Joanna Schroeder never thought she’d get married.
I never truly believed I’d get married.
As a little girl, I dreamed of being the beautiful woman in the ball gown that the Prince chose to dance with at the Cinderella ball.
“That one,” he’d say, pointing at me.
I would feign surprise, of course. “Who? Me? No…”
But I wouldn’t really be surprised. After all, if you’re the type of girl who gets chosen by a prince, you probably never doubted your specialness.
Just as often, I dreamed of a line-up of Princes, and getting to take my pick. Given that this was the 80s, my choices were probably Ricky Schroder, Michael Jackson (Thriller-era), the Karate Kid, and maybe Bo from Duke’s of Hazzard. And they were all in love with me.
But I never saw myself having a life with a guy. As I got older and fell in love, I fantasized about spending the night with a man — a whole night. But I always froze in terror at the idea of waking with bad breath and needing to use the bathroom. No, I thought, I’ll always live on my own. Then I could always go home before morning.
Even as an adult, I could never settle on one guy for long. When I was supposed to be getting into committed relationships, starting around age eighteen, I couldn’t be. I was a monogamy failure from early on, even though I loved being in love. I even loved the intimacy of being with just one guy.
But my eyes and my heart always wandered. I hate to say it, it makes me feel like a terrible person, but it’s true. I wasn’t looking for something better, necessarily. I was looking for someone else to remind me that I was good enough. Looking for yet another prince to point at me, to choose me, to make me valid and real and worthy.
If it sounds to you like I was a profoundly insecure young woman, you’re right. But I fooled everyone around me, including myself. I exuded confidence most of the time. I felt pretty and sexy and desirable… but only for so long. The sense of being good enough always wore off after one guy’s affirmation was no longer shiny and new, and I’d go looking for more.
I started to wonder if I could ever be married, ever have children. After marrying at 21 and divorcing before I was 24, I decided that I would never be a mother. I didn’t want to commit, I didn’t think I was stable enough in a relationship to ever make a home solid enough for kids. And mostly, I didn’t believe in life-long love.
It took a few years after my divorce to really trust a man again. I had a lot to work through before I could be a good long-term partner for somebody. Specifically, my need for external validation from guys and my tendency to develop outlandishly intense crushes needed to be addressed. And let me tell you, that was not an easy road to walk.
I wondered, after talking with friends who were in polyamorous or otherwise open relationships, whether that was who I was. I have come to believe that while being committed to a person is a choice, being poly- or monogamous is probably more of an orientation, like sexuality. Was that my issue? Did I have some sort of innate need for more than one partner? Could I really be honest and forthright with whatever partner I ended up with about my desires for other people? Would I be able to handle them being as open? Most successfully polyamorous couples suggest that rather than being a license to cheat, polyamory takes more commitment to the marriage, more honesty and two very healthy individuals.
In my late twenties, I met my husband, and he was (and still is) the most monogamous human being on the planet. He was also the absolute best partner I could have imagined for myself. Not only was he handsome (and still is), he had a truly optimistic outlook on life. He laughed easily, he thought I was a goddess, and he let me always be in charge of the music in the house or the car. He saw both my intelligence and my beauty, and made me feel I was the smartest person in the room, even though he is probably twice as intelligent as anyone I’ve ever met, myself included.
For him, it was monogamy or bust. The choice after that was easy: The best man I’d ever met vs. the great unknown, dictated by my own insecurities. That was when I fell into gratitude. I knew I had to let my gratitude for love, for the goodness of a true partner, become more important than my fear.
As committed as I thought I was to other guys in my past, I grew into real monogamy late. I’m grateful I was faced with that choice, and I’m grateful that at that one clear-eyed moment I was able to appreciate the value of the man standing in front of me, offering me real, life-long love (not to mention a family).
Once I finally accepted monogamy – not just as a rule I was being forced to live by, but as my own choice both physically and emotionally, I was finally capable of having a profoundly intimate relationship with someone, and to be grateful for what we built together. Others may be able to gain that type of intimacy in poly relationships or while dreaming of someone else, but I wasn’t.
I’m grateful for the strength of my husband, who valued himself enough to say, “This is who I am, this is what I want. Decide if you’re with me.” And I’m grateful that I finally got to a place where I could say, “Yes, I want you. Just you,” and learn to be grateful for the love that exists today, that is real, and that we built together.
Originally appeared at The Loveumentary
Photo credit: The Lovementary