Engaged & Confused: Overcoming My Fear Of Marriage

engaged
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Love, Self

I had always been sure I wanted to get married, and the longer I dated Dean, the more sure I was that he was the right one for me. That is...until I got engaged

Dean's proposal wasn't a surprise. I was too nosey to not know it was happening, and I enthusiastically said yes the moment he asked. However, once it happened (in a sweet and thoughtful way, I should add), I began to feel these nagging questions eating away at me: Did I really want to be married? Would we be any good at it?

I love Dean, but in the bright light of wedding planning I found myself picking him apart. Every minor misstep seemed like a warning sign urging me to think twice. When he got my coffee order wrong, I accused him of never listening to me; when he was running late the night we had dinner plans with my friends, I screamed that he didn't value my time. He usually fell asleep before me and he woke up early, which I used as an example of our lives being out of sync. Everyday things that never mattered before were suddenly turning into major crises. 

The nagging doubt I was feeling was also being fed by external sources. Two of my close friends had recently divorced their husbands, and my best friend at work was finalizing her split at the same time as I was deep in the throes of planning my union. Side by side, we would be on the telephone: me with the caterers, her with her attorney. On their good days, my newly single friends were excited for me and Dean, but on their bad days they were cautiously critical of the institution of marriage. They had their horror stories and they didn't always filter them for my benefit.

It seemed as if everyone—my friends, the characters in my book club book (Jane Green's Beach House) to newsmakers (John Edwards, Mel Gibson, David Letterman, and um, Tiger!) —was having affairs or leaving their spouses.

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I watched eHarmony.com commercials and wondered how I could know that we were meant to be together if we were never paired by experts based on the nine dimensions of compatibility. What if we were horribly, dreadfully mismatched? Shouldn't I need to pass a test or write an essay to prove that I was up for the challenge of marriage? Shouldn't it be harder than this to commit my life to someone? 

I spun myself up more than a dozen times weighing all the pros and cons (in an Excel spreadsheet, no less) and fretting over the unknowns. It ultimately took a short vacation and a few bottles of wine for me to realize that I am not my friends. Their relationships are not mine, and their fears, their fights, and their fractured relationships have helped me see my and Dean's strengths.

Like so many people, we have our differences: he loves seafood, I'm allergic; I love cats, he's allergic. But thanks to nasal spray and air filters, he now lives with my cats, and when I cave into his craving for sushi, he takes me to a place that has great chicken dishes. These are small things, and they can certainly get lost in the day-to-day rush, but when I look at everything that makes us work, from our shared desire to have one child to our favorite vacation destination, it's not one big thing that makes Dean the One; it's a thousand little things that add up to a whole lot.

As one of my girl friends put it, when I asked her why she thought Dean and I were so good together, "I like that you're always you with him. Dean loves you for you. The only difference is that with him, you are a happier, kinder version of yourself."

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As hard as it may be in this day and age of Facebook affairs and celebrity annulments, I also have to remind myself of all the positive marriages I have seen. If you put down the gossip rags and spend five minutes not trying to find reasons to doubt marriage, you'll see solid couples that take it one day at a time, quietly and consistently striving to make their relationships work.

I know that I don't need marriage but I do want it. I don't need a husband to make me happy or fulfill me, but I feel fortunate to have someone in my life who is committed to me and wants to take the leap. I have my friends to thank for teaching me that I can't put our relationship on cruise control after the big day and hope for the best. I know that I am not guaranteed a happily ever after, but I am willing to work with him on one.

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