I am a romantic. I love rom-coms (fav: Two Weeks Notice) and romantic dramas (fav: Love Story). I like wedding videos, wedding websites, wedding boards on Pinterest and wedding photo albums. There is one wedding video in particular that I have actually watched upwards of 30 times. (And, no, I know neither the bride nor the groom…or anyone involved in the wedding at all, for that matter. I am not exaggerating). While I am not one of those girls who “has had her wedding planned since the age of five” (it changes daily), I am one of those girls who’s “biggest fear is not getting married. I think marriage is a beautiful thing. I think that the boys who tell me they never want to get married are crazy. Most times I try to convince them that they do want to get married. I think that it is possible for two people to fall in love and want to spend the rest of their life together. I think that one person can make you happy for your entire life.
So, how did I feel after I kissed a married man last weekend? Not good would be an understatement.
It wasn’t as if I didn’t know that he was married. I very much knew that he was. Though my mind has somehow blocked the image of his actual face (I still can’t figure out if this is a good thing or a bad thing), I have a very clear picture of the thin, gold wedding band on his left ring finger. If held at gunpoint, I would not be able to tell you his name, but I can tell you that his wife was in the same sorority of which I am currently a member. Other personal details of his life are unavailable, but I do know that he and his wife have been together since their sophomore year at Bucknell. Since I can only assume he graduated as the same year as the other alums present, this does not simply indicate that the two began dating when I was in the fourth grade; it also proves that they have been together for 13 years.
As I type that last paragraph out, the pit in my stomach grows. It would be easy to write this guy off as a total jerk who does this all the time, but the fact of the matter is, I don’t know him at all. This only adds to the multitude of questions that surround the kiss: Did I completely destroy the sanctity and purity of his marriage? Does he do this all the time? What would his wife say if she knew? Does she know? Would confessing make it better or worse? Does he even remember it? Does he do that often? Was it as big of a deal to him as it was to me? I will never be able to answer these questions, but I can question my own values. I wonder, knowing how much I value marriage, how I could have been so carefree about something so serious. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized the true issue: I was completely idealizing something that can’t be idealized.
My idealization, and as a result, my disappointment, is not necessarily my fault. Growing up, I did not know what divorce was. I also had not come into contact with any single-parent families. Each member of my entire extended family was a member and a product of a “conventional” and successful marriage. Besides these real-life examples, I was raised on Disney movies: Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, The Little Mermaid, etc. How could I not want to live happily ever after? Growing up, Lizzie McGuire and the Olsen twins taught me that you can easily find the perfect boyfriend suited exactly for your personality type while on vacation with your strict uncle, your nerdy family friend, or even on an academic field trip! When high school arrived, I was introduced to an entirely new genre: the romantic comedy. These movies taught me that everything ends happily. Trouble can arise, but if two people love each other, it will work out (thank you, Notting Hill). If it’s meant to be, you’ll find the love of your life (I’m looking at you, Serendipity). Two people that hate each other can end up loving each other (The Proposal, What Happens in Vegas). I have been conditioned forever to believe in this.
I haven’t completely turned the corner, though. I’m not saying that happy marriages don’t happen. But I think it’s best if I learn now that marriage won’t be perfect. Rather, it comes with a lot of work, commitment, responsibility and nurturing. You don’t just live happily ever after like in the movies. As Gwyneth Paltrow was once quoted in Harper’s Bazaar, “I think you do fall in and out of love.”
Kissing a married man isn’t the best decision I’ve ever made in my life, but I can’t say I completely regret it. It’s opened my eyes to the reality, instead of my idealization, of marriage. After relaying my fear of dying alone, a friend’s dad once told me, “Getting married is the easy part. It’s staying married that you have to worry about.” I’m still a romantic, but my marriage ideals have been brought down to reality—and I think that might be a good thing.