I have never really been the type of woman to believe in “forever.”
I didn’t sit around and dream about white dresses as a little girl. I didn’t doodle “Mrs. Anjali Whatever” when I got in relationships as a teenager. And I definitely didn’t think that the idea of one person forever was “natural.” After all, we don’t expect one person to fulfill us forever in any other area of life—except romance. We expect to have lots of different friends to fulfill our different emotional needs. We expect to switch jobs or positions when we grow out of what we’re currently doing. We expect to go on different vacations and experience different places for their different charm.
But yet, with romance, we expect to find one person that we’ll work perfectly with forever. Just one. The idea of one person “forever” is encapsulated within the concept of marriage. There’s nothing like a legal, government-approved contract to drive home the idea that we’re supposed to be making it work forever.
It’s all very cynical, I know.
Here’s something less cynical: I’m married. Not only am I married, but I married my husband just eight weeks after our first date. And I believe he’s The One. And I plan to stay married to him forever. But here’s the rub: I still don’t believe in forever.
let me back up to the beginning
My husband and I went to high school together, but we barely knew each other then. We ran in totally different circles, we had completely different friends, and our high school extra-curriculars would never have overlapped (choir and sports). We had two, maybe three, superficial conversations in school and friended each other on Facebook in college, like people did.
Fifteen years after we first met, we found ourselves in our hometown at the same time (post college, grad-school, professional exams, and a lot of other relationships along the way), reconnected, and realized we were made just for each other. We met up for coffee, then dinner. Five weeks later, we decided to get married. Three weeks after that, we did.
From the moment I saw him again as an adult, I knew he was going to be my special one. I didn’t know how it would look or what the details would be, but I knew he was going to mean something in my life. I couldn’t have foreseen that we’d decide to try to create our own government-approved happily ever after.
forever isn’t real, right?
We’ve now been married a month and it’s been the best month of my entire life. I don’t—and didn’t—have any doubts about being married to him and I now actually believe in The One.
But I still don’t believe in forever.
You see, I believe in him, as a person. I believe in his positive qualities. I believe in our friendship. I believe in our ability to have fun together and communicate and have great sex.
But, I don’t believe that we can set a relationship up with the idea that it will last forever. I don’t believe that we can go into a marriage knowing forever is assured. I don’t believe that choosing one person as the one you want to spend forever with means that you’ll get to spend forever with that person.
I, instead, believe in today. I believe in this moment. I believe in trying to make my husband happy—right now.
In modern love, the word “marriage” has become absolutely synonymous with the word “forever.” We think “marriage” means “until the end of our lifetime.” We treat it like a static proposition in our lives: once we’re “married,” we’re in “forever.” My preferred way of looking at marriage, however, is to feel lucky and relish in the moment I have. And experience it fully. And then experience the next moment just the same.
forever might not actually be forever
I believe, in fact, that believing in “forever” might be the worst thing we can do for our marriages. If we believe in forever, we’re in forever. And that means our spouse is in forever, too. And that may mean a sort of comfort, a “settling in,” and perhaps, a bit of laziness toward our marriage. Our job might not be forever, so it deserves a lot of our energy and attention. Our friends didn’t sign a document saying they would stay our friends forever, so they also deserve a lot of our energy and attention. Our homes and physical surroundings, too, won’t stay perfect without work, so they get some energy and attention too.
Our spouses, though—they are bound “forever.” They’ll be there. They love us. They said they’d be around until the end of time. They can afford to be pushed to the bottom of the priority list. They can handle our bad moods and crappy traits. They can deal with the worst of us. Too many of us go into marriage believing that stupid, clichéd, overly memed quote: “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best.”
But it’s backwards for marriage. It should be: “I commit to showing you my best, all the time, and don’t believe you will ever deserve my worst.” The concept of “forever,” then, in a romantic relationship feels like it is destined for failure. The idea of a spouse being around “forever” is lovely, but only if our thoughts toward them are those of love and kindness, not obligation and expectation.
So I don’t believe in forever. I believe in myself. I believe in my husband. And I believe in trying my damnedest to make him happy and make our marriage work. Not forever—just for the moment in front of me.