If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
William Stafford, “A Ritual to Read to Each Other”
This weekend I was thinking of marriage proposals and all of the baggage surrounding them. It is such a big deal right? You need everything to be just right in order to really show that special someone in your life that you are serious. Except it doesn’t always work that way. While Hollywood and Harlequin bombard us with heteronormative expectations, most relationships just don’t look the way we see them portrayed in fiction (or reality television).
But there are real stories out there like “Tobhi and Dan’s Imperfect Proposal” by radio producer Kate Montague that feel much more real. I fell in love with the messiness and nuance presented in this piece.
When Tobhi met Dan it was love at first sight, and before too long there was talk of getting engaged. Only that’s when the trouble started. This is the story of one Australian couple’s competing expectations of the perfect proposal and how their differences threatened to unravel all that they had – a true story of love and survival.
I am enchanted by this endearing story. It is so real. Even from the very beginning, the couple’s relationship starts with the collapse of the rules that we live by. Tobhi is driving when she sees a man walking, and she is overcome with the need to offer a lift to this complete stranger. This is a story that doesn’t subscribe to gender norms. Tobhi talks about how she was always proposing to Dan in the moments that just felt right. Beautiful days or moonlight evenings. The times that she felt they were closest as a couple. Dan would joke about needing Tobhi to put in more effort. When he decides that he wants to get married he begins to plan a proposal with all of the accouterments: candles, chauffeur, a romantic boutique hotel. However, in trying to demonstrate his love he forgets the unique bond and relationship they have as a couple and in doing so he temporarily forgets what made their relationship work for them.
Their story makes you think about an issue a lot of couples face. I can really relate to a proposal illuminating something in a relationship. While I’ve never been formally engaged, I did date a man who used to ask me to marry him all the time. Constantly. He would try to bribe me with saying he would pay off my student loans, or tell me I wouldn’t have to work–I could just stay at home. Instead of helping me to feel loved, these proposals made me aware of how different a woman I was than the one he wanted to marry. I knew that marrying him would have meant making us both unhappy because he was after an idea of me rather than the real person.
These stories we see on television or read in books are intended to provide us with a flight-of-fancy and a suspension of disbelief. The trouble is we forget to turn our reality back on sometimes and in wanting something because it is an ideal we let the patterns that other people make for us prevail. When Tohbi and Dan strayed from what made them happy to what was supposed to make them happy, they inadvertently put a strain on their relationship. A good reminder that in order to be happy with one another, we need to keep focus on what it is that made us fall in love to begin with.
Photo Credit: Flickr