The Fear of Forever

And the night sweats that come with it

I don’t know if this has ever occurred to you, but marriage is forever. Like forever-and-ever-until-you-die, forever. Pardon me while I clutch my stomach a bit. Last week we signed papers, and said the words in front our family. Now we’re back to reality, and the pressure of forever has been getting to me.

Instead of that hazy, floaty newly wed feeling, there have been night sweats. There’s been the occasional stomach-dropping anxiety that I’m not cut out for marriage, that having these thoughts at all means I’ve made a terrible, horrible mistake. I’ve taken the scenario to its extreme: I’m thirty, twice divorced with all the imagined baggage that comes with that. The serial monogamist who never makes it to the good stuff. I’m Ross Geller without the laugh track. Someone who finds love, but doesn’t have the goods to keep it. Eventually, I’ll be the older woman who took her entire youth to get it right: I’m Elizabeth Taylor. I’m my mother.

You see my first, youthful, carefree marriage was entered into blithely and blindly. It ended as easily as it began, with no fight and with no consideration. Even while logically I know now it was unwarranted, the shame of that divorce took a long time to work through. So to marry again, I needed everything to be different: mindful, serious, and with a will to work. I can’t, won’t be part of another failed union, and I’ve been letting my fear of failure define my tiny seed of a marriage.

Luckily, when it’s not just me lying awake in the middle on the night, the reality of forever isn’t actually all that daunting. It’s just her and me, brushing our teeth, making plans, and preparing for the storms we know surely will come. It’s life with the person who makes me happy, strong, and feel safe enough to confide my deepest, darkest “what ifs”–even if they’re ones that could derail our week-old marriage.

Turns out, my fear of forever has been all about me. About whether I’ve just set myself up for another round of shame and disappointment. About whether I can make it.

But here’s something amazing I’ve discovered. Yes, forever is huge and it’s daunting, but, get this: she’ll be there the whole time. I think that’s the best bit about marriage. Even when it feels long and difficult, you’ll never have to do it alone.

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  • Ariel

    Love that last line!

  • Jen

    I can’t tell what I like more about this photo- how beautiful it is or how beautiful the subjects are. So much beauty!!! And the essay was a wonderful as well!

  • Kelsey

    Your bio, lady… love it! Thanks for writing!

    • Helen

      Thanks Kelsey – it’s wife approved too. I wanted to go on about her a bit more, but she wouldn’t have it!

  • Sarah E

    Permanence has been on my mind lately, too. Thanks for sharing!

  • CJ

    While I totally get the pressure, I honestly just feel relieved; finally, one thing I can count on besides death and taxes–the fact that, no matter what, we will make this work for each other and ourselves.

    But maybe I’m just naive in my pre-married state. That could totally be a thing.

    • Katherine

      I think that it’s possible to feel both: the enormity of forever, and did I really make the right choice, but also the relief that we’re now joined together & that any little mistake or argument doesn’t threaten our relationship.

      • CJ

        I totally agree; it certainly seems that the writer feels both (in the end)!

  • Molly P. Kopuru

    I’ve been thinking about this lately (we are in our second month of marriage). Sometimes forever is daunting, especially right now as we’re adjusting to living together AND being married, but I am glad that I get to spend forever with him of all people. I wouldn’t want to spend my life with anyone else.

  • love this for so many reasons. i love that anxiety, fear and doubts DO NOT mean “don’t”. and i’m sick of the way our culture portrays love and relationships and how it believes the opposite to be true. how about, we are not black and white beings, but we’ve got a lot of grey, and if we don’t take responsibility to learn about our grey we may never muster up the courage to really learn about love. here’s to actually having the bravery to feel your fear and embrace it!

    • Helen

      Totally – it was such a relief to realise that. In fact some of the best things I’ve ever done have scared the willies out of me!

  • Your first sentence sums up why I’ve been so stressed lately!

  • Caitlin_DD

    I’ve been worried about this pre-marriage, it’s so good to know that (along with FH) I’m not the only one having these anxieties.

  • Aj

    I had to click over just because I adored the picture! So happy!

    And yes, the weight of a previous divorce definitely gave me pause before my wedding – did I want to do this all over again? would others take my pledge seriously? will making it all formal make it scary? ultimately, I realized that as scary as forever is, the wedding is just the celebration of finding someone who knows me better than anyone, and whom I know, and that we know together that we’re “forever and ever.”

    • Helen

      Thanks! We love that shot too.

      I took a while to get over my cringe at “making” everyone come to another wedding of mine. Like, would they be standing around rolling their eyes? The articles on here helped heaps – particularly remembering that it might be my second wedding, but it’s my first one to her.

  • lucy559

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  • Amy M

    Thank you so, so so much for this!