Why the Day I Realized I Wanted to Get Married Was Freeing

bride putting ring onto groom's hand

In a nutshell – I wasn’t ready to get married, and then I was.

There are more details, of course. But it kind of comes down to that. I’m sure there are many other people who aren’t ready for different reasons, or who realize that marriage isn’t the right choice for them. So this is my specific experience, which is all I can offer.

Dustin and I have been best friends since we were twelve. That means we’ve spent more than half our lives together. We’ve had plenty of time to transition gracefully into each new life chapter. And yet, D transitions gracefully, and I don’t. I am an anxious person. I need to think everything out, I need contingency plans, I need time to adjust. In addition, I’m so stubbornly independent that it’s been a running joke in our family since I was a toddler.

Being in love with one person for well over a decade sounds like the opposite of independent, and I admit that I struggled with it. I wondered if we wouldn’t be better off separating for a while, if we were somehow damaging each other. I worried that I would never know if I were strong enough to be alone. But when it came down to it, I loved him. So we proceeded through high school and college. I drew lines, I insisted that we spend a certain amount of time apart and we’re both grateful for that now. We developed lives and interests that intersect happily but don’t completely overlap. We made friends, separately and together. We lived abroad separately and traveled together. We learned that we were happy apart and happier together and I felt less scared. Mostly.

The first time D mentioned marriage, it was completely offhand.  I think we were watching Friends and one of the weddings happened and he said something musing about when we get married. I froze. I panicked. It’s not that I had decided I would never get married, it was just something I managed not to think about, ever. D, perceptive man that he is, carefully avoided bringing it up for several more years.

We moved in together and people made murmuring sounds about marriage. As in, why buy that food processor for yourself when you could just register? I bought myself a food processor and I took two months to move in full time. I had mild panic attacks. I was afraid we would have to spend every minute together, that we would hate each other, that I would never have any time to myself. Happily, it was not at all like that (although we were probably helped by the fact that D was in an incredibly demanding graduate program and I had the apartment to myself at least 2/3 of the time in the beginning).

We had a major family crisis and weathered it. Partly together, but I did a lot of it on my own. D was trying to finish out the hardest year in his master’s program. Having a really strong relationship was a godsend, because I was able to put it on the back-burner and still be able to count on it. It’s hard to explain how that helped, but knowing that we were okay, even if we didn’t see each other for a week at a time and we were both so tired we could barely speak, made a difference.

Dustin finished school. His health insurance ran out. I couldn’t put him on mine because we weren’t married. I thought about how logical it would be to get married at this point. About how much money it would save (I love being logical and saving money – win, win). We wouldn’t even have to make a big deal out of it or tell anyone. We could always get married for real later. And I couldn’t do it. I had a strong reaction to the idea of it, and I just didn’t want to do it.

That reaction finally made me realize that I wasn’t indifferent to marriage. That trepidation that I felt when I thought about it meant something and I had to listen to it. If I were indifferent, I could have knocked out that civil ceremony quietly and been okay with it, knowing that we were already committed to each other and that it didn’t have to be anything bigger until we wanted it to be. But for me, marriage wasn’t just big. It was enormous and I wasn’t ready.

I was waiting for something. I was waiting for me. I needed first and foremost to feel like I was enough of a person on my own. I needed to know that I was strong enough to not be married, before I was willing to get married. I needed marriage to be my choice. I needed to know that I was doing this very large thing because I wanted to do it, plain and simple.

And it slowly snuck up on me. The family crisis sucked, truly, but it also made me realize how strong I actually am, it reassured me that I can handle whatever needs to be done and I will not fall apart (except temporarily). For me, that was a huge relief. I stopped doubting myself (mostly). And then one day we were driving on what is quite possibly the least romantic stretch of the 405 and I felt like I had a balloon in my chest and I suddenly told him “I want to be married to you.” And that was it, really.*

When I realized that marrying Dustin was what I wanted, it felt amazing. It wasn’t about being practical, it wasn’t about making people feel better about our relationship, it wasn’t about the wedding, it wasn’t about wanting to be married in general. It was about wanting, quite viscerally, to be married to this specific person. It was a choice I made with complete free will and with no rational reason and that felt liberating.

For all of my anxiety and need for plans, I have a very healthy gut check system in place. And it goes like this – I think about the pros and cons, I make all the arrangements I can, I weigh everything. But if I’m presented with a really strong feeling, I just go with it. And choosing marriage was a total gut check moment. I don’t want to be married for any logical reason (although the health insurance will be nice). I want to be married to Dustin because I want to be married to Dustin. Because it feels important, because my gut tells me it’s right and I’m ready.

Transitioning through this decision process was incredibly meaningful to me, and I’m very much looking forward to the wedding, where we’ll have our decision publicly affirmed. And it makes my heart ache for my friends and loved ones who are denied some of that affirmation. Because while a domestic partnership might provide most of the same benefits, it is still a consolation prize of sorts. By definition, we are saying that marriage is too sacred and important for you but hey, you can have the trappings and just call it something different. Names are important, cultural associations are important. I would never deride the significance of civil unions, but it seems criminally unjust that we aren’t all offered the same options, the same validation of our choices.

* Except for a truly epic negotiation over the proposal and engagement, which took several months of time and nearly drove both of us crazy because we found out we had completely different ideas of what that would look like. But that is a different story.

Also: The reason Dustin’s feelings on marriage don’t factor into this is because I am writing about my experience, and also because we are completely different people. Dustin has essentially always known that he wanted to be married to me and he wasn’t fussed about when it happened, exactly.

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  • This is the post that I have been waiting for (I know I say that about every post, but seriously).

    What a relief to know that I’m not the only one who has (and maybe still is) struggling with the idea of maintaining a sense of self when you’ve essentially grown up with your partner.

    I’m sure I’ll have something to add later, but for now I’m just going to get ready for work feeling *this* much more confident in myself today.

    • B

      I haven’t completely grown up with my soon-to-be-husband but still definitely struggle with the idea of maintaining my sense of self as we get married. My most recent manifestation of this came when I realised that it was traditional for us to be announced at our reception as Mr and Mrs Hisfirst Hislast. After getting very angry and teary (and changing the announcement!!) I worked out that it represented one of my greatest fears – that in getting married I would cease to be ‘me’ and only be ‘us’ (or just be His Wife!). I’m working through it and processing it, but I definitely second the struggle Maddie!

    • My husband and I have been dating since high school, and it’s something that I’ve struggled with for our ENTIRE relationship. The tipping point, for me, was when I went abroad. It was a turning point in our relationship (five years in, 21 years old, thinking about Our Future), and we decided it was a good opportunity to allow for possibilities. We decided that if something happened while I was away (for me OR for him), we would let ourselves explore it. If either of us wanted to date someone, we’d give ourselves a little wiggle room. I proceeded to spend the entire summer talking about him. Giving ourselves permission to consider other possibilities and other futures made us realize how much we valued our relationship.

      We’ve been married for five months, and I feel like it has absolutely strengthened our relationship. It’s also strengthened my independence– we can have the hard conversations, the big fights, the time away from one another, all because we have made such a big commitment to one another. I am still very much me, and he’s still him, but together, we’re stronger. It is really amazing. Good luck. :)

      • Hypothetical Sarah

        “I proceeded to spend the entire summer talking about him.”

        Oh yes. The boy and I both moved to new (and separate) countries a few months after we started dating (after spending three years living next door to each other as best friends. Our timing was slightly off). As much as the distance sucked, those two years apart definitely helped us realize that, while we CAN live apart, we’re much happier together. For the first time it really took effort to stay together… and our relationship is definitely stronger because of it. When apart, the boy and I tend to talk about each other. A lot. Sometimes I think every person in Asia has seen my picture.

        • This was it for us too. I went to the Dominican Republic for two months during college and literally had no way to communicate with my family or my now husband. In a way, it confirmed exactly what you’ve said above. While I was fine on my own, I found myself referencing things he had taught me, ways he had helped me grow. I talked about him like he was family.

          It was over this summer that I realized how he had grown to become part of my identity, much like my family relationships had helped to define who I had become, my husband was ingrained in my identity in a way I was really comfortable with and thankful for. It was a very palpable shift that helped me realize I was read to move into the next phase of our lives together (you know, two years later when I felt I had successfully analyzed and weighed all the pros and cons of taking that next step, in the analytical way that I do). :)

      • YES to this! That time abroad (and apart) was incredibly important to our relationship. My semester in Greece was one of the happiest times in my life, and on our few trips back and forth, we were happier together than we’d ever been. And a big part of that was knowing that we were perfectly capable of being joyously happy, separately, but we still wanted to be together. It was a big confidence builder for me.

    • Marina

      My husband and I have been together since I was 17. I hemmed and hawed and held back for a while, but we got engaged when I was 22, still with a year and a half of college to finish. We graduated college, prepared to move halfway across the country together–and I left the country to travel for three months, on my own. It was tremendously important to me to have that… I don’t want to say last gasp, because I certainly don’t think it’ll be the last time I travel on my own, or do something exciting, or whatever. But a last chance to check in with myself, to see what I was like when I was all on my own. And possibly the most romantic moment of my life was entirely by myself, in a cafe on an island off the coast of Croatia, realizing that in a year I would be married and feeling totally, uncomplicatedly joyful about it. Like Rachel said, I learned that I was “happy apart and happier together”. I wouldn’t have had that moment without taking the gut-check time I needed to be apart.

  • Thank you for sharing this. My now-wife was the one reluctant to marry, and we’ve talked about it a lot since then – what you’ve said sounds a lot like what she was thinking and feeling, and it was nice for me to see that articulated. This also reminded me – as is often the case with these big wedding things – that whatever your stance is, you’re probably not the only one who’s been there (and I can understand even better and take it less personally that my wife had to wait a whole year to say yes).

    Thank you for sharing your story!

    • I’m so glad you liked it (um, you are one of the few bee bloggers that I absolutely adore). I had definitely thought about how hard it must be on the waiting partner. If the shoe had been on the other foot, I know I would have had a really hard time not taking it personally.

      But in my experience, the reluctance had absolutely zero to do with my partner and everything to do with me, as a person. I wasn’t holding out for something better or unsure of my commitment. I was so appreciative of D being easy going about it, although I know if I had taken another few years we probably would have run up against the point where he was REALLY ready and not wanting to wait and we would have had to have some tough talks.

      Oh, and I did try really hard to make sure D knew what was going on inside my head during these years. Because I absolutely didn’t want him to think that I doubted our relationship. But it can be hard to explain it when you’re in it.

      • Aww I’m totally flattered you know who I am! And it is really good to hear you saying a lot of things Turtle has said (“I wasn’t holding out for something better or unsure of my commitment,” just to name one). It’s good to put more of these stories out there! Because obviously, you and Turtle are not the only two people experiencing this.

      • I agree, it’s great to hear these different sides of readiness. I know that when we got engaged I was the first to admit I wasn’t really ready. And it had nothing to do with my husband or our relationship and everything to do with the relationship I had with myself.

        In the end, I’m really glad that Mr. M and I were coming from different places. Because I was really hesitant and he’s *always* been sure (like, I have a card from when I was 15 announcing his intentions to marry me), it made us think about our decision really critically. We had lots of great open conversations and as a result I know both of us entered this committment totally willingly. I know he will NEVER feel like he forced my hand and I won’t ever accuse him of rushing into things.

        Not to mention, when you give us hesitant ones the space to work out our issues internally, it makes us love you even more. My husband’s confident patience is one of his most attractive qualities.

      • Margaret

        I loved reading this post and your comments.

        “But in my experience, the reluctance had absolutely zero to do with my partner and everything to do with me, as a person”

        SO true! And thankfully, my partner was content to wait (5 years) until I felt right about the decision and seemed to intuit that it wasn’t actually about him, it was about me/my past/my issues with change/marriage as an institution and cultural phenomenon. I think I also worried that marriage – the formalization of it all – would jinx us in some way. Irrational, maybe. But I had to work past that fear and what lay behind it before I could say I do.

        Someone asked me just yesterday, “So what made you finally decide to get married, since you used to be so dead-set against it?” And I fumbled around for an answer — but it’s layered topic and hard to sum up in one sentence… but the way you phrased it is eventually pretty much what I said: I wasn’t ready… until I simply was.

        • Ha! Not totally related (or maybe it is!) but I have a huge fear of jinxing as well, in all situations. It’s diametrically opposed to my friends who believe in putting out only positive thoughts. I somehow believe that if you assume the best will happen, it won’t. But if you prepare for the worst and then hope for the best, you’re golden.

  • B

    This reminds me of something my soon-to-be-FIL (this Sunday!!!!) said a few years ago (long before The Boy and I were thinking about marriage and not specifically directed at us) “don’t get married until you know yourself well enough to know what you are giving away, and know the other person well enough to know they will treasure the gift to their death day”. It’s just something that has stuck with me since and has served as a kind of internal measure of when I felt “ready” to be married. I have been through so much in the last few years that I feel like I finally know myself, and because of that I am ok with giving myself to someone else in marriage. It has also been amazing seeing The Boy come to know himself fully over the time too – to rephrase Rachel, we are able to be together now because we are enough on our own.

    Thanks for sharing Rachel! :)

    • Jo

      So soon! Yay!

    • “don’t get married until you know yourself well enough to know what you are giving away, and know the other person well enough to know they will treasure the gift to their death day”.

      I really, really love this. Have fun on Sunday! :D

    • Zan

      Wahoo! Sunday! Congrats!!

      • B

        Thanks guys :D I’m alternating between incredibly excited and panicky at the moment! See you on the other side! :)

  • ‘I needed first and foremost to feel like I was enough of a person on my own.’

    Yes. That was very important to me too.

  • First, I have to say that your ring is absolutely lovely!

    I always sputter a little when people ask me WHY I got married. It’s such a complex decision, and some of the reasons sound overly practical (health insurance) while others sound overly romantic (because we looooove each otherrrr <3). But you did a fabulous job of answering the question in a real earnest way and I quite enjoyed reading it! And I totally agree with you on the importance of choosing marriage completely freely. I feel like those choices are always the most worthwhile in the end.

    • Thank you, Mary! It was my paternal grandmother’s ring and I absolutely love it.

      • ka

        My maternal grandmother’s ring looks exactly like that! I’ve never seen another so perfectly identical – I wish I could post a picture here.

        Instead, I will settle for thanking you for taking the thoughts out of my head and writing them here. This was exactly my own extended do-i-want-to-get-married thought process. Right down to the asterisk about proposal negotiations.

        I will analyze until I’m blue in the face (and it usually involves spreadsheets), but “I choose chocolate because I choose chocolate” does it every time.

  • SingColleen

    I too suffered the two-steps-forward, one-step-back thing with my husband. We planned to move in together the first time and then I chickened out for another six months. When we started talking about getting married I had about a six month freakout. Apparently, once I start really thinking and talking about something huge, I need another six months to check in with myself before I can commit fully to it. We’re starting to build that time into our decisions, like last year, when we decided to leave totally cushy, top-of-our-industry, full-bennies jobs to move somewhere we were happier. That one took us a year to decide, and another six months to execute.

    The point is, you have to give yourself that time. Both of you. And while I’m lucky that lately our “waiting time” has coincided, many times it doesn’t, and then you have to wait it out for your partner, or vice-versa.

    Thanks for this Rachel!

  • I love how particular topics show up on APW around the same time I’m going through them (it seems to happen for a lot of other people reading here!). This was something I was pondering just a few weeks ago, on why I wanted to get married. And there was really no specific reason that I could come up with for marriage itself. Yes, I love my boyfriend and I want him to be my partner-in-crime for life, but I could do that without the actual getting married process. The more I’ve been thinking about it, the more I’ve realized I just WANT to marry him. That’s all there is to it. I’m so grateful for this post for showing me that it’s okay to not have a long list of reasons explaining the positives and negatives, that sometimes it’s okay to just want things and go for them.

    Also, this: ‘I needed first and foremost to feel like I was enough of a person on my own.’ Such a gem of wisdom, it is so true.

    • This exactly – APW seems to have it’s finger on our collective unconscious sometimes.

      We’ve been going through a weird time lately, because I’ve realized that I’m ready, but am completely unable to explain WHY I want to get married – it’s not a religion thing, it’s not an insurance thing, there’s no reason to think that we aren’t already committed or that marriage would somehow make us more committed – but it’s there. Trying to explain this to my partner has been an exercise in frustration. It’s really helpful to read something from the other side, and understand his point of view.

  • Jo

    THIS is why actually having a wedding became important to me. I’ve been in several long-term relationships that everyone but me thought would end up in marriage. I knew that I wasn’t ready and those relationships weren’t ultimately right. But this one is right, and I am ready because of all the things I’ve gone through until this point.

    I want my partner to know that, but also our communities to know that.

  • abby_wan_kenobi

    “It wasn’t about being practical, it wasn’t about making people feel better about our relationship, it wasn’t about the wedding, it wasn’t about wanting to be married in general. It was about wanting, quite viscerally, to be married to this specific person.”

    This. So this. I still can’t articulate exactly what pushed me from the trepidous ‘maybe I don’t ever want to get married to anyone’ state I was in during the first half of our courtship to the ‘I’m so excited and happy to be married to my husband’ state I’m in now. But it’s related to that. It’s about me growing up and growing out and about being with the right person and about the practical things and about the romantic things.

    My husband struggled with none of this. 6 months in (and 5 years before we got engaged) I told him I was serious about our relationship and he thought, “Great! We’ll get married one of these days.”

  • I love that you describe the feeling of wanting to be married to Dustin as ‘visceral’. That is exactly how I felt realising that I wanted to be the Marvellous Mister’s Missus.

  • Such a well-written, thoughtful post. I especially loved this point: “It was about wanting, quite viscerally, to be married to this specific person. It was a choice I made with complete free will and with no rational reason and that felt liberating.” I love that women can be in a place where they get married because they really do choose to–not because of societal conventions or family pressure or financial convenience. It’s a choice you make for yourself and your partner, and it happens when you’re ready.

    • meredythbyrd

      Exactly! I felt the same about that passage as well.
      Rachel’s fiance’s attitude, that he wanted to be married to her whenever she wanted to was the same as mine. And it sort of freaked me out, like “Wait, how do you know you want to be married to me?! No, how do you KNOW?” And this desire to make it my choice was what motivated me to ask him to marry me, rather than the other way around. I needed to be the one to make the decision and ask. I’m just glad he was okay with letting me slowly come to terms with the idea and didn’t try to propose to me. I honestly don’t know what my answer would have been in that situation. It would have been awkward for a while. And then (obviously!) i would have said yes.

      • Good for you! And I think it says a lot about you as a couple that you were able to arrive at this decision in a way that was healthy and felt good for both of you. If you can make major life decisions in a way that’s respectful to both partners, you have an excellent foundation for marriage.

      • Hannah NJ

        TOTES! Last year my partner and I had a conversation in which he basically told me he was ready to get married and I was like WHOA THERE MISTER, how about I ask you when I am ready? And he said, that’s fine.

        I so appreciate this post and Rachel’s description of the visceralness of her feeling – I have a hunch it will be something similar for me.

  • Katie

    My significant other and I were together for nearly 9 years before we both reached the point in our lives where, much like Rachel said, “I wasn’t ready to get married, and then I was”. Was there a lot behind that? Sure, but ultimately we just reached that time where it just felt right. Not right for our parents, friends or anybody else…just us. And that is one thing that we have taken huge pride in, even if other people didn’t understand. For example, one of our least favorite things to hear upon getting engaged was, “well, it’s about time”. Time for who? Was there a time limit? Seeeeriously…

  • haelmai

    I loved this post because my boyfriend went through something like that himself. I have always known I wanted to be married, and I actually brought it up quite early in the relationship that I could see myself getting married at some point. And he was very, very against it. So, over our two years together, I came to the realization that it wasn’t the marriage I wanted as much as a life with him, so if we didn’t ever get married, that would be okay by me, and I just didn’t bring up marriage. So imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when he (over nachos and Mexican martinis) asked me, “Will you marry me?” I said yes, but I didn’t believe him at first! We ended up talking about it, and we chose a ring together and told our parents last weekend. And one of the sweetest thing he has said to me was, “I can’t wait to be married to you.” This was completely his choice and his timing, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

    • N

      Congratulations on your engagement!

  • This is very similar to my own experiences with getting engaged. We’d been together for 5 years before I was ready, but people had started asking me about when I was getting married after one or two years. It took us two summer internships apart, me moving away for 2 years of grad school (close enough that we could see each other once or twice a month, but still my first foray into real independence), and then the two of us coming back together after that that really solidified my decision. It took years of pondering, stressing, considering all the options, being aware that I was calmer and more relaxed when I was around him but not yet ready to transfer that piece of truth into a lifelong commitment. And then, when he actually popped the question–I really hadn’t known it was coming–I just knew. It was so simple. And I haven’t looked back.

  • <3 you guys.

  • Thank you for sharing your story, Rachel. My husband and I have been dating since high school, and got married last fall on our 10th anniversary. We actually had a really different story; we both wanted to be married to one another, but we wanted to wait until we were financially solvent to do it. But we both knew, from very early on, that we wanted to be together. I can’t really explain it, but that’s how we felt.

    In the face of current inequalities with marriage, with the stress of weddings and the mess of legal mumbo jumbo, it’s always interesting WHY we want to get married. And I like your answer- sometimes, you just DO. As someone who is also stubborn, independent, and really anal retentive, I totally understand the gut-check. Because we can’t always control everything (try as we might), and nine times out of ten, our gut has been right from the start.

    • Sarah, that’s so interesting – D has always been that way as well and we probably would have gotten married a lot earlier if I felt the same (although I’m betting we would also have wanted to wait until we were financially stable like you did). It’s amazing how people in the same general situation can feel so differently about the experience!

  • Ash

    First of all this was an amazingly thoughtful piece. Good girl, doing it for all the right reasons!

    But Meg! Alyssa!

    Could we maybe get a friday piece going about mentioning equal rights in your ceremony? I really want this. I need this. But I am not sure how to go about it.

    I went to a wedding that I will never forget, because it was so appalling. The minister took my friends wedding as an opportunity to get on a soapbox and preach hate. My relationship with this friend is changed for me. I don’t know how much she knew in advance that this was going to happen. But she just smiled right through it. It was unbelievable!

    I would like the exact opposite, please.

    • Oh, it’s come up a few times on APW, in various different ways. I don’t know if there is One Post we could point to, but it’s been mentioned.

      I officiated at a friend’s wedding and delivered a reading on marriage equality, and then I wrote another one for my own wedding this past September. It’s a really tricky, really sticky thing to include in your wedding. My husband and I feel very, very strongly about it, but we wanted to do it OUR way, and without offending or pushing our opinions on anyone, as you’d felt about your friend. I’d be happy to email you the readings I’ve done!

      (……and Meg, I’d be happy to talk about it on APW, if you’d like).

    • Alyssa

      It’s been mentioned several times, and I think in quite bit of grad posts….

      BUT, it can’t be an ATP post without an email with the question, missy! :-)

      • Ash

        I’ll get an email together soon, Missy :)

      • Hypothetical Sarah

        “BUT, it can’t be an ATP post without an email with the question, missy! :-)”

        I was about to ask if that was the official rule, and then I realized that ATP stood for “Ask Team Practical”. Doh. Time to leave the lab…

    • Erika
    • I totally understand what you mean! I witnessed something similar happen at a wedding I attended last summer. The couple had written some beautiful vows which they had printed on their programs (so we all saw them). During the ceremony, the minister “lost” them and made some up on the spot. Instead of being about equality and loving each other, the minister had the husband vow to be the head of the family and be the leader, while the wife vowed to be meek, serve him and raise a big family. The minister then “found” the vows once the ceremony was nearly complete. Everyone was just like, “what just happened?”

      • Ash

        Sounds like my WORST nightmare!

      • In all seriousness, if that had happened to me, I would have said, “One second, please” and gone to grab the closest person’s program. Because fuck that–no way I’m letting something about equality in our relationship turn into the opposite! (Also, no one who knows us would have been surprised to see me do something like that, least of all my partner. :)

      • clampers


      • What a total nightmare! My college pastor officiated our ceremony and when we met to go over the game plan, I told him in no uncertain terms that if he mentioned “obey” or “submit,” I would throw my train over one arm and stomp out of there. (We picked the traditional Presbyterian vows because it has both partners repeat the same phrasing.)

        Thankfully, my pastor responded with, “Um, I’ve known you long enough to know that wouldn’t be okay…”

    • Zan

      I’m sure that Alyssa, Meg, Lauren and Team will come up with an awesome post for this — ATP or otherwise.

      In the meantime, one thing we are doing is having a donation option on our registry. We are also having a notice in our program a la Meg and David, that WE are giving X amount to further the fight for equal rights, but in addition our wedding website has the option to donate to Freedom to Marry instead of giving us a gift. Freedom to Marry, aside from being an awesome organization, also has a “registry” function on their site to help you out. You can see it here: https://secure.freedomtomarry.org/page/outreach/splash/weddingregistry

      There are also lots of good readings out there, the Mass. Supreme Court Decision and the Iowa one are good choices, we’ll probably use one.

      Whatever you choose make sure it feels true for you — and then no matter what you’ll be gangbusters.

      • Donating to equality in marriage rights is an AMAZING idea, Zan. Many birds, one stone. Love it.

  • Desiree

    Congratulations on the engagement!

    Growing up, I never felt the need to play house or pretend I was getting married. Through my high school years, when some of my friends were finding “the one” and already thinking of a wedding and kids, I wasn’t. I had boyfriends…. But I never had that desire to get married, just the opposite. Seen many co dependent people in my life want nothing more than that title, I wanted no part of it.

    Fast forward many years…. I reconnected with an old friend from High School. Due to traumatic we had dealt with separately, we connected on a level that I never thought possible. Our relationship grew, and one day I found myself with that visceral feeling that this was the man for me. We have been married 7 months now.

  • Alyssa

    Rachel, what I adore most about this post is how self-aware you are. Your gut checks and the knowledge that you knew you and Dustin needed time apart…amazing. That’s what I find the most spectacular about your decision, not that you made it and are getting married, but that you knew yourself well enough to wait for it. LORD, the problems in my friends’ lives that would solve if they had your sense of self.

    You are a smart smart cookie and I admire you!

    • Awwww … thanks, Alyssa! I’m a major analyzer – I don’t even know that I’d like to admit how much time I spend in my own head. I just like to ponder things, quietly, on my own (and then write about them, sometimes). I’ve been like that my whole life.

  • You know, this was a fantastic post and I was so glad to read it. Thanks, Rachel. I definitely identify when you were talking about realizing how strong you are after a crisis, and further when you knew you were ready and wanted to marry your specific person. I have felt those same things, but I’m surprised, like really surprised, how I can ALSO have moments of doubt, even after the marriage. Well, not so much doubt as, OMG we really did this thing… It’s like my mind is still processing this huge change, and I’m still figuring it out and what it means for me, and for us, even though I also have that gut feeling that this is right and I’m ready. It just weirds me out that that feeling sneaks up on me occasionally, especially after the fact. Is that normal? God, I hope so.

    • I think it’s normal (or at least, if it’s abnormal, I’m right there in that camp with ya!) One of the things I’ve found myself surprised at in terms of struggles I have in marriage are the times when I’m in my own head going, “Omg, I’m somebody’s wife. What does that mean? Am I not my own person anymore?”

      And then I usually calm down and remember that my husband married me partly because I’m fairly independent and can be mouthy about my opinions, and that he’s not looking to change that. (And I hang onto the experiences I had on my own before marriage like a talisman. Rachel’s totally right about there being a certain sense of calm that comes along with knowing that you’d be okay on your own, and how that feeds into being present in your marriage.)

    • Oh, yeah. I think that’s totally normal for some people, including me. I’m a thinker, and anxiety prone. I am never going to be 100% doubt free in any situation, especially with something so huge. I think about everything that could go wrong, I think about how I would deal with it. There was a really excellent post here on getting married and dealing with generalized anxiety, and it really resonated with me, because it spoke about faith in your partner and your relationship. In my head, I will always have some freak out moments when I think about how big this thing is. But in my gut, I feel that it’s right, and that’s the feeling I’m going with.

  • This is wonderful. I appreciate this so much. I met my person when I was 20 and he was 26 – he was hook, line, and sinker from day one and I was…20. That was five years ago.

    I stood up in my best friend’s wedding in July 2009 and thought “this is sweet but no thank you”.

    Then last spring, it’s like our relationship odometer rolled over to Marriage. I don’t mean “mileage as time or years”, I mean suddenly our lives were right and we were right and I wanted to marry him with every cell of my stubborn body.

    I said to him last summer “you know what would not be dumb? is if we got married” and he closed his eyes and said “oh my God dude FINALLY”. I still don’t know “why”, but I know that I’m THRILLED.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      This sounds so much like me and mine – we met when I was 20 and he was 35. At our wedding almost 6 years later his brother mentioned in his toast the first time Husband had told him about me, and when his brother asked if it was serious Husband said, “I’d marry her in a minute”. Cute story for a wedding toast, right?

      I quickly did the math in my head and realized it was only a few months after we met. I almost threw up on the spot. All I could think was “But! But! We weren’t even exclusive at that point!! I totally thought you were a fling! I thought every date would be our last date – I hadn’t even introduced you to my friends yet and you were thinking about getting effing married?!?!?! WHO ARE YOU? DID I JUST MARRY A TOTAL STALKER?!?!”

      I asked him later if that story was true and he said, “Well, yeah it’s true. I just didn’t think you’d stick around long enough to marry *me*. And it isn’t like I was about to propose back then. You weren’t ready, you would’ve laughed in my face. Of course I didn’t think you’d take *this long* either.” Sigh of relief. Oh yeah. That’s who I married. He’s a keeper.

      • Haha right? He and I were emotionally overinvolved but “just friends” for like six months (I was with someone else) so really he was on board since like…day negative one hundred. I was too focused on fitting him into the mold of what I thought my future husband would be like (see: being 20 years old)

        Really glad I am not marrying the kind of person I once pictured for myself! That dude woulda been so stiff and pretentious. Even if he did know how to dress himself.

        • ka

          Really glad I am not marrying the kind of person I once pictured for myself! That dude woulda been so stiff and pretentious. Even if he did know how to dress himself.

          Amen to that! I’ve eventually decided it’s way more fun to shop for someone with, ahem, flexible opinions that it would be if he had sartorial pretensions…

      • ka

        Hahaha. Dude, are you going to write an age-difference Reclaiming Wife post, or do I have to? This was my exact experience. Marriage came up on like our 3rd date and husband-to-be was ALL for it, and I was well on the side of fling, but amazingly I found his enthusiasm and persistence endearing enough to stick around for almost 5 years before I finally give in in September. But yea, sometimes I still think it’s odd. I think it’s that whole cultural paradigm of boys aren’t supposed to want to get married, we’re supposed to have to “make” them.

        • abby_wan_kenobi

          I feel like there is room for more than one “I married someone way older than me” posts. My husband and I don’t feel the age gap too often because we met at really transitional times in both our lives – I was an undergrad and he had quit his corporate job to go to grad school full time. So we’re on kind of equal footing career-wise as we both start out, me for the first time and him in a totally new career.

          On the other hand, he never watched Saved by the Bell so he can never understand my adolescent experience. And according to him I don’t “get” Pearl Jam. Not really.

    • Jo


  • kyley

    This was really lovely. Thanks for such a thoughtful post!

    Just a thought: I’d love to hear from someone who has decided *not* to marry their partner, and hear their reasons why. I don’t know if those folks are APW readers, so it might be hard to find such a post-writer, but I think it’s an important voice that I’d love to hear.

  • I heart you guys. And I’m so excited for you. :)

  • I love this:
    “We developed lives and interests that intersect happily but don’t completely overlap.”
    That is so important. If our interests were exactly the same that would get really boring. Instead we understand each others interests and support the interests of the other, but we do our own thing.

    And I love that you describe it as not wanting to simply get married, but wanting to be married to a specific person.

    In my life I’d always thought marriage was a good thing for me, but it wasn’t until I really wanted to be married to one specific person and couldn’t imagine any other outcome that I knew I was actually ready to be married. Wanting to be married and being ready to be married are different things.

  • clampers

    The decision for me was pretty difficult. I knew I wanted to someday marry my partner, but I struggled with the idea of “leaving” my parents. Struggled so much that I kept saying, “Let’s just wait a few more years,” even though my partner was ready to get married.

    Then one day we had a discussion about marriage and I asked him what he thought was the scariest thing about getting married, and he said, “Well, I don’t like the idea of ‘leaving’ my family…” I couldn’t believe it! I thought I was such a weirdo for feeling the way I did, but here was my favorite person in the world affirming my feelings! We talked about how we’re not REALLY “leaving” our families, and how we would always support each other’s relationships with our own families. And we talked about not losing our individualities either–something that is very important to both of us.

    After that, I felt WAY more comfortable with the idea of marriage, and I guess that’s when I really “decided.”

    Moral: Talking is good. You might be surprised at how your partner responds!

  • Loved reading this post. I’m also a newly engaged lady, so could certainly relate to pieces of it! I’ve never been very uncomfortable with the idea of marriage, but we certainly have lots of talks about our own (separate) passions and how we’ll maintain those as a married couple. But, after living together for 6+ months…I don’t see it being an issue. We both value our time apart and together and it’s all about finding that perfect balance :)

    Congratulations on your engagement, Rachel! My now fiance’ got me some “heart of light” accessories last year for Christmas and I’ve been reading your blog ever since :)

  • Yes yes yes yes! So good. I had a similar reaction to the possibility of me and my guy getting married for “practical” reasons (usually my favorite reasons!) last year– he was just out of grad school, unemployed, needed health insurance and I was like, “Oh duh, we’ll just go to the courthouse and get married and you can get on mine. SCORE!” But when I mentioned it to him (and when I mentioned it to my mom and friends, etc) they were all like, “Is that really what you want?” And then I realized, oh man, no, that totally ISN’T what I want, not at all. (Wasn’t what he wanted either, of course.) Um, and then I lost the very same job that was providing me with health insurance about two weeks after the date I was vaguely considering for our courthouse hitching. So even if I’d gone against my gut and done the “practical” thing, it would’ve totally totally backfired– we’d have been married, which would be super duper, but without the one benefit we’d scrambled to get married for. Whoops.

  • Jennifer

    I relate to this post in so many ways. My husband and I dated for 2.5 years, were engaged for another 2.5 years, and then got married. Looking back, I am incredibly thankful for all the time I had to reflect and adjust to the idea of marriage. To be honest, I wasn’t ready to marry him when he proposed. I knew I wanted to marry him–and that eventually we would get married–but I wasn’t ready right then to actually be married. I turly needed that extra 2.5 years to strengthen our relationship, have some of those big discussions, and adjust to both my own adult self and the conception of myself as a married woman. (I actually recall thinking early on “well, if its not meant to be, something will happen in the 2.5 years before the wedding date…”). It was really comforting for me, then, a few months before our wedding, to realize that yes: I was now emotionally ready for that kind of a commitment. It takes me a long time to adjust to change–especially change of that magnitude. Change scares me. But we waited until we were ready–until we were both comfortable with the committment–and then we got married. Knowing myself, that’s the only way it would ever have happened!

    • Gretta

      Jennifer, I just breathed a sigh of relief! We have been together for 3 years and got engaged in December, and I still find myself in a panic sometimes regarding the big idea of marriage and the wedding. I know he’s the person for me, but it’s such a relief to see someone say what I’ve felt these past couple months…just because you’re engaged doesn’t mean that you’re ready for all that is coming up, and that it happens with time. Thank you!!

    • Rasheeda

      I would really like if you would please get out of my head. This is exactly me except sub out the dating part for 3 years and engagement for 1 1/2 years and bango! I wanted him, I wanted to marry him, but I need to wrap my brain around what that all meant, for me. How did I get to keep me and have a husband? Because calling him “Boyfriend” started to feel hollow and not quite heavy enough for how I felt for him but “Wife” felt like a ton of bricks…So, I came around and shut out the noise and did a gut check to be sure (or as we say to each other “you sure you sure”). But yeah, definitely had to get compfortable with the committment!

      • Hannah NJ

        Rasheeda, thank you so much for ‘calling him ‘boyfriend’ started to feel hollow and not quite heavy enough for how I felt for him but ‘wife’ felt like a ton of bricks’ –

        Yes, yes, yes. There are not enough exactly’s. That’s so how I feel right now – and you articulated it so clearly and eloquently. Thank you!

    • Marina

      Absolutely! We were engaged for almost two years, and a helluva lot of things happened in those two years–we both graduated college, moved cross-country, spent 3 months apart, both started new jobs, etc. And then there were the stressors directly related to getting married–family stuff, event planning stuff, etc. In retrospect, all those things made us more ready for marriage. I’m so glad we got married when we did, and not two years earlier.

  • Lindsay

    Yes. Perfect. I hope this can help readers who are struggling with the decision as well as their partners. I also needed more time than my boyfriend did to decide to take the plunge. I have always felt guilty about turning down his first attempt at proposing because it made him feel terrible and to this day I don’t think he completely understands why I wasn’t ready. I did finally feel ready and we were engaged about a year later, and are now a year and a half into our two year engagement. The long engagement was mostly just due to our grad school schedules, but this extra time has done wonders for my thoughts on marriage and I’m even more ready now than when I accepted his proposal. I won’t pretend that some aspects of a long engagement don’t totally suck, but I do recommend it for anyone who has had to completely change their mindset.

  • I love reading about such different perspectives. I had known David for years, and then within 4 months of dating I’d moved in and knew shortly after I was just about ready to marry him. I love reading about how you can to your decision from such a different place. And yet with the same gut-check system! I too make lists and weigh things out and then sometimes, BAM, I know my answer. But I couldn’t get there without the overthinking first.

  • To taking time. To knowing what you want. To knowing your guts are good guts.

    Congratulations, dear Rachel.

  • Our wedding is this coming Saturday and this morning… I had a serious moment of why the hell am I doing this as I was waiting in a huge line of people at 7AM to get my blood drawn (something I hate with all my heart and soul) for our prenup exam. Sometimes I can’t help but think is this really worth it… all the money and tears and bureaucracy and blood tests. I consider myself very very very lucky to have found someone I actually want to marry despite the massive bitch of a process it can be to actually get to the altar.

  • I really, really loved this post, Rachel. I too have been with my boyfriend for many years. We’ve dated twice, so we had 5 years in between to learn and grow and come back to eachother. Lots of people ask and whisper about when we will get married. I just didn’t feel ready. Everyone, I mean EVERYONE around me was getting married (I was in 6 weddings, attended 10 and invited to 13 last year). And it just wasn’t for me, yet.
    But that doesn’t mean I don’t know that he is the one for me, he is.

    I am starting to feel ready. Its an amazing, powerful, overwhelming, scary time of feelings, but I am going with it and seeing how it unfolds.

    thanks for sharing your experience with us.

  • I love that everyone’s trip to the altar is as unique as they are. I’ve never stopped to think about the different reasons for people deciding to get married. We take our own paths & end up at the same place, then start walking our paths again. I do wish that everyone had the right to get married!

  • Lovely story. I’m always a fan of the two-part engagements, which is what we did as well. That time when you know it’s happening, but it’s still a secret from everyone else is so magical and nerve-wracking at the same time!

    I was thinking about marriage and we talked about it a little before we moved in together, but within days of living in our apartment together I was seized with an overwhelming need to be married to Stephen. I still can’t really explain why or how or what it all meant, I just knew that this was it and I was ready. I thought I was ready before that, but suddenly I was READY FOR REAL. We bought a couch together the week we moved in and he kept saying it was “our couch” even though I kept saying, no you paid for it, it’s your couch. I think that’s when I realized what this all meant. He still blames the couch for our engagement :)

  • Rachel

    Thank you so much for this post! I am not engaged, pre-engaged, or anywhere near it, but stumbled upon this blog while helping a friend work on some details for her wedding and haven’t been able to stop reading. I’ve loved being able to look in on this beautiful community of intelligent, practical, and strong women (and men!) and have my feelings and experiences (that have nothing to do with weddings, marriage, etc.) validated. You all are amazing!

    • Moz

      I think there’s a few of us on here doing that. Go us!

  • Rachel, you are the bomb-diggity. I nodded the entire way through this post. You are singing my song, girl.

  • Moz

    Freaking fantastic post. Thank you, thank you, thank you xxxx

  • Thank you for writing where you’re coming from. My boyfriend and I have had many long talks about marriage. It’s good to see the other side. Though if he could have explained his feelings like this, maybe it wouldn’t have been so devastating to me that he wasn’t ready to get married. I think we’ve worked it out, though.

  • I love this post! Your experience is very different to mine. I’ve always wanted to get married since I was a little girl – I was the girl with the teatowel on her head practising walking the aisle down the hallway – and my husband and I were married within a year of starting to date.

    But there was also a whole lifetime of experience between those two moments that helped me to understand who I was, what I wanted in a partner, realise that I would have a great life even if marriage was not part of it… so that when I met my now-husband and it suddenly and wonderfully felt oh-so-right, I was confident that I was getting married for the right reasons, not the wrong ones.

  • Thank you so much – I loved this post.

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  • when my partner and i had our ceremony (after being together for ten+ years already) i thought we were doing it, at least partly, as a thank you for our friends and family for supporting and loving us. i was so surprised by how deeply i was affected by the vows and the promising, the witness of guests to our pledge to love one another and try to be the very best for one another.
    still, seven years later, i get emotional reading the words we read to one another. not being allowed a “real wedding,” i was surprised how affirming and important our ceremony was and still is to me and to us.
    i wish you all the best, rachel. you are very talented. i love following your blog. i know your wedding will be beautiful and affirming and lastingly important.
    all the best, katie

  • Jo

    Very nice piece, Rachel! Thank you for sharing your story.

    We also had a conversation about whether or not to get married before having a real wedding (though we were already engaged at the time) because of immigration issues. We had been together for 5 years, but had only just become ready to marry one another. After one short discussion about going to the courthouse, I had an immediate NO! reaction inside. In the same way that getting married to each other felt so right, doing it in front of all our people also felt so right. And basically came to be the significant focus of our wedding – sharing our love with those with love.

    I hope that for those who choose to elope or to do the pre-wedding courthouse wedding they feel an immediate YES! reaction to what they are doing. That is how you know it is right for you! For whatever reason, logical or gut-based.

  • Lauren B

    I recently came home from work and said to my man “I’m not ready to get married, yet” I’m realizing now it’s because of all the reasons Rachel mentioned. I want to be confident in my own abilities as a person before I become a couple.

    Thank you for validating this decision.

  • yes. ma’am. i loved reading every word of this.

    the end.

  • ceebee

    Becoming ready to marry is when you know :
    1) the reason you are entering the union – whatever your reasons may be, they need to be the same as your fiance/e
    2) the one you’re with is the one you want to spend the rest of your life with
    3) what you (both) want the rest of your life to be
    4) you’re always happy, even when skies are grey, and a 1001 things needs fixing
    5) you’re both you and won’t need any fixing to each other any more
    No matter you get a proposal or not, talked about it or not, the moment both of you have this moment the YES will always be a YES (FOR LIFE!) or a NO become a YES!

    Don’t ever let anyone or anything (parents, friends, society, legality) pressure you into doing it for any reason – right/practical or wrong/practical.
    No matter you get a proposal or not, this may make a YES become a NO, a very difficult YES or just NO (because you’re not ready or wrong).

  • This is one of my favorite posts ever on APW! My boyfriend and I have been together for 8 years and ambivalent about marriage for most of it. But lately we’ve been discussing getting married on our 10 year anniversary and the thought both excites and terrifies me. My fears about marriage are exactly the same that yours were – that I would lose myself, that I would cease being the version of me that I love so much. (Yes, I love myself! I’m awesome!) The older I get, the more certain I become that that will not happen. I’m glad I’ve waited this long and that I still have two years to go, but I do find myself looking forward to marriage for the first time. :)

  • I’ve read her blog for a year and am happy for her. I’ve enjoyed reading the comments of others, but I can’t help but have a twinge of sadness and jealousy…How wonderful to have that option to get married (and I don’t mean “have a wedding”…there’s a difference) whenever one would like when I don’t have the choice. It’s illegal. I’ve been with someone for 13 years and can never have that dream. You’re damn lucky. Don’t take it for granted.

    • Alexandra

      Elle, I really hope the dream is achievable, sooner rather than later. I checked your blog briefly and saw GA–probably likely to have to wait for Federal marriage law to change. I’d encourage you to travel to a state that has marriage equality, but I’ll guess that you’ve explored that option already.
      Best wishes.

  • Alexandra

    The first two times my sweetie asked, it was pretty early on, and I said Maybe. We’re ‘finally’ getting married later this year, after about ten years together. Definitely could identify with a lot of comments here. We started dating in our mid-twenties, though, so there isn’t the added concern of growing up together that a lot of couples have.

  • April

    A few days ago, my boyfriend was sitting on the couch when out of the blue he announced that ‘at our wedding’, he wants to have a funky light display at the reception. I kind of sat there, stone silence and pretended that I didn’t hear him. He told me again and then asked me why I was ignoring him.. I turned to him and quickly responded with ‘I’m not ready to be married’. I think he was a bit put out but he respected that I told him how I felt. At 25years, most of my friends are either married, engaged with or without children. Some of them have been rushed engagements and weddings and once or twice, I stood in the church wondering when did they realise that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. My boy and me have been together almost three years and between those years, we have attended 6 weddings. I will be a maid of honour next year and a bridesmaid in 2013. At every wedding, we had people come up to us telling us ‘we’ll be next’. I smile politely and quickly respond with ‘we’re too young’. But I fear this excuse is going to wan a little thin by the time we turn 26, 27 and I’m still saying the same. Like Rachel, it’s not that I don’t love my boyfriend. I do, I love him with my whole heart. He’s my best friend and the only one for me and I know it. But there is that inner struggle to still be ME. And I did tell him the other night that one day I would love to be married to him but I’m just not ready. And he was cool with that. Well, until the next wedding convo…

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