The Hook Up: 6-22-2011

Dear Anna, I’ve been with my girlfriend just shy of three years, and I love her dearly. We’re going strong and, luckily we do not have many problems in our relationship outside of the everyday nit picky stuff. There isn’t anything wrong with our relationship. My worry is that I’m not sure I ever want to get married again.

I was married for a year to my first (same-sex partner) and I knew at the time that we weren’t meant to be, but I did go through with it for all of the wrong reasons. Of course, a year later it ended tremendously ugly and left a sour taste in my mouth.

My girl knows I’m not ready for the next step anytime soon but I’m fully committed to her and our relationship. She’s made some “joking” remarks in the past year or more, but when we seriously talk about it, she says she’s not ready either. I 80 percent believe her, but if I were to ask today, I know she would say yes. If a friend asks about it, I immediately say “Hell no!” I can’t answer with certainty whether I want to get married again, if I’m the marrying type or if the timing isn’t right, I really don’t know. At the same time, we live together, make financial decisions together and other important things necessary in life. Am I over-thinking this? Does it say anything about our relationship? — Not Ready

Anna says: I don’t think so, Not Ready. You’ve been together three years and have a deep commitment to each other. It makes sense that you’d be thinking about your future together, and what you are or aren’t comfortable with in the long haul. This is a little less true of gay couples generally, but culturally, relationships follow a prescribed trajectory: Dating – Courtship – Co-habitation – Marriage – Kids – Sex That Only Occurs during Rachel Maddow Show commercials – Death. Anyone who deviates from that well-worn path will be subject to pressure, ridicule, and Sex and the City re-runs, probably.

Such cultural pressures to get married are obviously working. The U.S. Census Bureau notes that nine out of 10 people will get married at least once. They also point out that the more times we marry, the higher our chances are for getting divorced. So, you’re not alone in feeling jaded or skeptical about the institution.

You’ve done the right thing by talking to your girlfriend about not being ready for marriage. All you can do now is to keep being honest about it, focus on being a great partner, and communicating your needs and desires as openly as you can. It seems like you are on the right path.

I wouldn’t read too much into the marriage jokes. I mean, the stereotypical crux of our sexual identities revolves around U-Hauls and second dates, right? Sometimes joking relieves tension. Sometimes they remind us not to take ourselves too seriously. Plus, you never know: One day you might wake up and decide you desperately want that Crate and Barrel gift registry. Or you might not. Just remember that no one can define your relationship but you and your partner – not family, or friends, or compelling Grey’s Anatomy episodes.

In other words, to hell with convention. I’ve known of couples who sleep in separate bedrooms because that works best for them. I know of others who didn’t get married, but did decide to throw a big party to celebrate their relationship. As Sheryl Crow sang in the one song of hers I know that’s not about LA, “If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad.” And when has anyone ever been led astray by advice from pop songs? NEVER.