Jon and I dated for 5 years before we got engaged, but it took less than a year before people started asking when we were going to get married. At that point, I was barely finishing my junior year of college and still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I didn't even know much about who I was going to be, much less who we were going to be as a couple. I wasn't old by any means, but as the years ticked by, I felt a lot of pressure from society to “take the next step.”
Getting engaged was something I actively battled for what felt like forever. I was really happy with our relationship as it was, and I knew that there were all kinds of changes going on in both of our lives that could put a strain on that relationship. I simply wasn't ready to be anything more than a girlfriend because I knew that there were a lot of things I had to learn about myself before working someone else into the picture. At one point, after someone in my graduate program got engaged, I put a moratorium on Jon even thinking about proposing. I have no idea if it was even on his mind at the time, but I wanted to be very clear that I was not ready for that kind of craziness–at least not until grad school was over.
So flash forward to present. One of the students I work with recently asked me the million-dollar question about my recent change of relationship status: “So how did you know?”
This very answer is something I’ve had a hard time explaining to the many people who, just after I got engaged, were like “Congrats, but huh?! I thought you were in no hurry to get married!” There’s no way to simplify something like that, so when it comes up, I usually just say something awkward like, “I know, right? Surprise!”
Which probably just makes me look like an idiot.
I’ve tried many different ways of articulating what happened the day that Jon proposed. What changed in that moment? Did anything? Had I already decided before that point? My oh-so-eloquent answers to those questions go something like this: “Probably nothing, but also everything; I don’t know; and maybe, but I’m not sure.”
The best blog post I’ve seen on the subject is this one by Rachel, who had been with her fiancee for half their lifetime (they met at age 12) before they got engaged. She explains that “In a nutshell—I wasn’t ready to get married, and then I was.”
And that’s exactly it: I wasn’t ready to get married, and then I was. I can’t pinpoint a specific incident that acted as a catalyst for my transition—although I can recall plenty of moments that demonstrated the strength of Jon’s commitment to me despite the absence of legal proof—but my epiphany was just as clear as Rachel's. As she puts it:
When I realized that marrying Dustin was what I wanted, it felt amazing. It wasn’t about being practical, it wasn’t about making people feel better about our relationship, it wasn’t about the wedding, it wasn’t about wanting to be married in general. It was about wanting, quite viscerally, to be married to this specific person. It was a choice I made with complete free will and with no rational reason and that felt liberating.
And when Jon proposed, that was exactly it for me. I’d spent five years thinking and envisioning and pondering the practical and emotional aspects of marriage on all levels. I’d weighed all the options and considered every consequence. I’d looked at the models of marriage/relationships of everyone I know. Yet in the end, the decision didn’t take any thought at all. Through the cloud of practicality and logic, saying “yes” was crystal clear. And so, for lack of any better explanation, I leave you with this quote:
“The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating – in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.” ~ Anne Morriss
So with a simple “yes,” I’ve removed a barrier. I’ve made a commitment that is far more freeing than I could have imagined, and now there’s nothing left to ponder but how transformative it is–whether after a few months or 5 years–to start a whole new life with someone you love.