The phrase “I'm pregnant” can instill deep happiness or great anxiety, depending to some degree on the level of expectation of your new status.
Yet in this day and age, when women have overcome so many stigmas, stereotypes and centuries of misogyny, pregnancy is still one of those life events that brings up tremendous uncertainty. I should know because I'm pregnant.
While the pregnancy was certainly unexpected, it's not something my boyfriend and I are upset about. In fact, it's quite the opposite. We're excited and nervous like any other married couple would be, except we aren't married.
Both of us are in our 30s and over a decade into our careers. We own a house and a dog, have our own cars, are doing well financially and are well-educated. He's a nuclear engineer and far from needing rescuing. I just finished my master's degree in Aeroscience, have my pilot's license, own a small side business and also have a full-time job at NASA. We're hardly in what I would call a sad state of affairs.
And while most of the well-wishers who have received our news have been beyond excited for us, I've been shocked by the relentless, probing question from family, relatives and even our well-meaning retired neighbors, “So when are you getting married?”
Newsflash: We aren't.
It's not that we won't ever get married. We certainly love each other tremendously, and we are open to getting married one day. But, we have a wonderful relationship right now and are excited and focused on having our first baby together. We don't feel the need to heap the stress, expense and formality of a wedding on top of that.
We understand it's not traditional. However, we have both been divorced once already, and frankly, divorce seems to be more traditional than marriage these days. So, we're OK with bucking tradition. Hey, if waiting was good enough for Angelina and Brad, it's good enough for me.
It's invasive for people to ask the marriage question, yet I've been astounded by the number of times it has been raised since we broke the news.
Then again, the press still relentlessly hounds unmarried and expecting celebrities (Angelina, Jessica Alba, Jessica Simpson and so on) and turns those stories into headlines, so maybe I shouldn't be so surprised.
So, for all the women out there who are happily pregnant and just as happily cohabiting instead of marrying at the moment, here are three helpful ready-to-go responses to shut down the questions and politely send the wedding well-wishers on down the road:
Response One: "Why do you ask?"
I find that responding to the question of marriage with this question catches people off guard. It forces them to formulate a response that sums up their own prejudices and preconceived notions about first comes love, then comes marriage. Most folks will stammer and stumble, “Uh, well, oh, I just thought… maybe…”
Don't help them out. Just politely smile and let them stumble through their assumptions that all pregnant women should be — and want to be — married. It's probably the best response you can offer.
Response Two: "We aren't."
It's straightforward, short and to the point. When a relative asked the jarring marriage question over an intimate family breakfast one morning, I was mortified and, frankly, ticked off. It felt more like a call to arms pointed at my boyfriend than a well-meaning question. It was like someone needed to make an honest woman out of me.
“We aren't,” I said directly. The relative started to formulate another inquiry into why we weren't, and interrupting him again, I said, “We aren't.” I'm naturally a very kind-hearted and patient person, but you, like me, don't have to put up with anyone else's shenanigans or meddling in your life. End of discussion. Case closed.
No one — not family, not church members, not co-workers — are allowed in your business. You can choose to share your business, but you can also end the conversation and personal probing into your life. “We aren't” is a way to end the discussion.
Response Three: “We're focused on having a baby right now, not marriage.”
This is probably the softest response of the three. Maybe the question is coming from an adoring, but traditional grandmother or a close friend you care for. If that's the case, the first response might be too evasive, and the second might be too harsh. It's up to you when — or even if — to use this response, but there might be situations where the question arises, and a gentler touch is in order.
The goal of these responses isn't to be defensive with those who ask the marriage question. After all, the way to peace isn't through violence, and the way to a peaceful state of self isn't through verbal combat with folks.
More importantly, it's to probe others into considering their own preconceived notions of life, love, stereotypes and how it “should be.” It's a way to remind folks this is your life, your relationship and your pregnancy.
In other words, it's no one's business but your own. Focus on your exciting news and the wonderful addition to your life, and let the marriage pushers fade into the background.