But since turning 36, my mindset has completely shifted. I've actually done a lot of self-reflection on the topic over the last couple months. Not really sure what exactly brought it on. Maybe the fact that I am officially on the downhill slide to 40. Maybe because I am in a genuinely happy relationship again for the first time in a long time and honestly didn't know if I ever would be again. And then one day several weeks ago, my coworker got engaged. And it just kind of hit me... I could potentially never get married. Not because I don't want to, but because it suddenly seemed like this super foreign concept to me. When she announced it, I felt so far removed from the topic that I didn't even really know how to respond. I obviously managed to respond in the most socially acceptable way possible, which, of course, was excitement and congratulatory words of support. And I was genuinely happy for her. She had patiently waited long enough for that damn ring. But the whole situation got the hamster wheel turning, and as a result of being the over-thinker that I am and have always been, this blog post was born.
Despite the length of your A-B process, it's hard enough to get through the BEGINNING phase of dating. I have heard people say that "dating is so fun!" And I'm like....
People that are married or in long-term relationships say they miss the initial dating phase. But are they remembering those first few months? The questions and the wondering and the overthinking. Because I know I'm not the only one with these experiences. There are memes out there that support the fact that I'm not the only one who struggles with those early dating worries. Like this one:
The person who made this is my soulmate. It was probably a woman, she probably has a little bit of anxiety, and it sounds like she has had some dating experiences similar to mine based solely on this picture. And she's totes been ghosted several times. If you don't know what that means, you come from a dating era I like to call "privileged dating". Good for you.
Someone also once told me that specifically online dating is fun. Are you freaking kidding me? Then I later found out that she just swiped for her friend on the dating app, she didn't actually have to do the swiping for her own dating life. Well yeah, it's awesome fun when YOU aren't trying to find an undamaged needle in a haystack full of horse crap and garbage that's on fire. Because to me, that's the most brutal time in a relationship. Internally, of course. You aren't having blowout fights in those first few months (at least I hope not because if so, RUN. Trust me. Been there. Didn't run. Another life lesson learned by Becca. So many life lessons...)
The beginning stage of dating for me is like eating dairy. It sounds like a great idea and you're craving it and you desperately want that Blue Bell Cookie Two Step and some mac-n-cheese because in theory, it's awesome and makes your heart happy. Can't get enough of it. But it's not without risk, and for me, early dating and dairy give me similar gastrointestinal discomfort. Sure, it's great to go to dinner and cuddle and not fight and not have them fart under the blankets in the beginning. But everything else about the beginning these days is so stressful. If I could skip from date one to the moment you both admit your love for one another, that would save me so much time and stress. But I'd also have way less life lessons to blog about.
Another thing that baffles me is, how do some people and personality types find someone to marry and others don't? Almost weekly, I meet someone who is married and I try to picture their married life and how they got to their Point B. Weird, I know. I'm a freak. But it intrigues me because some of these people are so...whatever they happen to be...annoying, loud, confident, funny, negative, bipolar...that I can't help but wonder about their spouse. What made them say, "Yep, this is the one I want to spend every single day with." I know everyone has their own cup of tea and what is my cup of tea may not be someone else's cup of tea. But then there are others I come across who are NOT married and I wonder why. What's their story? Where is their person? Why is this smart, funny person single while this crazy ass narcissist over here is attached? Right?!
So then I wonder, is it something I want because that's what's "supposed to happen", the course of things because society says so? Because it seems that most of my engagements and "close calls" have been because it was just the "next step", not because they couldn't imagine life without me and vice versa. Here's a timeline of my significant failed relationships:
* My high school sweetheart was my first fiancé, but we were practically kids. We just thought that loving each other since 6th grade meant that we were meant to be forever. It was the next step. Sure, those stories happen sometimes, but it's extremely rare. Rarer than me turning down a cupcake rare. I pretty much spent my entire childhood thinking that life was set up for you on a schedule - married at 20, done having 3-4 kids before 30, grandparents at 50, live happily ever after and die at 80. Not even sure where or when this timeline developed in my head, but I truly believed it to be true until reality slapped me in the face in my early 20's. But I had been on that path with him and he was the obvious next step. But he wasn't and I wasn't and we weren't. And we're both thankful to this day that we didn't take that plunge.
* Next up is the guy who was probably the most likely candidate, the one I had a child with who never wanted to get married but then married the next girl a month after I left. Makes me chuckle now as I type this, but it was a sucker-punch to the gut 10 years ago. We were never engaged, but it was a 5-year relationship, my longest. So I had gone through this long process with him that was essentially supposed to lead to marriage, right? - fell in love, had a baby, stayed together for most of our 20's - but nothing. Through 5 years, we never completed the process. We fell in love in the first 3 months, hit our high at 6 months, then never really moved beyond that.
* Then there was the guy I dated for 4 months before we got engaged (fiancé #2). We were still in that happy, can't-get-enough-of-each-other phase and thought getting married early on would be an awesome idea. It can happen but man, that would've been disastrous. He's one big reason why my A-B got extended significantly.
* Then lastly, there was the guy I genuinely thought I'd marry, but I actually dodged the biggest, most narcissistic bullet in the universe.
So basically, I've thought on a few occasions that I was with the one I would marry. Been engaged twice, long-term a couple other times. And as I outlined above, I am thankful that those relationships didn't work out for various reasons. They weren't the right ones. Things have a way of working out for the best. Had to throw that cliché quote in there because it's true. But what was different about my A-B compared to other people's A-B's? THAT is the million dollar question. One that likely doesn't have a concrete answer.
But all of that being said, I am actually incredibly happy with my life and relationship. I can honestly say I'm the happiest almost 8 months in that I've ever been at this stage. He's all kinds of great and I feel lucky to have found this needle in that haystack. We aren't even remotely close to any engagement or marriage talk. Nope. But will it get to that point? History says no. But what's that other cliché quote? Trust the process? Yeah, that. That's what I'm trying to do. Although trust isn't my strongest quality.
There is a meme that says something along the lines of "I'll get married when a man makes me as happy as queso". And as funny as that may be (and actually kinda true), I'll get married when I feel like I'm just as special and beautiful to them and adored by them as they are to me and by me BEYOND the honeymoon phase of dating. And that takes time. Mutuality is key. Because why wake up at 50 and either look over at the empty space in your bed because you ended up in divorce or look over at your snoring spouse that you resent because you feel like you care more and do more than (s)he does? I've seen that happen so often, so the silver lining of being my 36 year old unmarried self is that I've actually had a lot of extra time to learn from other people's marriage woes. Sorry guys, but thanks I guess?
But I do think the world is changing and with that comes major changes in the way we handle relationships. The dating world has changed drastically since my grandparents met organically, fell in love, and got married. Heck, even since my sisters got married. Online dating is the #1 way to meet people and despite the cheesy commercials that make you want to vomit in your mouth while you sit at home eating ice cream in your underwear on a Friday night, it's not all fun and games. So if you are currently single and looking, or in the early awkward phase of dating, or going through a divorce or yet another dating breakup in your 30's or 40's, just know that you aren't alone. And you're not "too old" to start over or get married. And you're not "damaged". I mean, you could be but everyone is in some way. And even though your 6 year old self watched Mannequin in 1987 and developed unrealistic expectations of love and marriage and timelines and A-B processes, there's still time. Marriage is not required in order to be "normal" or happy. You create your own happiness with who you choose to have in your circle and who you choose to love.