I still remember a time when I was a bitter cynic who didn’t believe in the folklore of commitment and happily ever after. I did believe that love existed. I also believed in the concept of forever. But in my mind, the 2 were never (and could never be) related. Love was real. And so was forever. But love that would last forever was just hogwash. I had a very jaded view on love and relationships. I thought of them as temporary highs, momentary bliss that you move on from once it wears off.
How I got so jaded…
Between the ages of 14-17, I did what most teenagers did. I dated. I only had 2 boyfriends during this period and both were douchebags. Between 17-19, I went into hiatus and swore off dating until I “figured my shit out,” which at the time seemed like a wise move considering I had to make some career study choices.
When I was 19, I dated a guy who I thought was different. Wrong. He turned out to be a douche as well, who dumped me after a trip to the zoo for my birthday. (That’s right. The zoo!) When I was 20, I dated my college boyfriend who stuck around for 4 years before we realized we weren’t right for each other (I applaud him for his commitment).
Learning to date again…
I consider 24 and 25 my “stupid years.” Re-entering the dating world after a long-term relationship is like a baby deer learning how to walk. Entertaining to watch but pretty embarrassing for the deer. My friends were setting me up. My girlfriends were telling me about guys who liked me. My guy friends were hitting on me. It was a really confusing time.
I went on several first dates that never made it past the appetizers before I got the creepy vibe. Only a handful of first dates made it to the second or third dates but ended pretty quickly after that. And I had a couple of flings that were absolutely toxic. No better word to describe them, but toxic.
Also, I drank a LOT. I probably consumed more alcohol during those 24 months than all the years before.
During my stupid years, I made a lot of mistakes. I trusted the wrong people, and evidently I ended up letting myself get hurt. Because of the sheer disappointment, I had zero faith in the idea of love and commitment.
Fast-forward 3 years later…
I’m in a committed common-law-riage. And get this. I’m actually happy about it. I went from being jaded, bitter and broken to someone who’s hopeful, happy and in love. We share a home together and live our lives in harmony. We resemble everything that married couples represent minus the legal document.
So how did a girl like me end up with a life like this? I’m not really sure. Maybe the universe realized I had been emotionally shit on enough that I deserved a break. Or maybe it was just dumb luck. Either way, here I am. And I couldn’t be happier.
So why do I call it a common-law-riage?
Because it really is a marriage. Living together in a common law marriage is a true test of relationship sustainability. Can you be around his dirty laundry and smell his farts, but still find him desirable? Guys, can you watch her pop a pimple and smell her farts, but still find her sexy?
A good friend and I were talking this weekend about marriages and the pressure that society puts on us to get one of those. It seems when you’re in your late 20s and in a relationship, people expect you to get married. And heaven forbid you have a child first and then wait too long before tying the knot.
I understand that there was a time when the “proper” life order was to meet someone, get married, live together and have babies. But there was also a time when racial segregation was acceptable, when slavery was a common practice, when challenging religion was punishable by death.
If times have evolved where humanity has realized that all races should be treated equally and everyone should be free to follow whatever religion they want, why haven’t times evolved enough for us to accept that the “proper” life order isn’t right for everyone?
Personally, I think choosing to love and live with someone forever in a common law marriage without a piece of paper is a huge sign of commitment. As is, choosing to love and raise a child together without a piece of paper. To me, that screams commitment louder than a marriage certificate. Perhaps a legal marriage should be considered the cherry on top of an already committed relationship. Thoughts?