The Undeniable Joy (and Tinge of Admiration) an Unmarried Man Feels for Men Who Get Married
In a little less than two months, I will be a groomsman at the wedding of a friend I call a brother. Very recently, another one of my close friends (from the same group of men who will be at the aforementioned) got down on his knee to pop the question.
My joy for both of them – instant and genuine – ranks up there with the best feelings I ever had. Granted, when my sister told me she was having a baby, I cried; when my mother told me my step-dad proposed to her, I couldn’t stop smiling for days; and when the woman who has been like a sister to me for 13 years, said she was getting married, I was hi-fiving the air all around me. But the happiness I feel for these men is slightly different. Not necessarily greater, but a seismic shift within my spirit for sure.
Some men develop such a close bond with our boys, that we become oddly dependent on them. I say oddly because sure I may not be as close as I was to some of them when we were all living on campus with one another, but no matter how far they are from me, I expect them to be around always. Not to take this post in a sad direction, but it’s worth noting: When my friend in April gets married, the ring bearer will be the nephew of our friend Trey, who was tragically killed in a car accident in 2011.
That’s how tight we are with each other.
With my friends, we are just as competitive with each other as we are supportive. But one race none of us ever wanted to win was the race down the aisle. The first of our crew was married back in 2007 (or maybe 2006), we all wished him a hearty congrats, and I thought, “Better him than me!” But I was still in my 20s, a decade that I still believe is best spent having sex with all the wrong people
Now I’m in my 30s and two of my friends have put rings on it. Not only am I wise enough to not think they’re crazy, I’m man enough to admit, they’re winning a race I’m interested in finishing myself.
When men talk about marriage, most of us talk about the need to get their stuff together in order to be able to take that next step. We don’t talk about meeting the right woman, since it’s a given. What is not a given is all the other things we need to put in place in order to create a situation in which a life partner can step into, so some of us focus on that.
But I have always been somewhat of a romantic. My idea of marriage has always been about love first and foremost, and if that love was strong enough, any other shortcomings would fall into place. Obstacles were a given, but the biggest obstacle of all was finding that person.
From my boys who are getting married, I am learning that it takes much more than a feeling. It takes bold action, huge sacrifice, and making galant efforts to get everything together.
From my dad, I learned a similar thing during a conversation we had a couple years ago. He was, I believe 27, when he asked my mom to marry him. My mom already had me, and yet my dad still got down on his knee, while at the same time adopting me as his son. My mom and he also had my sister, a short time later. He did these things before he was 30, and I remember asking him two years ago, “Why did you do that when you were still so young?”
“I loved your mother and I had my shit together,” he said.
The latter part of that statement stuck with me.
I have been in relationships with two women I knew I wanted to marry. I told them this, countless times, in different ways, and I thought, at the time, I was telling them the truth. But when I recall that conversation I had with my dad, or think about the things my boys have done in order to confidently ask their women to marry them, I realize I was selling wolf tickets.
Truth is in our actions just as much as it is in our words. Take it from a man who has told a woman he wants to marry her while also doing absolutely nothing to make that a reality. Neither woman thought I was insincere when I would make such comments, but they were able to see through my actions (or lack thereof) I was writing checks I couldn’t cash.
As I see two more of my friends get ready to walk down the aisle, and I prepare to attend two more weddings sometime within the next year, I have to admit, I wish I was a little more like them. I know love is part of the deal, and probably the biggest reason they’re ready to take this next step, but just as important and just as fundamental, is preparation. They are ready to take their lives to the next level, one that is without a doubt, higher and more advanced than the one I’m on.
People ask me all the time if I want to get married and my answer is always an automatic yes. A lifetime spent as a bachelor, fun as it is, has never been something I’ve wanted permanently. But if you ask me if I’m ready to get married, I have to say I’m not and the ability to love someone more than I love myself has nothing to do with that.
I don’t look at my friends and think I will never fall in love like they’ve fallen in love. I already have, but if I’m still writing this blog, we know how that turned out and it turned out like that for a reason: Lack of preparation. When I look at my friends who are about to get married, I see a more tangible lesson than being in love. I see I have to get my stuff together like they have their stuff together. The question about them getting married is no longer, “Why did you do that?” These days, it’s more like, “How did you do that?”