I’ve spent a substantial amount of time leafing through bridal magazines and scrolling through enviable Instagram feeds, oohing and aahing at all the breathtaking gowns and venues. I’ve pictured myself living that dream, but marriage isn’t a dream you watch from the sidelines. You can actually take part in this grown-up game of spin-the-bottle. Most days, I’d rather the bottle land on someone else.
I’ve had a chance to see other marriages begin… and end. When I was younger, my social group was much different than it is today. Back then, it was all boyfriends and girlfriends. Now they’re all married. I’ve watched them go from the first date to the first baby, yes, but I’ve also seen them struggle and it’s really tough to watch. I’m terrified of experiencing that in my own relationship.
I don’t want to make the same mistakes my parents did with my own kids but I probably will. What makes me think I’m much different from my own parents? The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and just because I resolve to do things differently, when push comes to shove, will I? I can’t tell you how many millennial women I know who have serious issues with their mothers, myself included. What makes me think that I’ll somehow escape this toxic pattern and have a kid who’s actually proud of me and wants to have a relationship with me?
There’s a 50 percent chance it won’t work out. Maybe it’s not that I’m afraid to get married—it’s that I’m afraid of getting divorced. After all, half of marriages in the US end that way. I don’t think there’s any shame in getting divorced. In fact, I’d rather we admit when a relationship isn’t working and welcome divorce as a freeing and necessary next step. There’s no point in “toughing it out” in my opinion. Still, I hate the idea of a relationship failing, and divorce would feel like one big, “F-” in my relationship track record.
My sense of trust is fragile. I see how sensitive I am to the smallest breaches in trust and fidelity. Would I survive bigger offenses? I believe we’re all imperfect and we all mess up from time to time. Thankfully, love makes room for forgiveness, but am I loving and secure enough to forgive and trust again? There’s something about vulnerability that scares me, and no amount of Brene Brown can change that right now.
I don’t want to lose my freedom and independence. If your boyfriend or fiance gets transferred to a job in another city, it usually makes the most sense if the two of you keep going strong with a long-distance relationship. It’s difficult, but at least you get to maintain your own independence and stability. But if that boyfriend becomes your husband, you’re most likely going to make the move with him. I’m not sure I can pick up and drop off wherever he lands. I still want to live life on my own terms.
You marry your in-laws, too. When you get married, you don’t just marry your husband—you marry his parent, too. And while no one expects you to be best friends with your own mom and dad, at least you can be a little more open and blunt with them. At least you’re in the position to draw clear boundaries with them but with in-laws, it’s a whole other ball game. They’re not your parents, and depending on your relationship with them, you may have to bite your tongue and sustain more abuse than you’d like to. That just sounds so unappealing to me.
Marriage might be an unnecessary legal step. Up until about a hundred years ago, marriage was a necessary step for women. Otherwise, you’d easily end up destitute and unable to fend for yourself. You kind of had to get married, but that’s not really the case now. I have to ask myself, “Am I doing this because it’s socially expected of me or am I doing this because I want to be married?” What would that mean to be married rather than simply being together?
People change—will I? If I look back over the last five to 10 years, I see that I’ve had so many paradigm shifts in my thinking. I see how I used to be super close-minded and I’m still working to grow and learn and expand. It’s a beautiful thing and I feel lucky that I’m free to do this, but what if I change too much for a potential husband? Or, what if he changes too much for me? It’s entirely possible that two people can change in opposite directions and that’s a schism that you can’t sew back together.
Can I really grow old with someone? Even though, theoretically speaking, it’s a beautiful idea to grow old with someone, I have to ask myself if that’s really the case. It’s easy to fall in love when you’re young and beautiful, but even youth and beauty don’t make it easy to stay committed and in love (see point #1). So, you can imagine how high the odds are stacked against you when you get older and less glamorous. I know my body will change. Cellulite will invade my thighs. Wrinkles will spread over my face. And that’s just beauty! What about illness? Maybe I can hold off a little bit longer before I start baring all.