had my heart broken into a million sharp, little pieces in the past.

To make sure this never happened again, I created a sort of Dream Team of men (pretty much a modern day harem, if you will). I would never again give one man the opportunity to cause me such profound sadness, anger and disappointment. I would only ask of each man to offer what they were naturally good at, and interact with me in the ways that we were most compatible. 

One may be suited for nights of cooking and red wine and intelligent, philosophical talks. One may be for the days that I most needed someone who knew how to make me giggle. One would be for outdoor adventures — we could go for week-long hikes and backcountry skiing. One, of course, was to be for shamelessly hot sex.  If one got difficult or bailed, my whole world could not collapse — it would be just a small, manageable wound.

Writing this now, I’m excruciatingly aware of exactly how selfish this sounds. I’ll be the first to now admit that the plan revolved around me and only me. I cared not what I could offer to the relationships. I cared only that I could never again (in theory) be really hurt.

I married at the age of 22 out of a sense of social obligation after having been with my boyfriend for four years. I gave my everything to the man who would be the father of our three kids until I became bitter and resentful. I felt stagnant and unvalued within the marriage. I felt that I would never know more about this man than what he had been willing to show me in the first six months of knowing me.

From the start, I wanted to explore the world with our kids and take risks and feel alive, yet he was content to work around the clock, making the money to support the whole “white picket fence” lifestyle I blatantly hated and, I later found out, the Craigslist escorts, which he assured me, these were only for drugs, not sex. Did that make it much better?

I separated. He waged all-out war. With cunning swiftness on his part, I was left homeless and with a total of $3 to my name that my young daughter emptied from her piggy bank for us to start over with. He got the kids on a plane and didn’t let me see them for over a year. I suffered a not-very-graceful fall from my stay-at-home mom status I’d maintained since the day our first child was born. He filed a divorce demanding full custody and that I support him financially. I was quickly becoming less and less of a fan of this whole marriage thing. A full year and an astonishing amount of money spent on lawyers later, I got custody, my freedom and the right to emphatically tell anyone who would listen how I would never, ever marry again.

But now, seven years later, I have met a game-changing Australian botanist who challenged every single thing I ever thought I wanted. I thought I wanted no strings attached flings, yet I was secretly sobbing for days after I parted with him. I wanted nothing to do with monogamy, yet any time the opportunity to sleep with someone else presented itself, it felt like a giant insult to my heart. I would rather spend the night in bed with thoughts of him than with someone who was not him.

I had found my match. Our worlds were completely turned upside down upon meeting each other. Before we knew it, all we wanted was to adventure together, to explore each other profoundly, thoroughly and to play and grow in this safe space we created where we could be our most vulnerable, true selves.  We made the effort to meet up all over the world, any chance we could.

One stunning, red-wine fueled sunset that turned into a full moon night, while camping on an Australian beach, he casually brought up the idea of celebrating our love and joy with marriage. My immediate gut feeling was an enthusiastic, no hesitations “of course, nothing in the world could make me happier!” 

But then my fears had a chance to present themselves, all at once in an overwhelming tsunami of past pain. What if we married and I instantly felt stagnant, claustrophobic, bored? What if he closed down and became basically a stranger like my ex had? He lives in Australia and I am raising my kids in Patagonia, how does this even work?

I’ve slowly had to acknowledge that he is nothing like my ex and I am nothing like the woman who got married 17 years ago. This love has shown me how to trust again, and that to trust is worth it. This is the man who has showed me that he loves me unconditionally, exactly as I am, past wounds and all, and will stand by me through all of my fears as I confront them. This is a man who has inspired me to create a relationship that is not about just me — we are a team, fierce in our independence and at the same time devoted to the unity. 

We will not settle for a marriage how most of society tells us it should look like. Ours will look like us, with space for both of us to feel wild and free and loved and supported. We will create our home and a retreat center on my farm in Patagonia, with him going back to Australia to work as a botanist. Our intention is to make it a living, breathing, constantly evolving relationship adventure.

So next year, we are uniting in an intimate celebration, with me in a fairy-shaman-ninja warrior-pagan goddess-princess dress and him undoubtedly barefoot with messy hair and mischievous eyes. There will be lots of wildflowers, serendipity and unbounded blissed-out laughter — which pretty much sums up how I imagine the rest of our lives together.