Love

Why I Totally Regret Proposing To My Husband

Photo: Sarah Cottrell
Woman putting her head on shoulder of man sitting next to her

Growing up, there was no male figure in my house. Not to get all Freudian here, but being raised by a bunch of second-wave feminists cemented some rather robust views on relationships and marriage for me.

By the time I reached adulthood, I knew two things, I would never marry unless I had kids, and divorce would never be an option.

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My mother had a particularly nasty divorce when I was very young and I vowed to never repeat her history. It was all or nothing for me.

My husband and I have been a couple for more than a decade and married for five of those years. We did everything against the grain of mainstream norms.

Instead of renting an apartment to learn how to live together, we jumped straight into a mortgage. Parenthood fell into our laps after we decided to stop taking birth control, although we weren't actively trying to get pregnant.

When our first child was a year and a half, I decided it was high time we three shared a last name. So, I proposed.

And ever since, I regret proposing to my husband.

One night, after I had plenty of wine to work up the nerve, I laid out a case for sharing the last name: for financial security, for wanting to have an anniversary because up until that moment we had what we called a "date-anniversary" since we figured anniversaries were a thing that only married couples celebrated, and we were in that weird place between dating and death but not legally married.

When he said yes, I felt a short-lived surge of excitement for planning a wedding and honeymoon.

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I'd wear a strapless gown, we'd write our vows, and I'd toss a bouquet of lovely herbs and wildflowers I grew myself. We'd sail to a small island off the coast of Maine and camp for a week while living off of wine and sex and cold-cut sandwiches.

So romantic. So divorced from reality.

The planning was quickly interrupted by the demands of parenthood and the responsibility of homeownership.

I could afford the fancy buffet dinner or buy a new water heater. We could rent a sailboat for the honeymoon or have the brakes in the car replaced. But I couldn't do both.

So with what little romantic leanings we had left in this plan to wed, we eloped on a quiet winter afternoon in our dining room.

We didn't exchange rings. We didn't get gussied up in our finest attire. Our friend who was mildly drunk and recovering from a divorce took fewer than a dozen blurry pictures. During the perfunctory ceremony, our toddler had a diaper blowout and then our dog ran off into the woods. 

Life had interrupted this inexpensive yet convenient nuptial.

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When I reflect on how it came to be that my title changed from Ms. To Mrs., I can't help but feel regret.

Sure, the events that unfolded are comical at best (and maybe a little sad at worst), but my husband and I have a strong marriage, and shouldn't that be the thing that I focus my heart on? Isn't our solid relationship the part of this story that matters the most?

And yet, if I had to do it all over again, I would've waited for him to propose.

I wouldn't have offered strict and unromantic views on why being a strong feminist was more important than a diamond ring and a romantic story.

Because I can still be a feminist and want that ivory A-line dress with the beautiful pearl buttons down the back.

I've dropped hints about a possible renewal of our vows in the future, but I won't jump the gun this time. I'll wait for him to get down on one knee like I should have the first time.

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Sarah Cottrell is a writer and author whose essays have been published in the Washington Post, VICE, Bangor Daily News, The Cut, REAL Simple, Parents Magazine, and more. 

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