I am one of those people who thinks things made for entertainment are actually going to happen. I tried watching Walking Dead, only to keep waking up with zombie nightmares. I frequently text my partner things like, “Don’t leave me for a job in China and never come home!” or “Don’t start selling meth!” or “Matt is your real name, right?” only to have him text back, “What did you read/watch?” Deep, deep down, I know none of this is going to happen. I trust my partner and the life we’re starting together. But I also liked to be prepared, and this is where I run into problems on the internet.
I began reading APW and other such sites through a combination of researching things for friends’ weddings/slowly fantasizing about my own. It started with pretty dresses and engagement rings and “Oooh I could make my own birdcage veil!” and eventually started thinking about deeper issues, like the impact of disease and children and prenups. It was fascinating, and incredibly helpful, to remember that these things could happen, and most of these posts reiterated that these issues should be discussed before marriage. And in my head, it meant that every single thing had to be discussed, otherwise some Internet police force will actually keep us from getting married.
I began bringing up relationship issues out of nowhere. “Do you even want a bridal party?” I’d ask while watching TV. “Do you think we should combine our bank accounts?”; “Do you want to raise our kids Jewish?”; “Should we just elope?” Most of these were met with laughter, and opened into deeper conversations that made me feel even more confident about us. Look at us go! There’s nothing we can’t talk about!
Reading posts like this one on pre-marital counseling only bolstered my confidence, given that we had already discussed most of the issues raised. But slowly my questions started taking a turn for the pessimistic. “Should we get a prenup?”; “Is cheating on each other grounds for divorce, or just counseling?”; “No, but what really happens if one of us wants a divorce?” This was first met with, “I really don’t know, Jaya,” then, “I feel like we’d talk about it if it happens, because our relationship is important to us,” and then, “Why are you hedging against us? Why are you always waiting for us to fail?”
I was stunned. According to the internet, we’re supposed to talk about this stuff before we get married. We have no business walking down the aisle until we’ve had deep, painful discussions about divorce and debt and sickness and death and children and infidelity and where we see our relationship in five years. Until we can answer with complete clarity what we’d do if we felt our marriage slipping away. “I just want to be able to plan for the worst,” I said. “I know, and we do,” he said, “But we also have no idea what will happen, or what we’ll think then. Why can’t you just know that we are strong enough and have enough love and trust to handle it if it comes?”
You should talk about divorce. You should talk about your thoughts on religion and money and fidelity. Part of me feels like you probably don’t know someone very well unless you know how they feel about these issues. But talking about it doesn’t mean solving it, and just because another couple sat down and hashed it all out doesn’t mean you have to. You don’t need a checklist of goals. You don’t need a relationship mission statement. You don’t need to take every bit of advice given to you.
I have confidence in my partner because he never tells me “You wouldn’t understand,” but talks to me about what he’s feeling. I have confidence because I know we want each other to be the best we can be. I have confidence because I don’t know what my life goals are ten years from now, but I know that he has supported and pushed me in everything I’ve wanted to be for the past ten years. We can plan for the worst all we want, but sometimes you really just do have to hope for the best.
Photo by: Lauren McGlynn