DEAR CAROLYN: All my life, I’ve thought about what my wedding would be like. Little by little, life has destroyed this image (I had to eventually cut off most of my family with the exception of one brother and create a family of my own choosing), which is regrettable but it happens. I thought that if/when I finally got married, I would still have an actual wedding.
I’m 36 now, self-sufficient, and my boyfriend of three years and I want to spend the rest of our lives together. The only problem: He hates weddings, as he’s had many horrible experiences with them. He would prefer to elope.
The other night, when we were talking, I threw out the odd hypothetical of our eloping but bringing my brother (and his wife) and my best friend along with us as these are the primary people I would want to witness my wedding. He, not surprisingly because he’s awesome, had no objections to this idea.
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My issue is this: I’ve given up too much of myself in prior relationships, even convinced myself I didn’t want marriage or kids with one ex because I thought he was enough (he wasn’t). My current boyfriend has never asked me to change anything about myself, so why can’t I get past the mental block that if I elope, I’m giving up one more “normal” thing that I thought I could eventually have?
— Wedding Bell Blindness
DEAR WEDDING BELL BLINDNESS: If you haven’t made clear to your boyfriend how you feel about a wedding and your reason for feeling that way, in all of its not-entirely-rational glory, then you are in fact back to the old habit of giving up too much.
You both bring baggage to the wedding question, as anyone with life-mileage will, and you both have formed expectations based on these past experiences. But neither of you owes this baggage more than you owe each other.
So what matters is not that your vow exchange takes one form or the other, but instead that your willingness to consider his needs is mutual. There’s nothing about eloping itself that says you’re losing yourself in another relationship, but if you elope without his having shown any interest in trying things your way, then that is a problem.
Even a true wedding-hater can sit down with an intended life partner to dissect that hatred, just to see whether enough inoffensive elements can be strung together into a celebration that pleases you both.
Thus my opening point: What you need to see now is how this “awesome” man responds to the whole truth of your wedding jones, including its origin. Getting along for three years is useful information, but getting along for three years while being fully and openly yourself is essential.
If he knows it all and still refuses to grant you a positive (a lifelong wish, even a scaled-down one) in service of his negative (wedding antipathy), then you have some thinking to do. Namely: With an eye to the context of your years together, and how he hasn’t asked you “to change anything about myself” — have there ever been times, before now, when you and he plainly did not agree?