I experienced what might be called loved at first sight with the man I eventually would marry.
I had, by the time we met, given up on the notion of finding love, but his smile filled out the empty contours of my romantic imagination. We had a drink, we had a smoke, and to slightly diverge from the lines of the sapphic Jill Sobule classic, we put on our overcoats, kissing just hours after meeting in the bitter January wind.
Two weeks later I said “I love you,” my guts churning, waiting for his sensible rejection. A few weeks later he said it back, indirectly, to a friend at a bar. “I do love Schlomo,” he said, somewhat surprised but also decisive.
And when a few months later his mother’s cancer returned and he needed to move back to Grand Rapids to look after her business, we decided with little question to shit and not get off the pot.
We got a house in Grand Rapids. He told me everything was going to be great. And that was the beginning of the very long end.
Our lives were engulfed in a series of quotidian stressors and coping mechanisms. The specter of his mother’s illness hung thick in the air, and all we ever had time to do was drink. I worked from home, and so was very slow to develop anything like a social circle. Lovemaking became first perfunctory and then nonexistent, and his tortured sleep eventually drove me into the guest bedroom.
But we had money. We had lavish parties. We bought art. We adopted a cat. We planted a garden. We had a regular table at the local drag bar. We were the very model of a modern gay couple, and everyone was so very happy for us.
And we were so very happy. On Facebook. For the public. I never breathed a word of our problems to anyone, even to my best friend. Our relationship was in large part a show for other people predicated on the idea that we loved each other, and so this had to work.
The man I married and I were once very in love. We were once very sexual. Hell, we were at one point even mutually financially stable. And if all of those pieces had stayed in place, we might have had a fighting chance. And I stress “might.” There is no winning formula for a lasting, happy relationship, but there are myriad formulae for doomed, unhappy ones.
So, ask yourself these questions:
1. Are you getting married for show?
2. Are you getting married for fear?
3. Are you getting married because of your religious upbringing or a pregnancy or to trap someone (including perhaps yourself) long enough to make another go of it?
4. Can you have a conversation with your partner about things that really matter?
5. Are you willing to expose your weakest points, and are you willing to accept the same in return?
6. Are you willing to accept that there may be things you need to work on, either within yourself or with your partner, before a conversation about marriage is either pertinent or salient?
7. Are you willing to accept that you may uncover structural weaknesses so deep or so fundamental that you may have to let go?
If yes to any of the first three and no to any of the rest, I promise you, you’re not ready to get married. Because, assuming your marriage is legal, all it’s going to change is your tax return and how expensive your inevitable breakup will be.
My marriage wasn’t legal, and so all I have to show for it is the vaguely cloying knowledge that forever is about 1,100 days now, apparently.
Neither of us had our shit together, and what we didn’t have together was what the other person valued most. By the end, we were just two people — him holding a sack of money and me holding a sack of love. Sadly, neither wanted what the other had to offer.