From a client (written while abroad):
“I’m a month and a half away from getting married, and every morning I wake up trying to decide if I really want to.
Why do people get married? What should I expect out of it?
I’m scared of falling out of the little imperfect love I have for him. I’m scared of not being happy. One time I’m all hopeful, all excited and cannot wait to get married, and another time I think it will lead to a lifetime of misery, and I want to run.
I keep writing the pros and cons of marriage. At the end of the list, I find it’s all about me. Then, I feel guilty and shy away from the exercise.
Do you think I should get married? Do you think I love him? I want to believe I love him. What is love anyway? I keep losing the nice emotions. I used to have these very sweet feelings for him… they’re fading… can it be out of fear?
Before you judge too harshly, think back to when you said — or contemplated — “I do.” What were you feeling? Now, be more honest with yourself than you were then! What were you really feeling?”
People get married for different reasons. Ideally, I think we get married to share life with a trusted companion, to express and receive love — and learn to do it better.
You are learning to love more perfectly. You may fall out of your “little imperfect love,” but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You will love him as well as you are able to.
You will spend a lifetime learning to love well. If you waited until you could do it perfectly, you would never practice … you would never LEARN to do it perfectly. Trust that you are learning well and practicing well.
No running away, OK? You can walk, but not out of fear! If you walk, do it because you feel you must to be true to yourself. Then, you will be at peace.
And no feeling guilty about your list of pros and cons being about you. You can’t love your fiancé any better than you love yourself, and part of loving yourself well is responding to your needs. Now, take another look at the cons and see if some of them are good for you, part of what you need that goes down like medicine.
Loving yourself well means being the best person you can be! And the best person you can be is also the best wife you can be. You don’t have to second-guess what is best for your fiancÃ©! Do what’s best for you, and trust he will be well served. If you compromise your own truth to accommodate what you THINK is best for him, you both lose!
Loving him well is demonstrated in the same way as loving yourself well — care, respect, knowledge and responding to needs out of desire. In “The Art of Loving,” Erich Fromm says that those four elements are common to all types of love, including self-love.
In a marriage, you also want those “sweet feelings,” commitment and passion — but feelings can fluctuate and, yes, fear can affect them.
I’m glad you realize the magnitude of choosing a partner! Make the best decision you can. There is no shame in falling down as you learn to love … just as there was no shame in falling down as you learned to walk.
I can’t tell you that you should or shouldn’t marry your fiancé. You knew that.
Please find joy in the learning and loving, even when they are imperfect. Love yourself as you are … and you will be able to love a husband the way he is.
And don’t forget to revisit what makes two people compatible!