I can’t remember when it happened, but at some point in the past I settled on a few beliefs and values and they’ve stuck ever since. I think most people are like this, we hold an opinion about something and we never want to waver from it. The longer we hold that opinion, the less it becomes an opinion and the more it becomes a part of us. That belief makes us us. We can never waver from that opinion, otherwise it’ll put our entire identity into disrepute.
One belief I’ve held for a long time is that I will never have children. Something I don’t mind sharing with others. I find it’s better to deflect away questions about kids immediately before the inevitable, “When are you going to have children?”
I remember where this belief came from. I was depressed at the time. Finding life hard to handle. I was a bit of a naive idealist when I was younger. It wasn’t long before the rug was pulled away from beneath me. I started seeing how dark the world can be. That life isn’t fair to everybody. That the world isn’t sunshine and rainbows.
I thought it would be downright mean to bring a child into that world.
Through the years, I’ve found dozens of more arguments to back up my belief.
I’ve always found it a struggle to stay happy and mentally stable. I am quick to anger and selfish. I’m prone to self-hatred and self-loathing. Whenever I think about having children, I think about all of these things being transferred over to them. I wouldn’t want anybody else to experience my unhappiness, let alone a child. Wouldn’t want anybody else to feel the pain I often feel.
Maybe one day I will grow and feel differently. Maybe I’ll put my demons to rest. But until that point I’ll continue to feel the same. How can I look after another person and protect them, when I can’t even look after myself?
My second, somewhat related belief has always been that I won’t get married. Growing up, I never had too much success with the opposite sex. Usually this was because of me. As I said, I’m quite selfish and quick to anger, not the best traits for somebody in a relationship. But I’m also prone to jealousy and all the other previously mentioned negative things that can make a relationship feel painful.
I’ve always thought that it’s impossible to love another person if you can’t love yourself. If you don’t believe you’re lovable, then your relationships feel like a sham. You can never trust another person if you believe you deserve to be hurt.
As with my ideas about children, my opinion of marriage is (or was) completely rooted in how I feel about myself and my future.
Marriage scares me because I always struggle to believe in my power to overcome obstacles. Whenever I reach a part in my life with the slightest adversity, I find myself wanting to give in. I’m a quitter. It’s hard enough sometimes to believe I can make a cup of tea. So it’s much more of a stretch for me to believe I can keep another human being happy.
But darker than that, there’s always been this thought that I’d be doomed to fail anyway. It’s another belief I’ve always held. That failure is just around the corner. Even when things are going well.
People love to fantasise about winning the lottery. I’ve done it myself plenty of times. But then I often settling on the knowledge that if I did win the lottery, I’d feel cursed. Like death was certainly around the corner because something that positive happening to me would have to be instantly followed by something really negative.
Now the surprising thing, saying all of this is that I am actually married! It happened less than two weeks ago.
My arm was twisted a little. My wife is American and I’m British. We’d been travelling for around 3 years together and were faced with a choice. Go back to our homes and give up on each other forever. Or get married.
It might not seem too romantic. But marriage to me was the lesser of two evils. Break up, be alone and away from the person I love. Or face up to my fears and insecurities. Facing my fears seemed like nothing in comparison and really there was no decision at all.
Now a word about love. This might surprise some to know, but I’ve only ever told my wife once that I love her. (This won’t surprise some people at all…) It was outside of our flat in Australia, on the day we were both leaving. She was going back to America and I was going back to England. We knew we’d be separated for over 6 months, maybe forever. Before she jumped into her taxi she said “I love you” and I said “I love you too!” It wasn’t hard to say back at all. Not then.
But saying the words “I love you” is hard for me. Another one of my beliefs that has been shaped over time.
To begin with, the phrase “I love you” feels unnatural to me. My family rarely uses the words. It’s almost like they’re taboo. Maybe I’ve been raised in a typical North household where saying “I love you” is just never done. Regardless the phrase just makes me feel awkward.
But it didn’t when I was a teenager. I had a few girlfriends who I gladly peppered with the phrase. I never thought about what it meant or its significance. It was just words.
Then I had another girlfriend in University. We’d been going out for a few months and maybe it was getting towards the point when I usually start thinking about saying those words. But this time, I thought about what it would mean.
I realised the words would be a commitment that I didn’t believe in. At the time, I was too unhappy with myself to really give my all to the relationship. So instead of saying “I love you”, I broke up with her. In my way I felt I was doing her a favour. The quicker we broke up, the quicker she could move on and find somebody that really loved her.
Saying “I love you” is often too easy for people. It loses it’s meaning. It’s just like a stage in the relationship. The “I love you” stage. There’s nothing significant about that.
In the last 8 years, I can count on one finger the times I’ve said “I love you” and it was that morning in Australia. Am I proud of this? Somewhat. Because at least it shows the words were important to me.
Which is not to say I don’t love my wife. I do. (Which is hard for my to admit in public on a blog. Sorry, but that’s how I’ve been raised.) I just don’t think the words matter more than other things. My wife is my best friend and knows me better than almost anybody. There’s nobody else I’d rather spend time with and nobody else I’d prefer to be annoyed by.
I’ve only said “I love you” once, but I like to think I’ve shown my love plenty of times. When we were living in New Zealand together, I would often stop by the supermarket on the way home to get her an expensive bottle of beer. This is her version of flowers. My version of “I love you”.
So how was our wedding? Well, there was no wedding really. We went to the courthouse, said our vows, a quick “I do” and it was all over and done with. No wedding dress, bridesmaids or flowers. We’re both short of friends and hate attention, so getting married wasn’t the extravaganza it is for some people. In the age of selfies and social media gratification the idea probably seems barbaric. We haven’t even made it Facebook official either.
But that’s not to say it meant nothing. To me it was a step forward into believing in something bigger than myself. Or just feeling a little positive about the future for a change. And it gives me the opportunity to be with the person I love.
So despite the ceremony only lasting around 30 seconds, done in a crusty box room at the side of an office, it is one of the most important things I’ve ever done in my life. Harder for me than most, but just as meaningful. It was another way to say “I love you”.