Married After 10 Years of Dating — Lessons Learned on the Journey to the Altar

H​e was tall, lean, and his crown of beautiful black dreadlocks hung to the middle of his back. His skin was silky smooth resembling dark chocolate in both texture and tone. He was beautiful, and I was going to marry him. He was my kindergarten Sunday school teacher, Tyrone.

I​’ve always been in love with the idea of getting married. I was the little girl that wore her favorite blanket as a wedding gown and convinced her friends to play wedding with her. And the depressed girl who’s concerned mother thought she had been harmed at school, only to discover that this overly dramatic child was distraught over Gregory’s refusal to marry her. That was me, age 5.

Where had my infatuation with marriage come from? Perhaps I was sucked into the Disney Princess vortex like millions of other girls? Whatever had me so enamored with the idea of being a wife, made me want to be the best wife possible. This might sound sweet, but I was way too intense as a kid and I don’t know how my parents dealt with me. My wish to be a good wife led me down a hellish road of heartbreak and headaches during my teenage years through young adulthood. It wasn’t until years later that I would learn that no matter how great I tried to be, my partners would never appreciate my efforts because they were waist deep in their commitment to being terrible individuals. It took several bumps and bruises, and many years past my blanket wedding gown days, before I would meet the person I’d marry… eventually… after 10 years of dating.

A lot happens in a decade long relationship. You fall in love, make it through the ‘honeymoon phase’, experience traumatic events, and celebrate successes. Then realize your longtime partner has a few flaws. You accept that you too have a few flaws. Then ultimately you both decide to accept one another for who they are, because you like having them around. And the way they do that annoying thing isn’t that insufferable, right? You move in together and adopt pets. Celebrate promotions. Mourn losses of loved ones. And through it all the ups and downs you start realizing that you never want to be without this person. This was my lengthy journey to marriage, and I’m eternally grateful for the lessons we learned along the way.

T​here is an age-old debate of whether you should live with a person before marriage or not. This decision was once heavily influenced by religious beliefs, now current real estate prices are also a factor. For me, the decision to cohabit was the best decision I could have made for my relationship. There’s a massive difference between visiting your significant other on the weekends, and sharing a house with someone who can never ‘go home’, because they are home. Let’s just say, we learned the importance of patience, forgiveness, and acceptance during our years together. These lessons were invaluable.

I also learned that people are rude. If I had a dollar for every person who expressed concern over my then spinster status, I’d have enough money to pay my gas bill for 3 months. These conversations would go one of two ways. They would say something on the lines of, “I’d leave if he didn’t propose” — most of these people were single, or they’d take the other innocent but equally annoying approach of discussing the relationship status of a mutual acquaintance. Here’s how those conversations typically played out.

“When are you two getting married? You’ve been together a long time, right?”
“I don’t know, but we’re pretty happy where we are right now.” I reply.
“Well you know [blah blah blah] got married? They had an open bar and everything.”

They would go on about how lovely the wedding was. I’d follow up with an uninterested but polite response, because my mother raised me properly, but as soon as I spotted an exit, I’d slip through that door like blue hair grease between cornrows.

I’ve seen several relationships end in the time that we’ve been together. Through my observations, I’ve come to believe that there’s a point during every relationship when couples reach the figurative fork in the road where the question is asked, “Are we in this for real?”, but rarely are people honest with themselves. It’s hard to walk away from a relationship after you’ve invested time and energy, but if the honest answer leans towards the ‘unfulfilled’ end of the relationship spectrum, then it may be time to move on and experience new people, because marriage is not going to change this. But if the answer is yes, as for us, then be prepared to throw the petty arguments and silly drama out the window because you’ve committed to working through the hard times. To be clear, this does not make a relationship immune to such petty arguments and drama, but resolving to work through those issues before they arise is instrumental to the success and longevity of any union. We made the decision to fight for our relationship at all cost before we began planning the wedding. People think that it isn’t until after you get married that you fight for your relationship, this is incorrect. When you get married, you agree to face the world together, for better or for worse. But would you trust a person to have your back in a fight if you’ve never seen them throw a punch? Crazy things are going to happen throughout your life together, and if you can’t trust that your partner will carry their weight and yours plus the dog if you need them to, then you’re off to a rough start.

“Marriage is a full time job with no time off and no pay”, my mothers words have never been truer. If you are considering marriage I’d encourage you to prepare to work endless overtime, otherwise you’d might as well not show up to work. If more people considered what life might look like after the ceremony, perhaps the divorce rate would decrease. I’ve talked to people who say they want marriage because they love their partner and it’s the next logical step. Love is nice. But it takes more than love to keep a relationship afloat if you both want to be happy beyond the wedding day.

Although a newlywed, I think I may have discovered three keys to a successful marriage. From what I’ve learned thus far, marriage is about constantly learning how to communicate and consistently working to understand one another. Also, the ring is not magical — in all fairness I didn’t just learn that, but you’d be surprised at how many people think marriage or a baby will fix a relationship. No love, your relationship is not the exception. You must commit to your relationship daily; a ring does not govern this commitment. That’s it. There’s no relationship utopia where everything is perfect and you like each other every day. It’s unrealistic to believe that another human could live with your annoying habits and not occasionally remind you that while they love you, you are dry humping their last nerve. Being married is a choice you make every day. Make sure you’re ready for it before you jump in face first.

T​hanks for reading.

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