Processing hetero-normative, non-offbeat relationship diagram

Guest post by Lacandona

This week I finally figured out that I have been experiencing some unexpected emotions as my beau and I have been going through wedding preparation. It's baffling — I'm building a life with a brilliant, compassionate, and beautiful man, my business is going well, and I'm healthier than ever. So why am I so bummed most the time?

I've finally figured out that these feelings are not-so-uncommon as folks deal with expectations of what engaged/married life “should be like” (i.e. the normative, non-offbeat relationship diagram). I'm not going to go into the details of my past relationships (or talk about fluid sexuality, gender dichotomy, or identity politics) except to say that I am just as queer as I always have been, but my current partnership appears totally hetero to an innocent bystander while past relationships have not. This has subtly affected my expectations of what a relationship looks like.

After so many years of (outwardly) queer relationships I felt like I'd taken that “what a relationship should look like” diagram that had been ingrained in me since the minute I first opened my eyes, crumbled it up, and threw it out the window during a really fun roadtrip when I drove far far away from cultural standards, expectations, and parental control.

Well, that diagram is ubiquitous. When you've cut out these essential parts of the diagram by smudging the idea of gender dichotomy or what role a parent should play in your relationship (dad takes male partner shooting vs. male partner is a femme-ish trans person who just doesn't want to do that even if he had the chance), it is much easier not to follow that diagram. My partner and I have already talked through some of the less normative ways we want to live our lives together, but a little part of me still expects jewelry and roses from him even though I couldn't care less about impractical gifts. My dad has always given my mom jewelry and roses and that's the model I know.

Expectations based on that irrelevant relationship diagram are just one aspect of the feelings that are leaving me feeling less than totally stoked all the time. Maybe the most important thing I hadn't thought about before last week was the fact that while you are engaged, you are grieving for a life you're leaving behind.

Since my partner and I began talking about committing to each other for the long haul (very early in our relationship!), I started to look back on my single life. I am a do-er… If I had a few days off of work I threw some blankets and my dog into my waste oil powered diesel and drove from Ohio to Texas to visit a friend on the spur of the moment. I bought my first house at twenty-two and would decide to paint or take out a closet one weekend and just do it. I imagine a lot of offbeat brides led lives of willful independence before their partner and the associated necessary tandem decision-making came on the scene.

While my partner brings a lot of sensibility and stability to my life, I felt totally hobbled, boring and domesticated when I thought back to the times when I only had myself to answer to. A lot of my sad feelings have to do with missing the life I led before. We got a home together last fall, and when we moved in together I imagined it would be all romance and wonderfulness and tons of smooching! However, the first few months were rocky, with blowouts, high drama, and less smooching than before. It certainly wasn't 100% bad, but it was stressful.

However! After taking care of a house for myself and a handful of roommates for six years, it feels awesome to hear the lawn being mowed by someone who is not me! And I'm not the only one emptying the dehumidifier in the basement and putting more insulation in the attic. And someone is there to cook dinner for me when I'm not feeling well and walk the dogs when I don't have time. Oh, and I get to spend my nights having brilliant conversations with my best friend and wake up next to him in the morning.

It's been helpful to keep an eye on the tradeoffs and think about the wonderful things that are happening in this life we're building together. I'm also glad to be experiencing the full spectrum of emotions, and okay with not feeling total bliss at all times because I get to build a beautiful life with a fantastic person. I have to leave space to grieve for my old way of life and independence before I can enjoy all of the benefits that interdependence brings.

Comments on Processing hetero-normative, non-offbeat relationship diagram

  1. This is a GREAT post. You totally just made sense of so many things going on in my head. I’ve been married for two weeks and couldn’t figure out why I feel so melancholy, but I see now that it is me feeling the veil of mainstream relationship expectations on me. I like doing things alone and I have realized I’m not especially romantic.

    I feel alot better having read this. And diagrams ROCK!

  2. I think the grieving process for one’s former life is something a LOT of spouses-to-be go through, and is something that’s not allowed to be spoken of (by straight women) or that gets spoken of badly (the stereotypical strippers-and-beer straight male bachelor party).

    I realized a couple of months before my wedding that it was REALLY IMPORTANT to acknowledge that I was feeling that way, that I was indeed making a set of trade-offs in my life, and that it was okay to feel that and move on. I did give away a large measure of my independence when I chose to be partnered with my husband, but I consider that what I got in return was worthwhile. And it was a big change to my own view of my identity. I wish we could all talk about those things more widely and openly without getting scandalized faces.

  3. “While my partner brings a lot of sensibility and stability to my life, I felt totally hobbled, boring and domesticated when I thought back to the times when I only had myself to answer to.”

    And this is why I want to scream at my fiance every time he tries to give me input on something. I CAN TOO PAINT THE HALLWAY PINK YOU CAN’T STOP ME.

  4. I understand what she means completely. My fears are a bit different though. I know that I can take care of myself through thick and thin, and always come out on top—I see myself as a Phoenix. I do not know what the future will hold for us together. What if we begin to have children and are still stuck in our very, very small cottage because we can’t sell it. What if we become homeless? What if I am making the wrong decision? What if I am choosing the wrong life? What if?

    It is very uncomfortable because my partner does not have the same fears as me. He is excited. When I bring up my cold-feet it always gets weird. But I do not understand how he CANT have cold feet. Getting married is such a big decision. I love Josh and he and I are partners. What I have always wanted— a real live life partner. But that doesn’t comfort my fear of what I do not know. It is the closed door that I am about to walk through that scares me: the door that I have been waiting for my whole life. Now I must wonder, what in the hell is on the other side?

  5. Thank you thank you thank you.

    Before moving in with my husband-to-be, I lived with my sister, and we are super close and had marvelous adventures together. Before that, I lived alone and did whatever I goddamned pleased. I cooked hashbrowns at 2 a.m., had friends over to celebrate equinox, stayed up all night trying on outfits for the coming week…

    I also seriously entertained ideas of moving out of the city, state and country.

    I love my fiance. I love how we’re becoming grownups together. But I would definitely be lying if I said the loss of the freedom to do all those things without consulting someone else wasn’t something I’m mourning right now.

    I’m gonna be alright, better than alright. I’m going to have a great life and now I’ve got someone to take care of me. This is all part of being an adult… but I think it’s important to say a real goodbye to those times, that life, and just know that at least I’ll always have the memories.

  6. It needs to be said again… THANK YOU. I’ve been having “cold feet”. Not questioning my decision to get married ( three months..) but missing my old ways. Just up and leaving town, driving three towns away in the middle of the night just to drive back before dawn. Pool at random bars with random strangers. Having my friends over to dye our hair.

    My partner is everything I’ve ever wanted, even merging into that “perfect” word I never use. He understands me, supports me, and loves me, FOR ME. I’ve never had that before. I couldn’t understand why I was having these mourning feelings about my past in relation to an unknown future. Making matter worse was the fact that my past, while exciting and adventurous wasn’t always the healthiest. So why morn the rough waters behind while sailing into clear skies?

    Every time I brought it up to anyone I was either told “Well.. maybe you should just put the wedding off then”, Which I don’t want to do, or “Maybe you’re just not the marrying kind…” which would be fine, if I was! Or the lovely bitter reply “Good! Never get married, it ruined my life!”. I felt none of those things so I ended up feeling guilty.

    Thank you for making me feel like I’m not alone 🙂

  7. i wanted to acknowledge my feelings too, is hard for others to understand as we have been living together for 8 years and have a 3 year old son together, so why am i having anxieties? i think it’s giving up my last link to singledom, my last name i’m 37 and had a fantastic time being single so why is it so hard to change from Miss B to Mrs H in 3 months? OH just doesn’t understand because this is his first real relationship so he has no single life to mourn.
    But thanks for the opportunity to vent, feeling better already

  8. Maybe I’m missing something but why can’t you do all those things when you’re married?

    The month after moving in with my boyfriend I flew 6,000 miles to go to a gig without him. In a month he’s going to a music festival without me because his friends randomly bought him a ticket. We’re also talking about going to a festival together next year but with him in a hotel and me camping because he hates camping and I hate missing out on all the stuff that happens in the campsite.

    I wouldn’t say my life now is exactly the same as when I was single, but I don’t feel like I can’t do any of the things I did before. I’m more likely to do them with him, but if that doesn’t work for whatever reason it’s not a problem.

    • It’s definitely not that you CAN’T. I guess, at least for me, it’s being accountable to someone else. This could also be said for my dogs! I can’t just up and leave town without making reservations for them at a boarding facility.

    • I read this post when I first started to read OBB (approx 2 years ago) and again just now (7 months away from w-day). Last time I didn’t understand alot of this post (including what gender-normative meant) but after reading tons of OBB posts and thinking time, I get it.
      For me, my identity is OK. What I feel = what people expect, mostly. Enough that I don’t have a fight on my hands everyday.
      I’m a girl marrying a guy, we’re from nearly the same race and culture (the UK is not as united as you might think) but we’re white which is all others care about. He’s a year older, I’ll probably give up my job if we have kids and I’m taking his name.
      However, we’re equals. We’re in a partnership, he’s my best friend and like friends we have a lot in common which is great! What sucks are the bits where we’re dissimilar, money, friends and family, risk taking, shopping… Now I’m told I should just make him do what I want, and if I fuck up he’ll save my ass. I’m the woman, I know best. He’s THE MAN (part superhero, part goofball). But I don’t and has HUGE unmanly weaknesses, which means I’m the superhero usually. We both make mistakes, we save each other from those mistakes, as a team.
      It’s been hard getting over those ingrained, cultural expectations but we’re doing it, one firefight at the time and we’re happier for it.

    • I LOVE this video. The first time I came across it, I watched it five times in a row. Oh, Dan Savage. You are a hilarious bearer of great truths.

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