Shocking, right, that title? Here I am, closer to 50 years old than 40, raising a child in a committed relationship that for all intents and purposes resembles a marriage except that it isn’t. For me, personally, this does not bother me at all. Ever. Does it bother my long suffering significant other (or as an acquaintance called him recently the one who “tolerates me.”)? Maybe, but he has never pressed me and we have never gone beyond casual discussions on the topic. My lame and incorrect excuse used to be based on my reluctance to marry our finances because I thought that I would assume his debt. Apparently this is not the case and the only debt taken on jointly is that which is accrued jointly. So that excuse doesn’t really exist.
It would be easy to say that my divorced upbringing soured me on the entire institution. Back in the day, back when I was a kid, divorce was a big deal. Recently one of the couples in our parent crowd went through a separation for a while which involved a new boyfriend (ick!). This truly caused a conundrum for us since we really liked the husband and wife and felt an almost innate pressure to sort of pick a side. When this happened, I thought about how my mom’s circle must have felt about being put in the same position. We were a tight knit neighborhood back then and my parents were the only ones who ever divorced. Thing is, my sister and I had never been close to our dad before the divorce. I felt that the forced post divorce visitation sessions actually made us spend more time interacting than we had when my parents were married.
Maybe I can blame my inability to commit on my mother. After my parents divorced, my mom had to get a job, something she hadn’t done since before being married. With no true skills or advanced education she got a job at the Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips fast food place up the road from our house. She also decided to go to college part-time at night. After her experience, her message to me was that I always had to be able to take care of myself financially. Drilled into my head, constantly, that message. So much so that, this found its way into my subconscious decisions around the men that I have been involved with. This inability to have things paid for, anything-gifts, dinners, anything led me to never be involved with anyone who could, or would. The entire thing just made me uncomfortable. On one of my infamous internet dates, my match drove us from a restaurant at Ala Moana to a club in Waikiki in his Corvette. I actually almost couldn’t even get into that car. I almost just declined. I remember driving through Waikiki wanting to shrink into the seat so that no one would see me. This is neither bad, nor good, the inability to be cared for. It is what it is.
At this point, our son knows that his parents are not married. He doesn’t seem to be bothered by it in the least. While watching Say Yes to the Dress, he told me that he didn’t think that a wedding dress would “fit” me (and not in a, mom you need to lose some weight kind of way). My significant other and I have been together for so long that almost everyone assumes that we are married. I refer to his sister in San Diego as my sister in law. We no longer correct people when they use the word husband or wife to describe the other. Based on all this, maybe there is no good reason for us not to get married and we should just legalize what we already have today. Thing is, I’m not sure that I can, for no good reason (certainly not a reflection on the tolerant man in my life). Maybe it is just because although in my heart I feel like it changes nothing, I’m afraid that it changes everything. And maybe I’m just not ready for that yet.