We met at a barbecue in May 2010. We got engaged in December 2011. I called off the engagement in September 2012.
Some called it courageous, some called it selfish. For me, it was the only thing I could do in order to be truthful to myself, honor my authenticity and be honest with the man I loved.
I did not want to get married because I did not want to get divorced.
I did not want to go to that barbecue, but my girlfriend invited me to celebrate her brother’s 50th birthday and I was in no mood to cook that night. So I figured I’d go, eat and leave.
Honestly, the last thing on my mind was getting cute to try and meet one of the single 50-and-over gents that would be at the party. (I had just moved back to Atlanta from New York. I was about to start a new job and the school year was coming to a close for my daughter).
When I arrived, I looked the room over and headed to make a plate. I vaguely noticed a well-dressed man watching the NBA game playing in the background. Toward the end of the evening, we introduced ourselves, exchanged numbers and agreed to meet for dinner later that week.
He wasn’t my type, by my usual standards. But I long ago realized those standards had me married then divorced to my daughter’s father; then had me dating a younger man who wondered if a 560 credit score was great; and finally in a two-year relationship with a man I adored so much – even though he couldn’t leave the house after 11 p.m. because his ankle bracelet would go off.
So, I was willing to go to dinner with a man who wasn’t my type.
That May evening at a Mexican restaurant in Atlanta, I began to believe that chivalry was not dead. We dined and talked and talked some more. We drank margaritas as the World Cup Soccer game played on the screens and we got to know each other. He had a grown son living in another state and a teenage daughter in Georgia. She lived with his ex-wife, but he played a very active role in her life. He had been married twice – both to the mother of his children.
He believed in marriage. He was not a man that was afraid of commitment. In fact, he was very good at it. Very loyal, very protective, very loving. We stayed out late that night walking and talking – just as most women say they want – to become friends, first…then lovers.
He was the nicest guy I ever met. We kissed that night, a lot. (Mostly to avoid other urges; he had a moral compass unlike any other man I had ever met).
We began seeing each other all the time and dated throughout the Summer of 2010, but were very cautious about introducing each other to each of our daughters. We soon realized we attended the same church for years during the same service but never saw one another.
I couldn’t believe I met a good-looking, totally fit, employed black man in Atlanta that was Catholic, went to my church and had a teenage daughter.
Was this a gift from God? Had to be!
I’d always said I would never marry again, gave up on hoping my daughter would grow up with a father figure in the home and resigned her to the fact that she was not going to have a sibling.
This man rocked every one of those convictions and had me doing things I hadn’t done in years – and I enjoyed it.
By Christmas 2010 our daughters were like sisters. We attended church on Sundays together like a ready-made family, and we began expressing our deep feelings for each other.
By Summer 2011 he had moved in with my daughter and I. By all accounts, life was great. My friends adored him. My family thought he was a great guy who was an easy conversationalist and had obvious deep feelings for me. He and my daughter got along well. We realized we had many mutual friends, so it only got better when we were able to go on couple dates with a girlfriend of mine that was married to a childhood friend of his.
The marriage conversation began to come up.
I told him I wanted to get married. I thought I did. I felt like I did.
(Why does my stomach hurt? Ignore. Who’s going to take care of you when you get older? When your daughter goes to college? Do you know how lucky you are to meet a man that loves you and wants to marry you? You better marry him girl or someone else will! What’s wrong with you? He’s a Christian!)
Those were some of the thoughts I had, and actual comments I heard…
So, on December 25, 2011, I got engaged.
(Stomach ache #2. IGNORE).
Next day, I changed my Facebook status to “engaged,” started showing off my 3 1/2 carat ring and bought bridal magazines to round off the rituals of engagement.
My father cried, my sorors gave hugs and wedding planning tips and everyone expressed their happiness in such abundance that I wanted to stay engaged forever – or at least get engaged every day.
January 2012 was an especially busy time for me at work. I was beginning my new radio talk show on CBS Radio Atlanta, my daughter was completing her high school applications and I had a wedding to plan. We never really set a date. but said we would do it by the end of the year.
Nothing big or fancy. Again, it would be my second and his third. Me, him, the girls and close family totaling 40 would be all we could energize ourselves to do.
Almost, without delay, things began to change.
(Stomach ache #3. IGNORE!)
I was getting home much later than I had in the past. I had events to go to for work, lots of professional socializing and networking to promote my show. I was tired when I got home.
He had his own challenges. He was looking for another job, wanted to pursue his entrepreneurial desires and began encountering some difficulties with his ex-wife that challenged his relationship with his daughter.
He needed my support and I needed his understanding.
Some days we communicated so well, it seemed everything would be just fine. Other times, we could go days and not even speak. It made me feel awful and reminded me of the years I spent married to a man I knew I was eventually going to divorce. I began to wonder why I was ignoring the signals my heart and body were giving me.
Here’s what I began to realize: I loved the initial stages of dating, even the initial rush of moving in with someone and becoming an official couple, but I did not enjoy the confines of pending or actual traditional marriage. I began to retreat and stopped communicating, stopped being concerned about the “us” and the “we.” You-know-what stops next.
(I’m not good at calling to check in. I do like to socialize and attend Girl’s Night Out. I enjoy going to events and growing my network both professionally and personally. I want to go alone sometimes. I want you to raise your daughter and I will raise mine. Let’s keep separate checking accounts, just in case.
Pay attention Mo – Can you please be honest with yourself and with this very decent man and tell him the truth: You love him but you’d rather be his girlfriend than his wife; and you’d rather he lived somewhere else.
Ouch! He doesn’t deserve this.
Stomach ache #4. CAN’T IGNORE.)
But what do I deserve? What do I owe to myself?
Many years ago I attended a meditation retreat with Dr. Deepak Chopra and then after that numerous seminars focusing on finding your true self and living your best life. After all the information-gathering, meditations and yoga sessions, I realized one thing: I want to always live my truth and operate from my authentic reality – whether it fits society’s measurements, makes others uncomfortable or casts me in a negative light.
For me, my signals are so clear and I listen to them. They ache my soul and make me physically sick when I don’t. So, on a rainy evening in September 2012, I called off my engagement because I was more afraid to get divorced than I was to get married.
Marriage in its traditional sense, the way we define it in America and set parameters around it, will not work for me. It will lead to divorce.
What I know to be true is that I need a relationship that is custom-built for me and my man. It consists of what he needs and what I need as two distinct individuals. It does not consider societal norms or traditions as the only rule book. It says we can live in separate homes if that works, and share a vacation home if that works. It says ‘I’m taking a trip overseas alone, or with friends’ and there are no accusations of infidelity or private detectives involved. It says ‘Meet me there on Thursday.’ It says ‘I will call you in a few days after I chill for a minute alone’; or I’m calling you every hour just to hear your voice. It says I can opt out of parenting your children and vice versa. You can go to church without me and save your own soul. We can even take a break if you need it and it not be a judgment on me or you.
I started feeling confined, obligated to someone else’s needs and my “to do” list was getting crowded.
No, no, no. This is not what I want.
I can’t give him what he thinks he’s getting. Wasn’t it my duty to tell him that? Or should I keep pretending and thinking I will change so everyone else can be comfortable?
I can’t, and mostly, won’t.
After I had the conversation, I felt relieved, lighter, pure and mostly proud, of myself.
I miss him. I still love him. I wish he would let me be his girlfriend again.
(I don’t really want to get into how he took the news, but it didn’t go well. It was never really about him though; only about being truthful to myself. Any woman, would be lucky to have him).
Marriage won’t guarantee that there will be someone there to take care of me in my elder years. It doesn’t guarantee my daughter a great father figure. And there is nothing wrong with me for not wanting to marry him.
A lot of people get married because they want to say they have done it, not because they actually want to do it. I have done it once and truly don’t want to do it again…right now.
When most people find out I am no longer engaged, they say “I’m so sorry.” I tell them that it was absolutely necessary for me to make that decision in order to live my truth; and sadly few really embrace that as good.
But that’s who I am authentically at this moment in time. I must and have to respect that because I believe what is for me, is for me and what is not, is not.
- Mo Ivory, CBS Local