'Five-Year Engagement' Reminds Us Marriage Isn't Everyone's Happy Ending

The new romantic comedy The Five-Year Engagement, starring Jason Segel and Emily Blunt, starts with the happy city-slicker couple getting engaged. But marriage plans are put indefinitely on hold as the couple move to Michigan for Blunt’s character’s graduate studies. From there, the engagement stretches on for years and leaves them in romantic limbo. Is there anything wrong with that?

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There are many people who consider an engagement merely a prelude to marriage. But, take it from someone who had a 10-year engagement, it's not. I didn’t need a wedding band -- or a diamond ring for that matter, though I did have one -- to know that my fiancé and I were committed.

Our decade-long relationship weathered several moves, a graduate program for me, a few job changes for him, the death of his father, the death of my young niece and my grandmother, 9/11 happening practically in our backyard, and buying a home and renovating it together. In terms of legalities, he was my beneficiary on everything, and I was his. When I looked into my future old age, I envisioned him next to me in the nursing home.

Unfortunately, some people still didn’t see us an actual committed couple. And some of those people were in my family. At one point, I had to ask a few relatives to please remember to buy my fiancé a little gift for Christmas, or at least include his name on the card! I thought their behavior was a bit ironic, considering that most of the marriages in my family had been shorter than my engagement.

And when he and I broke up under traumatic circumstances, it was amazing how many ignorant people (not my friends, mind you) crawled out from the woodwork to say, “Well, you weren't married. What did you expect?” Excuse me -- like married people don’t break up? Plenty of couples are totally committed and not yet married -- or even planning to walk down the aisle!

There was also the general assumption that the long engagement meant that my fiancé must have cold feet and was just stringing me along. Nothing could be further from the truth. If anyone ever brought up making it legal, it was him, not me. He had parents who were still married. I did not. For him, marriage was a given. Not so for me. I'd already seen that a marriage certificate and a wedding ceremony did not necessarily mean 'tll death do you part.

I would never get married merely because society has this idea that it means commitment while an engagement does not. Mine lasted a hell of a lot longer than the marriages of Britney Spears or Kim Kardashian or Katy Perry.

A wedding band does not make a relationship -- people do.

Do you think an engagement is just as much of a commitment as marriage?

 

Image via Universal Pictures

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