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I Thought I Didn’t Want To Get Married, Now I Do? Help!

How do you eat humble pie?

Q: I had a disastrous almost engagement almost a decade ago. We were ring shopping and I knew I couldn’t do it. I ultimately ended up telling my ex we were over, quitting my job and moving to the other end of the country within the same week. After that, I have very clearly said to anyone and everyone that I am never going to get married.

When I met my partner four years ago, I told him that almost immediately and he was fine with it. He had done the white wedding as barely an adult, and then gotten the divorce several years later. Everything was fine and dandy.

I’ve always liked the wedding shows, and loved going to friend’s weddings. It’s just to me, and us, was/is not actually practical. In our country, common law spouses (which we are) have as many rights as married couples; with neither of us religious, having a piece of paper wouldn’t have changed our relationship.

And also weddings would be expensive. We got the most pressure when I turned 30, and at that point I realized that due to cultural/family factors, even if we did get married it wouldn’t be the wedding we wanted. That sealed the decision in my brain: no wedding if we can’t do it the way WE want.

So we bought a house, had a kid and we’re golden.

But this winter, a friend got engaged to someone he has been with for four months. I got jealous about it. This was very weird, and I have spent the better part of two months trying to decide if I am jealous about the party (that will be amazing when there’s no pandemic), or that they get to call each other husband and wife.

After a lot of thought, I realized that I want to call my partner “my husband.” I’m not worried about the conversations with my partner about it. But I need help navigating my own ego. I’ve spent 5+ years telling the world very loudly that I don’t need the paper, and the ring and all the other stuff. And now I need to tell friends and family “Surprise, guess I do need this! Sorry for being obnoxious?”

Any advice/scripts on this would be ideal.

A:Welcome to being a grownup! It’s great in many ways: you can drink; you can eat a giant chocolate cookie for lunch; you are free to organize your own relationships; and you get to both have sex and indulge in the incomparable pleasures of Zillow.

Unfortunately adulthood often comes along with realizing that sometimes trite sayings have deep truth, and “pride goes before a fall” is def one of them (see also: don’t cut off your nose to spite your face, a bad worker blames their tools, a change is as good as a rest).

You were absolutely entitled to live your life as you saw fit! Including not getting married because you didn’t want to, and telling people that you didn’t want to get married. I don’t think any of us have to go through life adding caveats to our decisions—if you don’t want to get married and don’t think you ever will, fine! If you don’t ever want kids, great! If you hate Peloton and everything it stands for and think its a weird cult, speak your truth loud and proud!

But. If you change your mind? Ya gotta suck it up and eat humble pie. “Hey remember how I’ve been very very loud about not wanting to get married and not thinking it’s necessary? Turns out, I was wrong! I do want to get married, and so I am.” “Hey up up so I’ve long hated Peloton, but now I call weekly to see if I can get an earlier delivery date, and am genuinely worried about how Cody is doing with Covid.” Consider this a gift you are giving your loved ones! Sounds like you think you’ve been annoying, so now in exchange for that, they get the pleasure of saying I told you so, and you get to deal with it.

I truly don’t think this is a huge crisis. If people go beyond gentle teasing, feel free to shut it down. I do think it would be worth some self-reflection for you on how vocal you were about this not mattering, just since you seem not super comfortable with how you behaved! Personally, a big part of my ongoing growing up adventure has been getting more comfortable with the shades of grey life comes in (literally at the time I am writing this, when it has been bleak and grey for weeks). Has “being aggressively against marriage” become A Thing About You and now you’re losing that piece of yourself? Maybe! But I think there’s probably a lot more great stuff about you that you can now share with the world, without that chip on your shoulder.

Enjoy your post-Covid festivities! I’ll be over here waiting for my Peloton bike.

—Amy

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