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Andrew and I decided to move in together before we decided to get married.

Actually, I didn’t want to get married at all.

It had nothing to do with Andrew and everything to do with my concept of The Institute of Marriage: the place you go when you agree to wear a ring and a white dress and take someone else’s last name.

Marriage felt like giving in, giving up, becoming part of just another uninteresting married couple with 2.5 kids and a white picket fence.

I fought it, hard.

One afternoon, Andrew and I were walking the dogs during a snow storm. The powder was piled knee deep and we were threading our way down a narrow stretch of sidewalk. Andrew was in front with Bandit and I was trailing behind with Dakota.

I was talking to Andrew’s back about how we needed to make an appointment with a lawyer to draw up wills, power of attorney, and a whole bunch of other contracts that I had mentally created before we bought a house together.

Andrew eventually turned around and said “Maia, they have invented one document that covers all of that. Do you know what it is?”

“No,” I said, truly flabbergasted. “What is it?”

“The marriage contract,” he replied in exasperation.

“Fine,” I shouted. “When you get down on your knees and ask, I will consider marrying you.”

“Knee, Maia. It’s one knee,” he grated out.

That’s how it went down. And that’s how I went down. And it took a long time to recover.

Not because the Institute of Marriage sucked me in to its ginormous maw and wouldn’t spit me out, but because I now needed to learn the fine art of being in a relationship without losing chunks of yourself.

This theme comes up over and over again with clients, whether they have been married six months or forty-six years.

How do you compromise on situations and not on your essential self? How do you learn to live with someone else and share in decision-making, while still being decisive? One of the biggest lessons of my married life has been that sharing a life does not mean we have to share every decision.

I kid you not: for the first five years, I thought that in order to be a good partner and a good compromiser, we had to decide everything together. Andrew got sick of being included in every decision and I got sick of feeling like I was asking.

Processes that were simple as a single became complicated in the committee known as marriage. So, slowly but surely, stagnation set in. I didn’t experiment with a new class or project because I didn’t feel like checking-in to see if it would throw a monkey wrench in the works if I was absent on Thursday night; I didn’t buy new clothes because I didn’t feel like discussing the expense.

Here’s the thing: this was all in my head. It was my story, not Andrew’s.

Like most people telling themselves a really boring, repressive story, I eventually got fed-up and exploded. The kind of exploded that could have led down dark alleys and nasty backroads.

Luckily, the detonation came with a huge dollop of self-understanding and awareness that I had done this to myself.

“Wifey-poo” was laid to rest. And Andrew, far from being annoyed, heaved a sigh of relief as the woman who wouldn’t marry him came back into his life.

So, a question for all of you: are you being a contortionist in your relationships? What would happen if you dug into your story, parsed truth from falsehood, and just said no to believing your own lies?

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