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How I Got Over The Fear Of Losing Myself In Marriage

I thought I had to accomplish my goals before marriage. It was the other way around.

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Sylvie's Love was a wonderful film, serving us with an innovative and joyful Black love story just when we needed it the most, following the end of a violent year. There were so many factors to love - the glamorous retro aesthetic, the mouth-watering wardrobe, the whirlwind romance. What made it so romantic wasn't just a montage of rooftop dates, smoldering conversations, and unexpected kisses. I think we could see ourselves in the characters. Even though the movie was set in the 60s, rather than approaching their relationship as the stereotypical facades of a man and woman - sole provider and homemaker - Robert and Sylvie showed up to one another as whole human beings, each with flaws and aspirations.

One particular part of the plot resonated with me, and I'm sure a lot of women felt similarly: Our hearts smiled at how much the leads valued another's dreams and career aspirations.

Sylvie's Love/Amazon

Sometimes this mutual respect led to actions that caused our chagrin, like when they withheld information from each other and broke things off to avoid obstructing each other's dreams from coming to fruition. Nonetheless, the movie's portrayal of romantic affection and career aspirations coexisting in a healthy relationship really struck a chord. When I saw Sylvie's Love with a gang of girls, we collectively cringed when Sylvie's husband (who awkwardly was not her true love) for part of the movie relentlessly urged her to quit her job and uncompromisingly required that she support his career over her own.

So often women see two of our core desires juxtaposed; personal goals compromised for a lasting relationship, and goals of marriage and family sacrificed at the altar of the dream career. Like many women, I expected to delay marriage for that reason.

Though I grew up around great couples, I wasn't raised to prioritize finding a husband; I was raised to be a high achiever. I never dreaded going home and being assaulted with annoying questions about my love life. More often, I was urged by my family to take risks, reach my highest potential, and pursue my dreams wholeheartedly with no compromises. I was strongly discouraged from planning my future around a relationship because my possibilities would decrease drastically after signing a marriage certificate. I received a lot of cautionary tales filled with regret and grief over dreams that didn't survive marriage.

While the advice was earnest and well-intentioned, I internalized a creeping fear belief that when I chose to get married, I'd lose my autonomy and my life would be at the mercy of my husband's will; there was no telling what I'd be asked to sacrifice.

The Fear of Losing Myself in Marriage

I met the love of my life in college and was approaching marriage at the age of 23 - a far cry from the recommended 30. While I knew it was right and healthy, I still carried nervousness about how marriage would impact my individuality. While my now-husband exhibited all the behaviors of a supportive partner who was invested in my fulfillment, I still had trouble shaking that irrational fear that once I said "I do," a switch would flip and I would lose my path. These concerns all came to a head when I made a very out-of-the-blue, rushed decision to go to graduate school, which was totally unmanageable on top of the wedding planning, working full-time, and other commitments.

I stressed myself out, putting myself on a rigorous three-month study plan for entrance exams that would realistically require my full-time attention.

Noticing my exhaustion and dismay during a season that should've been filled with happy anticipation, a friend asked me why I was in such a rush. In that revealing conversation, I realized that I felt like I needed to get my career train in motion before my wedding day. I believed that if my goals were well underway before marriage - applications submitted and deposits paid - then I'd know they could safely translate into my marriage instead of getting erased.

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Following that revelation, I brought my concerns to my fiance. It was such a healing conversation in which he reassured me that his commitment to me included my goals and aspirations. It was easy to believe him because he had the track record to support that claim. Through college and after, he was a huge influence in me identifying my passion for writing and building the courage to pursue it. He was always so encouraging anytime I got published and genuinely present when I brought him into my world of enthusiasm about literature, my favorite editors, and the authors I love.

Before I knew I wanted to write, his own discipline about cultivating his authentic talents and pursuing his calling really inspired me to find what sparks my own passion.

Now that we are married, I'm more driven than I've ever been. Having a loving partner and home happen to make the "grind" a lot easier. Someone to cheer you on, help you get up when your alarm goes off, take charge of dinner when you're working late, give you the space to move toward your target, and hold you accountable for acting according to your values.

The one piece of advice I remember receiving about how to find a good relationship was from my mom. She earnestly advised me to hold off on committing to marriage until I found someone who valued my desires as much as theirs.

I'm lucky to say I found that.

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