Just a Piece of Paper, Or Is It?

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

Another objection I had to overcome had to do with the legal side of things. It’s a product of being jaded by the past, I fully admit, but it needed to be addressed in order to move forward.

Contract application and pen

image via stock.xchng | photography by EyeLens

“It’s just a piece of paper, what will it change?”

Well, if you read my earlier experiences, it changed a lot (and not in a good way). But even if we’re not talking Stepford-switch-level of change, things are going to change once we’re officially man and wife.

For one thing, we won’t have to correct people who assume that we’re married. After all, we’re in our 30s and 40s, are happy together, considerate of one another and share a home. We’re married, right? Soon we’ll be able to say “of course!”

It also makes things easier from a legal standpoint. A very non-romantic reality is that not all states recognize long-term relationships that aren’t legally sanctioned. This can prove troublesome if something happens to one person and decisions need to made or you just want to visit them in the hospital! Billing issues on the utilities? A spouse has more pull than a roommate or just plain girlfriend. It’s boring, and annoying, but it’s true.

Another thing I was fond of saying for all those years I was convinced I’d never remarry (never say never, right?) was that marriage represented a legal contract that obligated me to be in a relationship. It was far more special that I chose to be there every day, right? Yes and no. There’s something to be said about a sense of security, and that’s–I suppose–is the main thing that the marriage certificate represents.

Also, a marriage certificate represents expectations, and expectations are dangerous things in relationships (or can be). Expectations had gotten me into trouble in the past: painting a rosy future and then being disappointed when it didn’t come true. Thing is, we expect our partners to just know what we want. And while I do actually believe in metal telepathy (but not that everyone who claims to have it really does–I’m not that gullible), most of us aren’t marrying mind readers.

Having finally grokked this concept, I approached the relationship with Mr. Trip on a very one day at a time basis. I did my darnedest not to look ahead beyond the next weekend together or the next phone call. And because I didn’t spend my free time dreaming up “one day” scenarios, I think we’ve been much happier for it and I really do think that’s why this relationship was different from all the rest. I placed no expectations on him from one moment to the next so he never had the opportunity to disappoint me. Over time, though, we’ve had to start expecting things (like we each pay our bills, now that we’re living together, that sort of thing) but they are all stated expectations that both parties agree upon, which also lessens the potential for disappointment.

It’s not that we’re finally starting our lives together–nope, we’ve been there for a few years, now–it’s that we’re taking the next step. The step where it’s no longer a weird if-you-want-to-then-so-do-I sort of feeling when it’s time to renew the lease or sign a contract or make plans for a year or more down the road.  It’s how we relate to each other a little differently, it’s a tangible sign, a public declaration, that we’re in this together, not just for now.

What does the marriage certificate represent to you?