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.