I mostly remember rivers of snot pouring down my face, coupled with the kind of headache only racking sobs of despair can cause, from the night my boyfriend confessed he didn’t ever want to get married.
The truth had spilled out of him like a guilty secret. Vomited onto the pub table where it lay until we couldn’t face the stench anymore and walked home in silence. We were more than five years into our relationship, with intertwined lives, families and personalities.
We were perfectly happy, with shared sense of humour, love of Nigella's chocolate Guinness cake and hatred of the phrase "nature of the beast." I knew he was in no hurry down the aisle; we'd had the occasional spat about the point of marriage, the waste of money and how boring he finds other people's nuptials. But we'd also imagined marrying in London, wondered whether our folks would run scared from a metal cover band and dreamed of spending a honeymoon in the Greek Islands.
I'd definitely ignored some warning signs, but it didn't make hearing the words any less painful. For me, getting married is an absolute deal-breaker. I could try to forge ahead without it, but I know I’d grow to resent the compromise.
I wanted what I’ve already been planning for years. I needed that day when we committed to each other officially before going forth and fighting tooth and nail to make it work.
I’m not unrealistic about the effort that goes into a marriage, I’ve seen my parents work hard to stay on the same page and make each other happy for 35 years. Marriages don’t just happen: they are created. If we are going to last decades, we need to be able to discuss, deconstruct and even argue over the big stuff, not just my inability to hang a wet towel.
After a wasted night of trying to belittle each other’s standpoints, and the shit-scary realisation that this could be the end, my other half told me he didn’t need marriage, but that if it meant keeping us together, he wanted it.
“As if I’d want to walk down the aisle toward someone who doesn’t want to be there!” I raged. “I’ll do it for you” is hardly "Will you be my wife?"
But then I realised that what I was being offered was so much more appealing than just a wedding. The nerves, sickness and passion of young love lasts one year, 10 years maybe. But here was someone proving he is capable of doing the things needed for a long relationship -- compromising, trying to make me happy, putting my needs before his. I just needed to do the same.
There’s no such thing as a fairytale. We’d all love to be swept off our feet. But what does a strong desire to have a wedding mean for the future? It’s just cake and dancing, forming the union, throwing the party and doing the easy bit.
It’s not proof you can take the next 50 years of muddy, painful steps alongside the good times. When the going gets tough, I want someone I know I can have open, honest, difficult conversations with, to find a future that works for both of us.
My decision to stick with someone who wants different things to me has made our relationship stronger. We’ve crossed the rivers of snot and know we can battle out a solution to one of the trickiest problems we’ve ever faced.
Some would say 28 is too young to give up on the dream. But I say that not one relationship I know is perfect, but this one feels stronger for each and every battle we overcome.