Tanya, 37, Engaged/Common Law Married, Toronto, Ontario

Curious about others experiences in dating and relationships, I posted some questions out on Facebook in early September 2017 to collect stories from a wide range of hearts and experiences in love. This is one of many:

+ if you're coupled, how did you meet?
I have been living common law with my partner who is also the father of my 2 children, for the last 16 years and counting. We are engaged but just never got around to making it official yet, I know complicated but that's the reality. 

+ where did you meet?
As for where we met, we met while working for Home Depot during our early 20's which seems so long ago or just that time flies and life just passes you by. In the course of our relationship, we have dealt with many obstacles from insecurities, jealousy, trust and boundary issues, financial- you name it.

+ are you happy in your current status? Why or why not?
For a very long time, I wasn't happy and always blamed the past, my partner, people etc., only to discover that the true reason for my unhappiness had to do with me not truly accepting, loving myself and taking full responsibility for me and my choices, actions, etc. My partner for the most part helped me to realize my worth  in that he never gave up on me and our relationship and family.  I believe his perseverance, endurance, patience, and overall love helped me in overcoming these obstacles while providing the  opportunity for us to change as individuals, a couple and more importantly as a family. 

+ do you view marriage as a destination or a journey?
I have always viewed marriage as sacred and truly a union to value and believe these days it's somehow been devalued and or depreciated because it has been misrepresented. With that said, I believe this has lead to a false notion as to what marriage should look like, dismissing the truth and that is that it takes constant work, effort, and a choice really in it's maintenance and sustenance. On that note, I view marriage as a journey much like life in that it's not linear there is no real destination except death. Marriage is a commitment and the real destination is in the fulfilling it's vows, forever  making it work until death do we part so to speak. Like anything in life, marriage is a journey of choosing to love that person or not. 

+ if married, how much work does it take to maintain a  happy and loving  relationship with your spouse?
I am not married by traditional means/ritual, but nonetheless hold to the values as best as I know. It takes constant personal development and work in a marriage/relationship. Respect, attention, presence, self reflection, vulnerability, trust, and a willingness to want to make it work from both people is what it takes. Sometimes it takes all the challenging moments of pride, anger/resentment, jealousy insecurities to take time away and see where it leads which is a place where boundaries are formed. Silence and alone times is crucial as well. These moments of distance helps produce patience, endurance and resiliency. At the end of the day the work is in the choice to love this person or not and whether both people want each other in their lives and want the best for each other as individuals and as a couple. In essence, both people are deliberate in their choice and efforts and want each other in each others life. 

+ if coupled, do you follow traditional gender norms or share responsibilities in a different manner?
I don't believe we follow traditional roles so much as our parents did but we share responsibilities which I believe is healthy as it breaks the false beliefs that women or men must be a certain way given our natures, gender roles etc, however, when we interrupt this way of thinking and break free by sharing the same responsibilities it allows for both man and women to feel equally valued and appreciated which I believe is important and healthy for all especially our children and future generations. It's all about unity and not division or inequality.

+ do you believe marriage is still necessary and viable or is it an antiquated institution?
I absolutely believe it's still viable especially in our present day given all the available resources/tools and how easily accessible they are. However, the irony is that statistically speaking, there are more separations/ divorces and a decrease in marriage all together now more than ever. I believe marriage is sacred and still holds true today as I feel it's the most powerful union/relationship we can ever experience. It's an intimacy so profound that it deserves to be respected and honoured as such. I believe today we have forgotten all this because there is too much choice, and the  most powerful one being- to give up. This seems to be the go to first before really examining everything including our individual self and realizing that sometimes the reason for leaving will show up again and again to teach us that perhaps the solution is deep within us and not necessarily without.