On pragmatic romanticism

Dear Coquette,

I am an educated, independent 29-year-old woman in an amazing relationship. I amsatisfied with my life and proud of the choices I have made. I do not have painful emotional baggage from childhood, and my head is pretty much screwed on straight as far as I can tell.

I’ve been with this guy for a year, and it is the first adult relationship I have ever experienced. By that I mean it’s the first time I’ve ever dated someone who was not an emotionally stunted narcissist who was sowing his wild oats and living in the moment. This is a genuine, caring and intelligent human being. He treats me with respect and challenges my sensibilities. He holds me accountable, yet supports my need to grow as an individual. I trust him. The sex is amazing and I have no doubt that it will only get better. I can only hope that I offer him the same in return, and it would break my heart to find out otherwise. He is everything I stopped looking for because, for a time, I realized there is no such thing as Prince Charming. But here he is, wonderful and true. He is the jingle to my jangle. Even my dad — the hero of my life — is giving me the thumbs up. All systems are go.

This man is going to ask me to marry him, and everything feels right. He wants me and I want him right back. Except — surprise — my rational brain is attempting to repress my romantic heart. Now, I realize that I have never wanted a traditional marriage because I’ve only dated Neanderthals who could never earn, let alone sustain, the golden-ticket pleasure of my lifelong companionship, but the current problem is that I find it practically impossible to claim “forever” with this dude.

I am a realist, and, let’s be honest, only time can tell that kind of thing. Similarly, but somehow altogether differently, I believe the American Pragmatists were really cooking with fire when they laid out their whole “experience” bit. You know the one: You have to try something in order to find out the consequences.

I’m comfortable with change, I’m into taking leaps, but I fear that I will always have this nagging “you said ‘forever’ but didn’t reeeally mean it” thingamajig jamming up my cogs. I want it to be true, but I can’t predict the future. Is this, like, way easier than I think it is? I would hate to lose such an amazing human being because a lifetime of philosophy has ruined my ability to be a sucker for Hallmark holidays and antiquated social norms. 

Damn, girl. You don’t need a marriage license. You need a learner’s permit.

 You also need to quit over-thinking this. I know you’ve got a lot going on upstairs, but it’s a bit too easy for you to retreat up into the cozy confines of your well-educated head. Quit spinning on the notion of forever, because there is no such thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s in five years when one of you catches the other cheating, or if it’s in fifty when one of you dies in your sleep from old age — one day your relationship is going to end.

As brutal as that sounds, the pragmatist in you knows what I’m getting at. Nothing lasts forever, so how can you make commitments that last that long? Honestly, you can’t. Still, that’s no excuse for you not to get married. It’s just a contract, after all. No one’s saying you can’t draft your own agreement. If you’re not a sucker for antiquated norms, then why abide by them?

This is your marriage, on your terms, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, and even in sickness and in health. If the whole “until death do us part” routine is freaking you out, stick an asterisk in there. Write your own vows. Change the word ‘death’ to ‘fate.’ Make whatever promises to each other you’re willing to keep, and if the sky falls, so be it.

In the meantime, take the leap. Enjoy being in love. Say yes when he asks you to marry him. Sure, heartbreak is inevitable and tomorrow is promised to no one, but that’s no reason to talk yourself out of happiness today.

Read “The Coquette” Sundays and Wednesdays in The Daily.


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