Today's contributor, who asked to go by "Mollie," has been a faithful follower of FPL for some time. She occasionally e-mails me thoughtful questions and sends me links to articles she thinks I would like, which I always greatly appreciate! I was very happy when she asked to contribute to the What Marriage Means to Me series, as I knew she would have an insightful and unique view. Here she shares her "Thoughts on marriage from another single lady," talking about the three components she believes make up a good Partner.
~~~Let me put this out there right away: I'm not trying to get married.
I'm not out to find a husband. But I definitely hope to find a Partner with whom I can share my life. And I do want a wedding to happen somewhere on our road together. But I see getting married as a roadstop rather than a destination in two people's journey as Partners for life. This may sound completely obvious to you, but personally, I get frustrated with all the people who focus on the event of the start of a marriage instead of everything that the long-term relationship will need to survive.
(Wait, so why does this lady capitalize "Partner?")
I've come to the conclusion that the Partner I want to share my life with has to be able to fill the three roles of lover, friend, and partner for me. How I see it is that a Partner makes up all three of those roles, whereas the component of being partner is about wanting similar things out of life and being able to help one another with the stuff that needs to get done every day that isn't particularly sexy or fun. I've known guys who I would love to have as a partner but who were missing other Partner components for me. I've also known guys who were great lovers and friends but didn't have the partner qualities that fit with me. We would have never worked out in the end. (If you come up with better, less-confusing vocabulary to distinguish Partner from partner, please comment!)
I look at couples who I view as successful. I don't know the inner workings of the relationship, but it's usually easy to see outwardly that they simply fit together. They have great admiration and respect for one another. They care about the good of the other person. They definitely seem to fit as friends, lovers, and partners. I suppose I've done a lot of lot of observing of other couples because I don't feel like I learned about successful relationships at home. My parents have been married for 40+ years--which is certainly an accomplishment!--but theirs is not a relationship I want for myself. Looking back, they were role models of partners who work together for the family but not the kind of Partners who work well as friends or lovers to each other.
I think Partnership is about service. It's about the commitment to want the good of the other person. To be there through the sucky times and the good ones. To travel together through whatever unexpected twists and turns life takes the two of you on. To make the choice to keep working on your relationship together. I think that this kind of service and commitment should be a choice that two people make together, but it doesn't start the day you get married. In my eyes, that should simply be the day that promise--that covenant--is proclaimed publicly.
As a single lady, it bothers me quite a lot when people try to tell me that I am an incomplete person without a significant other in my life. To them I say, every one of us is a complete person. There are pieces of myself that I do not get to show as a single person (such as the part of me that can show romantic love for another person), but there will also be pieces of me that I will not be able to show as a Partnered person (such as the part of me that definitely enjoys not having to take anyone else into consideration in how I spend my time). I don't think anyone gets to show their whole self at any one time. Are you the same person you are at work as at home? Are you the same with your parents as with your friends?
I truly hope that somewhere out there is a Partner for me, but I also have to do my best to accept the reality that there might not be. I don't believe finding someone to spend your life with is in the cards for everyone. Sometimes, I wish I knew why. I'm definitely not as okay with this possibility as I'd like to be, but I do my best to enjoy exactly where my life is at every day.
To me, marriage means a continuation of the journey with the lover, friend, and partner you'd most like to be stuck with for the long haul. It's a journey I hope I have the chance to travel someday.
~~~When she's not writing about Partnership for FPL, Mollie can be found sprint triathlon training, singing, and trying to be a better person to all the wonderful people in her life.