On Remaining Present in Relationships

couple-holding-hands-picnic-bench-lincoln-park Photo: Alana Bagladi

He and I lay next to each other under my yellow comforter. My cat is laying on the edge of the bed sleeping. Everything feels soft and tender. I put my hand on his cheek and kiss his big nose that he’s insecure about but I love. I love him and everything is great. I feel safe like everything I have ever worried about no longer matters and every fear I have in life can never touch me. But I don’t want to marry him.

“If you’re not dating to marry, what are you doing?” asks one of my friends. She’s soon to be engaged and I’m happy for her because that’s what she wants. But it’s not what I want, at least not right now.

Yet, I worried about this for so long. I let that question haunt me for months and nearly tear my relationship apart because I didn’t know how to be present and stop worrying about the future. I’ve been dating my boyfriend for a year now. It’s the healthiest relationship I have ever been in. He’s not jealous of me like my past flings were, nor is he possessive or toxic. His love is the softest thing I have ever known and it’s with him that I’ve gotten to really know myself as a person and a lover. But I don’t want to marry him and he doesn’t want to marry me.

When I realized I didn’t want to marry him, I felt like I was wasting both of our time. I analyzed the shit out of my priorities and thought I was making a mistake for not having him further up on my list. I started to feel like a bad girlfriend for not wanting to be with him every day. I see him a few times a week, the rest of my week is dedicated to school, work and whatever the hell else I want to do with my time. I love it this way. So does he.

But when I started letting my friend’s question seep into my mind every day, I started to hate how things were. I didn’t like how much time we spent apart. I started to make myself notice more of his flaws and enhanced some of my own. I regularly picked fights and distanced myself. All of these things were done in hopes that he’d break up with me because I was too afraid of telling him what was really going on. How was I going to explain all of this without seeming like I didn’t love him? How was I going to explain all of this to him without sounding like I was thinking too far ahead? I wasn’t. The relationship, as great and happy as it made me right now, would disintegrate and he and I would never see each other again.

But one day, we finally talked about what was going on.

We sat in one of the tables in Block 37. I explained to him that I was feeling like everything was a waste of time because I didn’t want to get married. He looked at me and said “I don’t want to get married either. Why are you thinking of marriage?” I felt relieved. He also explained to me that I didn’t need to worry so much about the future if the present was making me happy. He was right.

I wish I could say that this conversation solved my relationship anxiety or my anxiety in general, but it didn’t. After that conversation, we started to get more serious but that fucking question still followed me everywhere. I’d watch movies and compare the very unrealistic love stories to my own love life. I still felt like I was falling behind by not thinking of marriage or getting engaged. But I have gotten better at remaining present in my relationship. I don’t let the anxious thoughts overtake my happiness anymore, and when they do (because they still do), he’s there to remind me to remain grounded.

I go back to the memory of us laying next to each other under my yellow comforter with my cat laying on the edge of the bed. He puts his hand on my cheek and kisses the birthmarks on my face that I have always been insecure about. His love is the most stable thing I have ever known. I don’t want to marry him — but I’m happy right now, and that’s all that matters.