My boyfriend and I recently had another discussion about getting married….started by me. We’ve been dating 18 months and are each recovering from long term marriages…mine was 28 years and his was 32. By the numbers that makes us sound kinda old but stay with me. I feel better now then I have in my entire life. Hard to believe but true. And as I look at the next chapter of my life, I see myself living with and loving a partner who is engaged, energetic, interesting, intelligent and financially secure, all of which he is. But my boyfriend has expressed recently that he feels he is “fungible” around me and can easily be replaced by the next guy waiting in the wings. He says I have led him to believe that by my reminding him that other people ask me out (which is true…but I dont tell him how often it happens which is a lot more than he knows….I’m blessed that way!) And I, for my part, only mention it when I get tired of waiting for him to ask me to marry him.
Reading over my journals of the last five years, it’s fair to say I’ve been borderline obsessed with finding "the right guy" and getting married. I even made a vision board about him five years ago. But if I reflect back further, I remember being in college in Austin at UT and telling my roomies I would never get married. I just needed a man so I could have kids. Awww…college. The first time I woke.
I have been wanting to get married again even though I remember countless sessions, while married, with marriage therapists telling them my nightmare…I was in jail working in a sweat lodge like kitchen and the kitchen jail warden would regularly take me out to the jail yard and beat me. And the nightmare of being punished for no reason I knew…and I would be tied to a stake in front of the jailers house and flogged until I passed out. One day I heard the girl being flogged and wished for her she would die soon so the pain would be over and she wouldn’t have to cry anymore. Or the day in real life I found myself curled up on the floor of my closet (we girls like to use our closets for nervous breakdowns) and couldn’t move.
I had created the perfect family, life, work and marriage I was told I should have but couldn’t find myself in it. There was no place for me to be the me I am now becoming. It was as though I was holding my breath for years waiting to breathe...to be the real me. But first, I needed to do this job of making my family and life look perfect. Which, because of my styling skills I could handle for periods of time (my family’s picture was chosen to be featured in a Dallas family magazine) but the job was never over. It seemed I couldn't make it stick. But I wouldn't give up. No, not me. Like any hard working codependent woman, if things weren't working out, if they looked less than perfect, I’d just work harder, try harder to get everything back in place. Watching the finale of "Big, Little Lies" Season Two, reminded me of the pain I lived with. After a while, I realized I was the only one in my family working a job and I wasn’t making enough money to support everyone so I quit. I thought if I keep going like this, I’ll die…sooner than later. So I asked my then husband for a divorce. Though I’m pretty sure he never forgave me for it, he’s been happily married to a lovely and kind neighbor for almost five years.
So, I’ve been dating for ten years. And I’ve learned a lot. Like, do your own research and you’ll find just as many good men online as a professional search firm will find for you and it won’t cost $2500. Professional matching services don't know where the closet alcoholics are hiding (that’s the beauty of the whole closet thing) but his ex-wife’s best friend knows and she’ll tell you...if you’ll listen. And your married friends all want to know what it’s like to date again but are usually afraid to ask and find out. And dating is time consuming and exhausting. I’m a stylist and former runway model so my bar might be little higher than some but can I tell you how much harder it is for women to dress for life and work and dating than men? He’s like, what jeans with what shirt and do I wear a sport coat? And we’re like, should I wear the dress or take the time to coordinate a sexy, casual but chic-looking thing? What about my hair, shoes, make-up, do I spanx or not? (Btw, shouldn’t I be earning exercise points on my tracker for putting on spanx…suck and pull…suck and pull…suck and pull.) And finally, I’ve learned everyone is looking for someone to love. Many have given up, especially women. Some gave up years ago. The pressure of living up to our culture's expectations of perfection can really wear a girl down. For some, it’s just not worth it. I get it.
But since I now realize I was unconsciously obsessed with getting married again, I have had another opening for self awareness. I was born into a belief system that programmed me to think marriage meant safety and financial security. Even my first wave feminist mom accepted it without question. I would be married. Who would I marry was the only question. So what happened to that college girl with her own awareness of what she might need a man for? She’s me transforming the world between her ears. I’ve now raised two beautiful, kind and loving men. I’m running my own business, surrounded by supportive, intuitive, loving friends and family, financially comfortable but still needing to work to support myself. Which is great. I love my work and the people I get to share it with. And I would like to find my person who knows I’m all he ever wants and needs. Who loves to see me coming and enjoys my work. Who cares about my dreams and wants to share in all of that, everyday. I will love unconditionally knowing all the while, I am not dependent on my person to save me or make me feel safe. Just hold me when I need some comfort and play with me. The rest I can do for myself. And by the way, people aren’t fungible.