I used to think marriage was a trap. My dating history didn’t help.
From what I had gathered, marriage looked more like a societal expectation than an accomplishment.
I resent the Trophy Wife and Soccer Mom tropes that place married women into boxes: cook, clean, raise the kids, and serve at the whims of a distant husband.
Shiny rings on women’s fingers looked like a voluntary sign-off to a lifetime of chores and child-rearing. While surely fulfilling, perfectly respectable, and in desperate need of more recognition, this necessary and under-appreciated labor strip down all the other aspects surrounding a wife, a woman, and a marriage.
My early dating history reinforced my aversion to marriage. I shudder at the thought of spending the rest of my life with anyone from my past, especially my ex who emotionally abused me and gave me PTSD. When I finally ended that toxic relationship, I barely recognized myself. My self-esteem shattered, my self-confidence tanked, my inner light dimmed like a flickering star.
The string of guys who followed was just a cut above.
None were marriage material, and neither was I at the time.
One found a brief summertime escape amidst a quarter-life crisis. The next rebounded in time for fall only to leave me dejected when he clarified we were friends with benefits. A third offered release from years of built-up tension, fun and fleeting. Others like clouds, there one minute, gone the next.
Still, I was the common denominator: confused, lost, and lonely. None were marriage material, and neither was I at the time.
Meanwhile, I observed my peers; educated, ambitious women. They had brains, beauty, and boundaries, and most stayed single. It looked as though they held themselves to a higher standard than I had been holding for myself. I admired how they spoke and moved, so I followed their example and empowered myself to stay away from anyone who made me feel like I wasn’t good enough. I knew I deserved better.
A few months later, I moved to a new city, a perfect time to clear the slate. I became more introspective and intentional. I took myself on dates, nice dinners by myself, long walks exploring the city. I relearned how to feel comfortable in my own skin and how to find stillness with my own thoughts. I learned how to love myself and prioritize my well-being. I eliminated anything that didn’t serve me. I worked toward my goals a little every day and slowly, I built up confidence.
I made space in my life — mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical — for the right person to walk in.
Men swarmed and circled. Initially, I thought they were more forward than those in my old city, but now I believe they noticed my new, higher frequency vibe.
Thankfully for me, I started to approach dating with intention and self-awareness. I had created a vetting process by asking myself these 12 essential questions, a screenshot from my Notes app:
Screenshot by the author
I said no to everyone who came knocking until I knew I could say yes forever. By rejecting anyone who leaned toward a “no” even ever so slightly, I made space in my life — mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical — for the right person to walk in.
Within a few short months, a man indeed walked into my life who changed my mind about marriage, from an outdated contract and a limiting factor to a wholesome and exciting adventure.
When I became engaged and later married to my now-husband, many people sent in their warm congratulations, and I received them gratefully.
I let them congratulate me not only for the societal expectation or life milestone of getting married, but also and more importantly, for having arrived at a place where I loved myself enough to let love into my life.
I let them congratulate me for making room in my life to share my whole self with someone else through intention, purpose, and clarity. For having overcome and grown from past mistreatment. For saying no to anyone who disrespected my time and energy. For attracting and welcoming someone into my life who respects, cherishes, supports, and celebrates me. For accepting someone with whom I do the same.
I never considered how the growth and journey to marriage itself would be worthy of congratulations.
I now tell my partner to call me his spouse. While I’m still unlearning the images sold to me on what makes a wife, I know one thing for sure.
Marriage is an accomplishment, not for the sake of marriage, but for the personal journey one takes to allow, give, and receive healthy, sustainable, compatible love in life partnership.