Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Between Here And There

If I've blogged it once I've blogged it a dozen times: it's hard to write about my relationship with Ish/Pete because he reads my blog. And so do my friends and my family and his friends and his family. So writing about how we're doing has always had to stay on the surface level.

How are things with you and Pete? you, they, everyone asks.

They're great, I say, knowing it to be true. Mostly. Definitely. Probably. I think. I mean, I know. I think. I hope.

We have a good relationship and we talk a lot about everything. We discuss our future. We discuss marriage and kids. But you know? We also discuss not getting married, not having kids. We extol the virtues of our current jobs and career prospects in the Bay Area in the same breath we discuss moving to Chile or New Zealand or China. We discuss saving enough money for a down payment on a home in the same conversation that we discuss Ish quitting his job to work on comedy full-time.

You'd think we were in our early twenties to hear us talk.

Except we aren't and really, what are we doing?

He is not ready. He is not ready to sign up for it all over again. Not now, not yet. Not ever? No, someday.

I want very much to be brave and independent and not care and be my own woman -- I am my own woman -- but I cannot pretend I don't think about commitment. Of course I do.

Is it going to happen? I don't know. And in the meantime, what is there to do but talk about it, ask about it, discuss possibilities, and -- ultimately -- wait?

I'm older and wiser and independent and strong and still, the only thing for me to do is wait. How crazy is that?

Well, okay, no -- I guess "waiting" isn't the ONLY thing. There is The Other alternative. You can come to this point in the relationship and say, "Enough." You can say, "You must." You can give a time frame, "By _____ or else."

Yes, my invisible friends. You can be Scary Ultimatum Girl.

But good lord. No one ever, Ever, EVER wants to be Scary Ultimatum Girl. I do not want to be Scary Ultimatum Girl. Why would I be Scary Ultimatum Girl? I don't have a need to be.

And so if it all boils down to "wait" or "don't wait," (aka "stay" or "go"), I will wait and stay.

I guess I'm just putting this out here to see it in writing. To preempt the questions I'm fielding with more and more regularity, from friends and family and coworkers and strangers but mostly my own head:

I don't know when. I don't even know if. But I choose stay.

32 comments:

  1. That had to be one of the scariest things you've ever posted. Good for you for being honest with yourself, and sharing it too.

    Although, It's kind of infuriating that women still want the wedding band and all it implies. (Says the long married woman...) Such a hypocrite.

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  2. I'm with you.

    I'm choosing to stay too.

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  3. dana - It IS infuriating. What the hell? And yet.

    ingrid - cheers. :)

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  4. And the other thing to think about is this... a wedding band doesn't seem to mean as much these days as it used to. They seem to be pretty much disposable these days, no matter how many years you put in... waiting or otherwise. Just sayin'.

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  5. I love this post! As I seem to be the only un-married and un-engaged woman in Oregon that does have something going for her (maybe even more than one thing if I can toot my own horn)it is really nice to see women taking a stand that marriage isn't the only option. Happily ever after can still be happily ever after without a metal band on your left hand.

    I think that two people who are in a long term committed relationship actually have more meaning to their relationship because they are staying because they WANT to stay, not because it's easier and less messy than a divorce. It's because they are passionate about the relationship and committed to making it work.

    Wow...apparently this cord stuck a cord with me. lol

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  6. I totally respect that and putting it all out there...believe me if you wanted to leave you would just get fed up and go...

    I too choose to stay although some days it's not as fun. Especially when there is no readily available explanation for his hesitancy like "he's been married before." Then you start wondering, maybe it's me...

    but I stay because it's so strong in so many other ways.

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  7. I'm gonna copy and paste that last post (and copyright you, of course), change the names and send it to MY family and friends, and HIS family and friends...I swear you got in my head somehow. And hit the print button on my thoughts. Or something.

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  8. well-written post

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  9. I almost posted on this same topic. Well, except my post was not about you and Ish. :-)

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  10. I SO agree with Brooke when she says that sometimes a long-term committed relationship can mean more than a marriage--you're staying because you want to. I live with my significant other, and while the possibility of marriage has been discussed, both of us are quite happy with things the way they are, and neither of us are "going anywhere". I prefer to think of him as a partner, not a "future husband". So whichever way you ultimately go, remember that the time you have together now and every day is more important than "waiting" for some ring and a piece of paper that won't make your relationship any better than it already is--with nothing more than your heads and your hearts to tie it together.

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  11. I struggled with this for SO LONG and could have written this post many times over. I guess when "stay" starts being a little less of a 100% thing, less definite, and "go" starts looking like an option that's when I knew it was time for something to change for us.

    Of course every day I wake up and thank my lucky stars it turned out the way it did. But it was a scary process from there to here.

    Says the woman raised by a staunch feminist who always dreamed of the permanance of "married". I wonder if my mom looks at me and shakes her head sometimes. :D

    Also? I totally want to up and move to New Zealand. Only my New Zealand is Hawaii... Or Mexico. Its my and hubby's favorite day dream. One day...

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  12. I could have written this about my ex. In the end, I chose to go. It sucked, and it was totally the right decision for me.

    This was one of my favorite posts ever.

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  13. Come and live in New Zealand! It's awesome here! (Definitely in comparison to Chile or China.)

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  14. At some point I realized that the never-married 40-something year old I was with was maybe never going to get married. Even to me. I know, I'm slow.

    As it turns out, we did get married - but not before I had gotten totally okay with the possibility of being together forever with no rings or kids. If you love somebody, it just makes sense to chose them over an unknown possible someone/something, somewhere in the future.

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  15. If it feels right for you, and if you are happy, then waiting and staying is the right decision to make.

    LOVED this post!

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  16. It is both exceedingly annoying and rather hilarious that the "So what's with you two?" question these days comes most regularly from my brother.

    Least the two people whose business it actually is are getting better at talking.

    There really is so much more, yet nothing more than "I choose to stay", is there?

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  17. I frequently got the "has there been any progress?" question from my mother, which was her not so subtle way of asking whether marriage was on the table yet. And I would say "Yes, there is progress. I am happier than I was."

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  18. Your post is so timely for me. I just have to say thank you for writing it. I turned 34 over the weekend and spent my birthday at a friend's wedding. I had been mulling over all the same thoughts. How could I not? I've been with my Pete for 3yrs. He's 28, and all our friends are starting to get married. Friends in relationships shorter than ours. I try reminding myself that we are not them whenever I wonder why we are not getting married, not even close. But I want a baby. A family. Someday. Soon? But I also want to travel more and live in NYC for a year or Paris before all that. I know I don't have as much time as him to wait.

    For now, I really don't know what I want except that I know that I will always want someone who tells me I'm beautiful every day and means it. He does love me, and I do know that is rare and difficult to find.

    For now I choose to stay.

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  19. If my beloved ex had decided to marry me/stay with me after the many years of indecision and ambivalence about it, I would have been so very happy.

    As it turned out, he chose Boston, an undergraduate dorm, and, eventually, three years later, a new girlfriend. I sometimes wonder if I wasted other opportunities in the meantime or stayed too long, but I know in my heart and mind that until I saw how that sucker played out, I wasn't going anywhere. No book, no questions, no nothing but my own change of heart that never came could have made a difference.

    For me, "You'd think we were in our early twenties to hear us talk" is a pretty cool thing. I'm loath to give advice, but inclined to say, "Enjoy the good while it's good." Next time I'm hoping that's what I do.

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  20. Darlin' girl...it is your life.

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  21. This is definitely one of those "listen to your heart" things. If you need to move on, you'll know.

    The older I get, the more I see "the choices" and how picking one thing rules out other things at that moment. The thing is to be smart and aware as you're picking!

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  22. Ya know what-I choose stay too. And unfortch that is just not a good enough answer for a lot of people which is a shame because that is as much as they are going to get!

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  23. I loved the post, glad you made your decision and put it out there.

    BUT to the ppl who said that sometimes staying in a long term relationship means more than being married, I have to disagree...

    I realize to many ppl that marriage isn't a huge deal anymore, but for the rest of us, it is. It still means "till death do us part." To me, that's much harder than staying in a long term relationship. Also, a wedding band isn't just a hunk of metal - atleast in my world. It signifies that you have given your love to someone else and promised to love them unconditionally for the rest of your life.

    I realize this is only my world. But those comments were like a slap in the face to me. Someone who believes in marriage.

    I'm not saying you shouldn't wait - by all means, I think more ppl should wait ...wait until both parties are ready for sure, and know exactly what they're getting into. Marriage shouldn't be taken lightly. :)

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  24. I think you're fine. The problems come if you STOP talking - when you don't want to bring it up because it's too painful. Then you should worry. Now, it's fine. You're good. Not that you need a stranger to tell you, but sometimes it's nice. So, you're good.

    Can I share my story? Just because it's strange and it's mine? I married in my twenties, a man I had known all my life, and it was twenty kinds of awful, and I came out the other side saying: never, ever again. I didn't want to marry. I had never particularly wanted kids. So I didn't. Instead, I found a man who was brilliant and strange and emotionally removed and very respectful of boundaries. We developed a relationship that consisted of weekends spent together, vacations taken together, the occasion talk of a future, but neither of us meant it and we knew it. He didn't love me, and me? I may have loved him at one point, but mostly I found him interesting and he kept me from having to deal with commitment and emotion and a lot of other things I wasn't ready for.

    That was good for a number of years. And then my best friend died, and I watched the whole ugly business, and I decided I wanted back in life again. I wasn't sure what, I just wanted to be open to hurt and joy and all the possibilities. So I ended the eight-year relationship and, after a few month's break, started internet dating. And almost immediately, I met someone amazing. But he wanted marriage. And of all things, kids! So I spent a lot of time with my therapist, to determine if I could do it, could get myself to the point where I could take on these things so many people assume every woman wants, and I had long rejected.

    And I am getting married September 20, at which point the birth control goes in the trash. I'm terrified, and I feel more alive than ever before.

    The thing is, some people talk about the time I spent in my relationship with no-commitment guy, and they assume I regret it. But I don't. It was the right decision for the time. And when it stopped being right, I left.

    Now, I'm not saying your story will end up the same way. I'm just saying that we make the best decisions we can for right now. And if we make them with clear and honest hearts, we won't regret them. You obviously love Ish, and it seems obvious that he also loves you. So the best decision right now is for you to be together in the way you are together. Maybe some day that won't be the right decision - maybe the decision will be to be together in a different (not better, just different) way, or maybe it will be to be apart. But that doesn't take away from what you have now. Don't let anyone make you think it does.

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  25. such a great post! If you're in a good place and it's a healthy relationship, I say stay. I was scary ultimatum girl in my pervious relationship. After 7 years we did get engaged and he cheated on me before we made it down the aisle. It ended exactly the way it was meant to end and I married my soulmate a couple of years later. Six happy years later, life couldn't be better. It's so much better to be in a healthy, happy relationship than to be "married" as long as you're both playing by the same rules and nobody has a hidden agenda.

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  26. I have to say that I never wanted to be married. Never. I wasn't against it, but it just wasn't anything I could imagine.

    So all through my twenties and into my thirties I had a series of long-term relationships and I really cared about each person, and I expected that it would always be that way.

    One of my boyfriends then lived with me for about ten months, and I decided it was too much. So I chose, like pyewacket, to try "dating." Not being tied down to even one guy.

    And whoops, I met someone who made the other guys in my social life pale by comparison. We spent a summer dating, and though I was trying to date other people, I just didn't care about anyone else...

    He was moving to California. Wanted to spread his wings, explore his own freedom. Travel around the country. I was like, "So go, already!"

    Then he got here and he missed me. Started asking me to come. I knew, inside, that he was the person for me, but that's such a HUGE risk. To move for someone you've only known for six months.

    Give up my awesome life that took years to put together? No way.

    And I said it. No. I wasn't going to do it. I had a life in DC, a great job, friends, fun, everything I wanted.

    And then he said, "would you move if you had a ring."

    And suddenly everything changed.

    So this person, me, who thought marriage wasn't for her AT ALL, now lives in California with a ring and a fourth anniversary coming up next month.

    But I knew inside, ring or no ring, he is the guy. And I said no anyway.

    So this is just to say that EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT.

    You may think you'd be more comfortable with a legal commitment, and find that what you've got is GRAND...or -- Ish may decide this isn't enough for him, and that he wants a ring.

    In either case, I wish you mounds and mounds of happy anniversaries -- first kiss, first shared burrito, first fight over the dishes, first leaving the bathroom door open, first ice cream cake, and on and on.

    If you and he are making a happy home together, it doesn't matter what the world says. But at the same time, if you feel you deserve a ring...if you want one, you should risk it. Say it. It's scary, but it's OKAY to ask for what you want.

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  27. maybe it's just me, but moving in together is a pretty big step. that IS a commitment, especially in a real estate market like ours.

    and like others have said here, as long as you two are able to keep talking about what you want and don't want and might want, you'll be fine.

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  28. I chose go. It's been over a year and I'm still not sure if it was the right decision, but every day it seems a little more so. Thanks for the post, it's reassuring to know that we all go through our own versions of the same issues.

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  29. Wow! This is so beautifully written. I think that you've summed up what many women are thinking about their own relationships so well. This struck a definite cord with me.

    I applaud your courage in posting this!

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  30. Good post! I'm glad you chose 'stay'

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  31. I'm at times wary of those ultimatum type scenarios in these types of situations, and the 5 year plan type outlooks (i.e. meet now, move in by one year, engaged by two, married by three, child one by year 4 or 5. la la la, life is perfect!) as well.

    A relationship (typically at least) takes two, and at times, the "he's not ready now so I'm gonna bolt and find someone who is" scenario seems to overlook that fact. Sometimes, there appears to be a disregard for the other person's needs and process in such situations. It sometimes sounds like the fact of being married is more important than the person being married to, like the timing or the institution of marriage matters more than the person.

    I respect those who can tolerate some ambivalence and stick it out, out of love rather than stick to some predetermined timeline or need for the perceived security of a formal commitment.

    Of course there are those who go because they sense their partner will never commit longterm, will eventually take off, or because they realize they are and will likely continue to be in an unmutual relationship, etc. I understand that and respect that as well. My point above is simply about those who seem to value a superficial fantasy timeline over their actual real relationship and their partner's feelings and needs.

    Not everyone is ready for marriage at the same time (or ever) and that is not always a reflection of a lack of love or any reflection on the partner who feels ready first. Loving someone means we try to accommodate them as well as expect them to accommodate us, and that includes understanding that we may not all have the same timeline and process in regard to certain scenarios.

    Sometimes, if things are good overall, there's no reason to not simply let things be and give the other person a chance to work things out for him/herself.

    As for marriage vs. LTR without it, why the need to diss marriage or make a competition out of the two scenarios? As Shannon pointed out many of us who are married are--surprise, surprise--married because we WANT and CHOOSE to be, just like those of you in LTRs of the unmarried type.

    For many of us, it's not the prospect of the hassle of divorce that binds us, but an active love and desire to stay in a healthy, happy, inspiring and rewarding relationship that we've committed to by choice and with gratitude.

    If you're happy being in an unmarried committed relationship, great, but I don't get undermining the importance and authenticity of marriage simply because you don't have or want it for yourself or because it doesn't always work out. I wonder how many nonmarried LTRs also don't work out; that doesn't mean the institution as a whole is generally unsuccessful.

    Many of us are more than pleased --not trapped or burdened-- by the public vows of commitment and love we've made to our spouses and continue to make through our words and actions and feelings day after day because we WANT, not HAVE, to.

    I'm sure many who are not married feel similarly, and I recognize that your happy unmarried relationship doesn't in any way lessen the value of my marriage and my happy marriage in no way undermines the sanctity of happy unmarried LTR. It's not a contest or a road map to a buried treasure. There are many different paths to many different destinations, all of which can be equally wonderful in their own way for those who choose them.

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  32. For some reason that post made me nearly cry. I am in the same boat.. I don't want to be THAT "do it or else" girl.. because I want HIM to WANT to. I've told him in the past that when it is right you should just know.. That the only alternative is "oh my, I want this woman to be my wife!". Maybe I read too many romance novels, but that is what I believe.

    As a divorced woman in a long term relationship with a divorced man... it's not simple. Those old scars run deep. To take that plunge is a real leap of faith, and I'm afraid my man is scared to dive back into that pool. Until he does, I too will wait. It makes my chest hurt to think about that, to realize my alternatives are really no alternative at all. Walk away from the love of my life, or sacrifice my need for something more. Wow... how sad.

    one thing though. Some people never find the love I have now. They don't know the feeling of your best friend and lover in one person. The gift that having that has brought into my life maybe makes this situation ok. Liveable. It's maybe better to have it like this, than to have never felt it at all.

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