My husband and I have been together for 10 years. We have two children, a cat, and a mortgage. And from the very beginning of our relationship, I’ve been waiting for it to go wrong. That’s a full decade of mentally preparing for the inevitable.
My parents divorced when I was nine. I grew up expecting all romantic relationships to fail, and fail horribly. I never officiated over the weddings of my dolls. I never dreamed of a white veil or a line of bridesmaids in lilac. It never even occurred to me that I would get married because of how badly my parents’ marriage ended.
Then I met and fell in love with my husband. We could spend every second together and I wouldn’t get bored, and my love for him grew passionate and deep. One night, while we were lying in bed, he turned my way and quietly said, ‘Do you want to get engaged?’ My stomach was in knots — of course I was scared it would all go wrong — but I said yes immediately. If he had said it any louder or planned anything bigger, I probably would have freaked out and hidden under a bush.
I decided to get married because I really wanted to commit to him, even though the idea made me panic. Before the wedding, I kept telling myself it was a starter marriage just to quell the anxiety about the enormity of what I was going to do.
Now that we’re married, my panic rears its ugly head during every spousal tiff. My husband just sees a fight as a fight — something we’ll discuss and get over. I see it as the end of the universe. I think, ‘This is finally it! We’re incompatible! It’s all over!’ I have no benchmark for what a healthy, long-term relationship looks like, so I have to ask my friends whether it’s normal to fight, how much is acceptable, and when you know it’s time to leave. Five minutes after a recent argument over the hedges in our garden, I found myself Googling divorce attorneys. He knows that I’ve thought about leaving him and moving in with my mother instead.
I’m sure this panic does take its toll on my husband, and our marriage. His parents were married for 40 years, yet he knows how horrendously my parents’ marriage ended, so he just waits for me to calm down. Still, he used to talk about us being together for life, and now he doesn’t mention it. Maybe he doesn’t think of us being together forever now, and I wouldn’t blame him.
I try to hide my apocalyptic mentality from my two children, who are four and one. The 4-year-old regularly marries her dolls and points out future husbands on the street, so I’m hopeful that she won’t develop the same trepidations I have once she gets older.
I don’t know what to tell my daughters about marriage and commitment if they ever ask, since I don’t feel like I’ve figured it out myself yet. I want them to have a positive view of marriage, because the really crazy thing is…I like it. The concept is still overwhelming — ‘until death do us part?’ — so the idea that I could leave if I wanted to calms me. I guess I want to jump before I get pushed out. I want to leave before I get hurt. I don’t know what to do with these fears, but I have to acknowledge that they exist — and that I’m with my husband because I choose to be, every day.
Even if my search history suggests otherwise.