When my husband Michael and I were in our first year of dating he brought up the subject of marriage. My reaction was quick and succinct: “I have an allergy to marriage so please don’t bring it up again.” Luckily for the both of us, he listened to that advice and we proceeded onward while the pink elephant in the room took a low profile for another year. Then it was me who said, “Hey let’s talk about marriage now.” It’s not that I was ready to marry him. It would actually be another 6 years before we made that step. Plus we enjoyed a very long engagement of 3 years and lots of discussions of what marriage meant and how we wanted to make it our own expression of conscious union.
We both had the experience of marriage (to other people first) and so I didn’t have that I need to get married before I die thing that most women do. Instead, my reluctance had to do with the institution of marriage itself. I needed to know that whatever this thing was that we were saying yes to wouldn’t blow us up in the process. That’s what it felt like when I was just 20 years old and got married to a man for all the wrong reasons.
In that first marriage, my answer to the question “Will You Marry Me?” was not a joyful yes. Instead, it was more like a silent Sure, I guess. I was totally unprepared to say No, or even pay attention to the in-between place that is the journey to No or Yes. I sometimes think I should teach a class to women and girls on saying No. I’m not so sure our society gives girls this knowledge or permission. Being nice and saying Yes means you might marry the wrong man, take the wrong job or even worse, say yes to a predator because he knows you don’t know how to say NO.
I believe There Is a Place that exists in the in-between and we need to begin to learn to say Yes to that place inside. It’s not even in the Maybe category. It’s a place of deep not-knowing what it is we’re even being asked. Or it’s a place of concepts and Disney fairy tales that have nothing to do with what the inner self knows it needs. It’s a place of listening to the body, the heart and the intuition that we cultivate when we hang out and just listen.
When I was 16 years old, my friends and I were boy crazy. I was pretty much without a boyfriend (I was very shy) and I remember making a decision that I would wait to get married till I was 27. Where that number came from, I don’t know. It may have been arbitrary but it may have indeed been a knowing inside (an intuition) that until that age I’d be unable to really say yes or no to a man without ignoring my needs in the process.
When I ask couples how they met or what attracted them, I observe both their words chosen and their facial expressions. When I see flat descriptions and the absence of a real story that stirs them (or me) I have to wonder if the Sure, I Guess was the reason they stayed together. If that’s the case, my job gets decidedly murky. Am I there to help them increase their connection, or was there a connection in the first place?
When my husband and I finally did decide on a wedding date our connection was stronger than any I’d experienced with another human being. I like to think our wedding day (and our relationship) provided a portal for our friends to step into the possibility of getting to a clear Yes. I hope we conveyed to our community that communicating our in-between places, and being vulnerable enough to do it, helped us move closer to ourselves while in relationship to each other. I think that’s a big goal of relationship: to explore the space between what is right for me, and what is right for the relationship.
May we all explore the murky, Not Sure YET, In-Between places as they arise. May we give ourselves and our beloved permission to choose again even when it means revising what’s already been agreed on because the in-between needs its say. When I do this for myself, getting to a clear Yes or No makes either answer so much more valuable and true.