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I Love Him, but Not Enough to Get Married Again

Kelly James has been there, done that. Twice actually. Now she's happy to have a good man in her life, but doesn't necessarily want him for the rest of her life.

I got married the first time because I loved him, and at 26, I was ready to be a grownup, with a husband and everything. I didn’t think that decision through or contemplate what being married might be like. It lasted a year.

I got married the second time because I loved him, and at 31, I was ready to be a grownup, really ready this time. I had an idea of what our married life would look like (or so I thought) and was committed to making it work—and it did, for almost 20 years. Until it didn’t.

When I got divorced, I wasn’t sure whether I would fall in love again.

When I got divorced, I wasn’t sure whether I would fall in love again, or even find someone I liked enough to date. When I did, I was surprised—and grateful. Walt wasn’t what I’d thought I’d wanted. I’d set up profiles on dating sites, looking for someone college-educated, who could talk books and foreign films and art and architecture with me. Someone I could use my big words with because I love big words. Walt is a commercial plumber who ambles rather that walks, thinks about what he’s going to say before he says it, and whose inner barometer is set so low I tease him he’s barely conscious. I’m optimistic but anxious by nature, happiest when I’m spinning a multitude of plates while he does one thing at a time.

But Walt makes me laugh. He listens. He gets along with my kids. He can fix anything, and everyone he meets loves him. He’s the human equivalent of a favorite sweatshirt that has worn to the perfect degree of softness. I love him. He loves me. Marriage must be our destination.

Except that it isn’t. We live an hour apart, and have lives with friends and family and neighbors and routines that don’t involve the other. I’m the sole parent of a 15-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter and have years of parenting teens ahead of me. We both like having our own space. It all makes sense.

Read More: My Fiance’s Kids Aren’t Happy We’re Getting Married

Why Remarriage After Divorce is Not For Me

If we wanted to be married, we would overcome these obstacles. We’d figure it out, together. Except that I don’t want to figure it out. I like that he’s not here most of the time. I like looking forward to seeing his pickup truck pull into my driveway on a Wednesday afternoon or Saturday night. And sometimes I’m ready for that truck to pull back out, too.

I can’t promise I’ll be there for him for the rest of one of our lives.

When COVID started, Walt sheltered in place with us, working at a nearby construction site until he got laid off. I worked from home, oversaw my kids’ remote learning, walked my dog six times a day, and took a lot of deep, calming breaths that didn’t help much. I started wishing we were married. I wanted him in my house, in my bed. Making me feel safe. Or at least safer. Once the initial fear of the unknown of COVID morphed into malaise and low-level anxiety, I realized that wanting to get married had been rooted in fear, not love.

I love him. But not enough. Not enough to deal with the day-to-day annoyances that come from sharing the same space with a partner. Not enough to commingle our finances. Not enough to figure out where we’d live or to force my kids to adjust to having a stepdad or to have one more person’s needs to consider, every single day.

I love him. But not enough to commit to him in the way I believe still matters—to pledge your life to your partner. For better or worse. For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health. Because saying those words, especially those last ones, in your 50s (or 60s, or 70s), means something different than when you’re a starry-eyed 20- or 30-something who believes that love conquers all. By midlife, you realize that simply isn’t true.

Loving A Good Man…Without Marriage

If I got married again, it would have little to do with being a grownup, or with loving Walt. It would be because I wanted to commit to being bound to him, legally. It would mean that I was willing to take on whatever life was going to throw at us, together. That we would be a team. That we would always have each other, until we didn’t anymore. I’m not willing to do that. And so far, neither is he.

The thought of losing him, of never seeing his smile again, of never hearing his truck rumble up my driveway again, makes my heart ache. We’ve been together for more than three years, and I know how fortunate I am to have found a good man, one who loves me and who still makes me laugh. Yet I can’t promise I’ll be there for him for the rest of one of our lives. The fact that women and men still do that, in midlife and later, amazes me. It makes me envy the depth of their love, and their bravery. Their hope.

While Walt and I remain poised in the middle. In the space between “dating” and “married.” In the space between love and enough.

Read More: Two Roofs, One Home: The Art of Living Apart From Your Lover

By Kelly James


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