Tag Archives: proposals

Two Essential Questions Before Saying “I do”

Wedding ringsBy: Sasha Stone

Recently I caused a minor Facebook frenzy with the following comment:

“It is my observation that marriage for my generation is irrelevant and represents the death of love. I have a few examples in my life that prove otherwise, which is beautiful and wonderful. What about you? What’s your experience?”

I will admit, I did this partially to provoke people. I knew it would strike a chord and married people would get defensive. I was curious to see what that defense would be, because honestly, I would rather my observation be inaccurate. No surprise, most responses had a lot to do with romantic notions of forever, family, and devotion. Those that said their marriage was thriving sited communication, honesty, and respect. This, though, was my favorite response of all:

“Marriage is not just a piece of paper. It is not a piece of paper to prove love. My husband proved that to me well before we got married — which is why we got married in the first place! However, it does open up a lot of options legally – think about health care decisions, financial combinations, term life decisions etc…”

Why my favorite? Because this is real. This has a purpose.

Since my divorce in 2009 I’ve kept a close eye on my views on marriage, observing any changes and fluctuations that might occur and why. In the midst of my divorce, I felt fairly certain I would never get married again. Not because I was bitter and jaded, and not because I didn’t want to have a family, but because marriage had lost its meaning to me.

I got married very young (age 25), and though in love, we hadn’t really spent any time discussing our motives for taking such a huge next step in our relationship. There was the practical consideration of me being able to stay in the U.S., and the idea of wanting to be together forever. Beyond that, we didn’t really look at the deeper currents of why, and consequently nor whether this move was truly in the greatest good for either of our lives.

Whether consciously or not, I think many people get married to hold on to that relationship and that person forever, no matter what, even if there are massive gaps in values, vision, and priorities. As though somehow, having that official certificate guarantees your idealized vision of love and that the person will be yours forever. Clearly, divorce rates indicate otherwise, but people still seem to think, for them it will be different.

What happens all too often though, for my generation at least, is the paper gets signed and the relationship takes a nosedive. I know that is not the case for everyone, but it is strikingly common. I could probably write a 1000 page essay on this topic, there’s so much to it. But I am going to stick my neck out and say the main reason this occurs is because despite our social evolution, we still cling and grasp onto the romance saturated view of marriage that is fed to us through fairytales, both classic and contemporary. Our starving mind (our hearts are usually wiser) latches on to that idea and laps it up voraciously. Then we get married, and our socially evolved self revolts, does not want to accept the illusion of this arrangement, and suddenly, desperately, wants out.

Last year, I had the honor of officiating a wedding for a beloved student and friend (yes, that’s right, minister Sash). I had to be very thoughtful about it because I didn’t want to be a fraud standing up there, guiding two people into an institution for which I hadn’t yet made peace. So I asked the couple tying the knot to answer two questions for me (an assignment they had to do separately, without consulting each other).

#1) Why are you getting married?

Seems straight forward enough, but many people answer this question with something basically along the lines of, “I love this person, I want to be with them forever, and I want to build a family and life with them.” That is awesome! I say go for it, but guess what, you don’t need to be married to do any of those things (at least not in the Western world). Love and commitment are beautiful and wonderful, but you can be married and completely not committed. You can also be fully devoted and not married.

Dig deeper. What are some REAL reasons for making this massive commitment? I find the answers that are deeply spiritual, deeply traditional, and/or deeply practical to be the most compelling. If you and your spouse-to-be have those reasons in common, then there is a much more substantial backing to walking down the aisle than simply the forever story. You have no idea what life is going to hurl your way, but if you have super strong convictions about why marriage is essential to the progress and evolution of your relationship and life together, then you have a firm foundation to stand on.

#2) Why are you marrying this person?

Ok, here is where you get to be romantic and gushy. Still though, I encourage you to dig deep. What makes this person so highly unique and dear to you that you are willing to make a lifelong commitment to them? Get it all down. Be extremely personal, reflective, and specific. Then, when you hit those rough spots in your relationship, come back to this document and remind yourself what a precious being you have the privilege of sharing your life with.

Of course, there are many more questions to ask oneself, but this is not intended to be a guide on finding the right partner (when I figure that out I’ll get back to you ;). My intention is simply to draw your attention to two basic questions whose answers are often taken for granted rather than sincerely discussed.

Yes, I do believe in Love. I believe in commitment, I believe in family, and I believe that humans are meant to live their lives in togetherness, not isolation. I want love, I want babies, and I want to experience the crazy journey of being with someone for a very long time. Would I get married again? Only if the reasons for it truly make sense, and that if I decide to take that step with someone, that we have been openly thoughtful about it and see eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart on the why.

Take action now:

  1. Share your reaction to this article in the comments below.
  2. Send this to someone preparing to embark on the marriage journey. It might offer them a little guidance before taking the plunge.

Originally published on Sasha’s blog 

photo by: State Farm

Elephant in the Room: I Can Only Be With My Boyfriend If He Proposes

Gay-MarriageDear Cora,

I have been with my boyfriend for nearly 5 years.  I am 23 and he’s is 30. I am from a religious family so my mum and dad won’t allow me to live with him without being married. He lives quite a few miles away from me and works a lot so I only see him once a week and being away from him is breaking my heart. After  five years I want him with me every day and not just to see him 1 day a week for a few hours. I feel as though all I have done for 5 years is miss him. Do you think he will ever propose? He has been married before and maybe that is putting him off.  I don’t know where I stand, please help. 

Sincerely, 

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

Oh, babe. We have a lot going on here and I think we need to break it down step by step to see what we can come up with.

The first thing that pops out at me is that you’re 23, stop talking about marriageYou especially shouldn’t be talking about it when you approach it as a method to see your boyfriend more often. That’s not what it’s about. Marriage is a serious commitment – it is promising to spend the rest of your life with someone. That means when things aren’t fun, when they aren’t paying attention to you, for better and for worse. Real marriage is about accepting that making a life together is hard work, and that you’re willing to commit to sticking it out together. It’s not a quick fix for missing someone. It’s a life-long, very serious, situation. If your boyfriend has already been married and it ended then he probably knows this better than anyone and his hesitation may be because he knows you two aren’t ready for that level of commitment.

Speaking of your boyfriend, let’s talk about him for a moment. Actually, no. Let’s talk about you, and your feelings for him. I agree that a few hours a week isn’t enough to maintain a serious relationship – especially after five years. How well do you two really know each other? How do you build something solid and lasting on mere glimpses of time? That is a conversation you need to have with him instead of asking when is he going to propose or if he wants to get married. You need to ask what do we need to do to make this really work? Your words and emotions are serious but the level of the relationship seems casual and I think it would behoove you to make sure that you are both on the same page before you continue on writing the rest of the novel.

Now here’s the tough part, but I think if you are able to take advantage of this last piece of advice you’ll find that the rest of it gets easier. It seems the deepest root of your troubles comes from the rules of your parents. While I think you may be too young to be thinking about marriage (at least in your current situation) you are old enough to be making your own decisions. I have no doubts that your parents want the best for you as only they know how – however, they can’t live your life for you. You are old enough to be making your own decisions about how you want to live your life. The hard part of that is finding a way to make your parents accept that, or having the strength to move on by yourself even if they don’t. What I think you need Anonymous is to start thinking about moving out on your own instead of with your boyfriend. You need to learn to stand on your own two feet – that’s what your 20s are for! To figure out who you really are as a person by making your own decisions and your own mistakes. With your own place you not only get the chance to figure out for yourself what you believe but it should allow you more time to see your boyfriend. You two can get to know each other on a serious level, figure out how you work as a couple that has to function with the rest of the world and whether it really does work.

Don’t sell yourself short of this opportunity to grow into your own skin by moving from your parents to your boyfriend. You need time to grow, lovely. Unburden yourself from those shackles. It’s a tough world out there and you have to dig deep to find the strength to choose and hold on to your own happiness. I’m afraid if you keep sitting around waiting for your parents or your boyfriend to hand it to you that you’re going to miss out on the wonderful things you deserve.

Best wishes,

Cora

Elephant in the Room: Will He Ever Marry Me?

shutterstock_79607809Dear Cora,

I’ve been with my boyfriend for over five and a half years and I love him so much. We’ve been through a lot together, including a clingy ex and a pregnancy scare. We live together now and we are on the same page about wanting to stay together long term – but I want to get married and he doesn’t seem as anxious about it as I am. There’s always a reason to put it off – we need a new car, or a new place, or he wants to go back to school. These are all legitimate reasons not to talk about a wedding, but if we know we want to spend the rest of our lives together I don’t understand what we’re waiting for. I’m starting to wonder if he’ll ever propose, and what do I do if he never wants to marry me?

Sincerely,

Ringless Finger

Dear Ringless,

Sometimes the best thing to do when you get wrapped up in a singular issue is to take a step back and look at the big picture. Five and a half years of commitment with one person is no easy feat – and it sounds like the two of you have gotten over your fair share of hurdles together which I commend you for. It shows you two know how to handle undesirable situations that come up with any long-term relationship and see it through to the other side. That gives me hope you’ll make it through this as well.

The great wedding debate. That’s what you’re in the middle of my dear and many of us, especially those who used to pretend to walk down the aisle with pillowcase veils over our heads when we were five, have also been there. I’m not saying there aren’t men out there who also look forward to getting married, but women tend to take it to a whole other level. Both my brother and my uncle are serial monogamists. They are at their most comfortable in long-term relationships, but say the word marriage and they go white in the face. We’ve had many debates about it because it doesn’t seem to make sense that if they are willing to make the commitment, why not have the party to celebrate? For some people, both men and women, the idea of making it legally binding scares them to the core. That piece of paper adds a level of responsibility they can’t wrap their minds around.

It’s possible your beau falls into that camp. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love you or that he isn’t in this for the long haul, but he has a mind block around marriage.

It is also possible that it’s the financial burden of the situation that is causing the “delay.” Weddings are expensive, no matter how intimate they are. You’ve had some legitimate expenses come up in your time together and maybe he’s right – there hasn’t been a right time to spend that kind of cash on a ceremony.

Or there could be something you’ve been overlooking. The key to finding out is laying all the cards out on the table. I know that sounds “so not romantic.” It isn’t, but it’s how adults in committed relationships deal with problems. The two of you need to sit down, face to face, and have a long conversation. This is not a chance for you to beg or coerce him into proposing, but an opportunity for both of you to tell each other what you want, what you’re afraid of and look at the obstacles together. It’s also a chance for you to ask why do you want to get married? Is it just because it’s something you think you’re supposed to do or because you want to legally commit yourself to this person forever? Being open and honest without pressure will allow him to open up to you as well and share his reservations.

Don’t fret, Ringless. This isn’t a sign of the end but merely a chance to grow closer. You and your love just need to get on the same page. I wish you the best of luck!

Best wishes,

Cora

PS. I’d love to hear from you all on this one, especially those that have been in long term relationships. What’s your take? Tell us in the comments below! And remember if you need any advice or want to share a trouble you’re having email your letters to editor@intent.com!

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