A divorced woman joins her partner to attend a party of surprisingly welcoming married couples. The experience gets her thinking about social expectations.
I can’t recall the last time I attended a gathering like the dinner party I attended this past weekend. The conversation hummed along, buoyed by the fact that most of the attendees were teachers, and they could talk about anything.
The hosts were gracious and sociable, the food was delicious, and the setting straddled elegance and informality—in my book, the perfect combination.
But most important? The selection of interesting people who mixed well and enjoyed each others’ company. That was the best part of the evening—the crackle and buzz of conversation that never skipped a beat.
All in all, it was one of the finest “date nights” I’ve had in a long time, with every necessary ingredient in place. But what struck me the next day was how long ago I had been in a room full of married couples. And felt welcome.
I knew no one at this dinner party other than the gentleman who brought me, a good man I’ve been dating long enough that we’re perceived by others as a duo.
Though he refers to me as his “girlfriend,” I still struggle with the term “boyfriend.” That isn’t a reflection of our relationship, but rather my hyper-sensitivity when it comes to language. The words seem silly to me when you’re dating at 40-something or 50-something or older.
Must Love Lead to Marriage?
That’s a word I reserve for use when appropriate. I’m comfortable with it these days and grateful for that.
The deeper one’s feelings of friendship, respect, trust, and attraction—and when those feelings are reciprocated—the more natural it is to be committed, with or without sharing a residence or signing a piece of paper.
Yet despite the number of us who are divorced (or widowed, for that matter), our culture still seeks to pair us off legally, with marriage as the ultimate destination.
But why must we marry?
Marriage, Remarriage, Expectations
I admit that I’m one of those people who tends toward “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
I’m also a woman who has experienced a bitter divorce and years of nightmarish aftermath.
I wasn’t motivated by marriage as a goal in my twenties or thirties, and I’m not motivated by marriage now. I will say, however, that when I married, I expected it would be for life.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been involved in a serious relationship since divorce, but it is the best relationship I’ve been in since… well, I don’t know when. And it is also the first time I feel the pressure—subtle and not so subtle—of the expectations of others and what they perceive as next logical steps.
But I won’t lie: the thought of marriage scares me. Or maybe it’s the thought of divorce. In either case, I don’t understand how men and women remarry so easily or so often. Personally, I think I might prefer the French system of PACS (civil unions), or even Mr. Big’s description of “you have your place, I have mine” – as the ideal living arrangement.
A Good Relationship is a Gift
There are practical advantages to marriage in this country (of course), and I won’t say I never thought about remarriage. I did, but that was when my boys were younger and I was hoping to give them more of a traditional home life.
Those days are gone. My nest is empty.
And I wonder, as I always have, why people jump to marry quickly in the first place, and just as quickly in the second place, or third…
A good relationship is a gift. It isn’t one I take lightly. And never say never, right?
For now, I’m content as things are and I’ll leave it at that. I have no need of next logical steps, but it was a remarkable experience to enjoy myself in a room full of long-married couples—a world that was vaguely familiar and oddly comforting.
This article orginally appeared on Daily Plate of Crazy.
Photo by Neil Conway.