someone to break up with you? Would you be happy in a relationship with someone who is only with you because they don’t want to get a divorce?
Some people say that that extra security is necessary if you are going to have children, but really, how does that change things? How is this not just a way of saying, “We need to make this relationship a legal bond so that if we are unhappy and want to break up it will be harder to do so. So that court fees and legal battles will deter one person from leaving the other. So that if one person falls out of love but the other still wants it to work they will be forced to remain bonded.”
This is not how love should work! Love should be free and fluid and fresh. If someone doesn’t want to be with you any more, then why would you want to force them to stay? How sad is that if you do?
By the time I gave my husband permission to break up with me, I was close to wanting a divorce as well. It was a pretty simple conversation when it happened. I told him I’d survive without him. I told him I wasn’t afraid to be alone. I told him it broke my heart to see him so miserable. I suggested separation and he was completely on board. He seemed relieved.
This hurt, but it felt so damn good to be honest with each other about it. We were both in agreement. We both knew. There was nothing to argue about and nothing to fight for. Our relationship had simply run it’s course. In fact, it probably lasted a few years longer than it should have.
I’m so fortunate that he waited until I told him I would be okay if he let me go. He moved out a month after our talk and within a couple of weeks we both mutually agreed to file the paperwork for divorce. We gave one another permission to walk away from the relationship. We gave each other the go-ahead to find love with another person. We gave each other back the freedoms that were taken away when we got married. And even as we split we continued to love and emote good feelings to each other.
Since the love wasn’t a product of our marriage, it remained through our divorce.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Lealyn Poponi
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: JD Hancock/Flickr