I'm in love with a man who doesn't want to marry me.
He's a wonderful person and wants to spend the rest of his life with me. He's dedicated to making our relationship work. But marriage? Not so much.
I met him when I was 46 and newly divorced, and the very last thing I wanted to do was get married again. Not that marriage was so bad; at least for me, it wasn't. My ex and I parted amicably, and I don't think either one of us have any regrets about it. As our years together ticked by, there was a mutual disinterest that chipped our love away. In the end, we were eating, sleeping and amusing ourselves separately. On Sundays, he'd practice with his band and I'd go to weird foreign films. We were like really compatible roommates who generally ignored each other.
Once he left, I was delighted to be living alone, and figured I'd feel that way for a long time. Nine months later, I met Ned. It didn't take us long to figure out that those Sundays I was at those sparsely attended foreign films? He was there, too. Sometimes it might have been just the two of us in the theater. I love the thought of us in those dark movies on rainy afternoons, alone—soon to be together.
Ned was 46, like me, and never married. "This is perfect," I thought. "This unmarried leopard isn't gonna change his spots at this late stage. He might be just the thing."
And he has been, for nearly four years. Strong where I'm weak, kind where I'm prickly. We laugh at the same things, and cry at the same things. I'm attracted to him 24 hours a day. When he kisses me, I still turn into melted sparkles, like my insides are champagne. Remember in "Gone With the Wind" when Rhett kisses Scarlett and she tells him she's gonna faint? That's me all the time.
"You know, the only thing I can see going wrong between us is if I get marriage-y," I told him about a year in. "Someday, I might feel like getting married again, and that might do us in."
He nodded his head. The topic of marriage isn't something he goes on about a lot. "I've just never seen the need," is all he says.
We'd been together two years, and were talking about moving in together, when one afternoon I was antique shopping downtown, and saw a doorway in the back of a narrow old store. There was no Keep Out sign, so I walked through.
There was the most beautiful little courtyard you ever saw. Four walls of old brick buildings. I love old buildings. The weathered brick was covered in white and pink roses I could smell from the doorway. At the back of the courtyard was a small old bubbling fountain.
It would be the perfect place for an intimate wedding, I thought. A second wedding, or a 50-year-old's wedding, the kind where you'd invite just immediate family.
I think that's when the desire to get married first took hold. I realize it sounds completely shallow to get inspired by a beautiful space, but the flame of it started that day, and it grows more with time.
This is a man who loves "It's a Wonderful Life," who always rolls down his window to give a dollar to the homeless guy on the corner. This is someone who moved in with my four— yes, FOUR—pets and loves them to distraction, even though he's neat and tidy and pets are decidedly not.
It's more than the beautiful space. It's the beautiful man.
"If you love me more than anything, and you know you want to be with me forever, why don't you want to get married?" I asked him one night. We were both calm, and I remained unemotional. I really wanted to understand this. Because maybe if I can see it the way he sees it, it'll hurt less.
"I don't know," he said. "Getting married just isn't something I've ever wanted to do."
In the meantime—because that's just the way life is—weddings seem to be everywhere. Five coworkers got married or engaged so far this year. A good friend lost his partner to cancer three years ago, and he just last week proposed to his new love. A guy I've never met, but who's read my blog for years, just today sent me pictures of his son's beautiful barn wedding.
I'm being tortured by white lace and promises.
I feel like if you really love someone, you accept that person 100 percent—you don't try to change him. I'd never want Ned to be someone he isn't. I'd never want him to marry me just to make me happy. I'd want marriage to be something he couldn't live without, something he was dying to do.
On the other hand, he's living with me, is faithful to me and he's in it for the long haul. That's a lot. That has to be enough.