I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
At first I thought it was a joke. Like the way you say things in the heat of the moment, and the next day hope they didn’t hear you whisper those sweet words in the 2AM post-glow sweat. We would finish and she would roll over and say, “Baby, you know I want to be with you forever, right?” And I would think, damn, that’s some heavy shit to say right after we just had sex. Maybe I brought my B- game tonight, then roll over, say thank you and go to sleep. The next morning, we would go about our lives like she never said anything. Only after a few weeks it started while we were cuddling on the couch. She would drop words like, “You know, we should just move in together.” And I would laugh and pretend it was a joke but it got to the point where she would stop me and start asking why I was so against it. And it wasn’t that I was against it so much as it was that I guess I just didn’t want to think about it. I mean, what we had was nice and fun and why would she have to potentially ruin that dynamic by putting heavy expectations upon this. My behavior said, just hush your face and let’s watch television, geez.
She never let it go. It became a monthly, then weekly discussion. I did my best to avoid the subject or change the direction but it kept coming back to her asking me why I wasn’t as invested as she was. The truth was, I wasn’t as invested and she knew it and it made me feel horrible. But I liked what we had. Just because I didn’t see a future didn’t mean that what we had wasn’t real. It was real and genuine – only it had an expiration date. She knew by my hesitation and my refusal to communicate. So she decided to up the stakes. She started saying that we were going to get married. And she wasn’t the first – or the last.
At some point in all of my serious relationships, the person I was dating has suggested that we get married. Some a bit more aggressive than others, but from just off the top of my head right now while I write this at 1am, I can think of six separate women who asked in varying levels of seriousness. One even buying a ring and taking a knee to propose. That was a rough one. But I always did my best to deflect because I knew, while they may have been amazing and wonderful women, they simply weren’t the person I had a burning desire to be around every single day. See, I would ask myself this question – how much do you care about their happiness? With some it was a little, with some it was a lot. But none of them I ever thought, “As much as my own happiness.” I mean, it was nice to see them happy when I would go out of my way to demonstrate how much they meant to me, but I never looked forward to it. I never thought, I want to think of new ways to see her smile. And it was tough when I had to accept that ring and then explain why I was wearing it on my right hand. Oh, that was a rough night indeed.
But what it really came down to was that these people who loved me truly believed that all they needed to do was to convince (or coerce) me into a lifetime commitment and everything would be just fine. That if we could just gather all of our friends and family and spend a ridiculous amount of money on flowers, somehow our love would blossom and become legitimate.
It’s a shame that people believe that a ring will change anything. Oh sure, it will change where you live, how you do your taxes, and give you a brief sense of security – but truthfully, a ring guarantees absolutely nothing.
I have been in love. Deeply and madly in love with a woman before. To the point that I would have married them. But I didn’t. I eventually walked away from them no matter how painful that journey was because somewhere along the line I realized I simply couldn’t, and didn’t want to, wake up next to them every single day for the rest of my life. My love changed. It evolved. It deviated away from the course their love was taking and we drifted apart. And it hurt like all break-ups do, but after years, the pain went away and I fell out of love with those women. Marvelous women who are worth of love – just not from me. But when I said I was IN love with them, I meant it… in that moment. I pushed those words into their face with every ounce of sincerity I had and if I had a ring at that moment, I would have used it. But moments are fleeting. And just because I meant it then, doesn’t ensure that I mean it now.
Even if I would have put that ring on their finger and walked them down an isle and pledged my eternal love to a room full of relatives, it would never have been the goal. Because relationships, marriages – they aren’t the goal. They are simply a different path of a new journey. Just because you make it to the garden doesn’t mean that it will continue to provide for you. It is your obligation to tend to that garden and maintain the health and structure because it will not continue to grow on it’s own. We can’t get lazy just because we think we “made it.” Just because there are rings involved doesn’t mean that we stop tending to the garden. We have to fight every single day to live up to those promises we made before we put those rings on our fingers.
Success isn’t guaranteed whether you agree to a committed relationship, whether you move in together, whether you have children, or whether you get married. Even if it feels right, it still only might be right in that moment. Because the only true success is an ever-evolving love that you’re still willing to chase after, tend to, and continue to be willing to fight for month after month and year after year. Because the only guarantee of success is when their happiness means just as much to you as your own. Until the day you have no more fight left in you.