At 45 years old, Shonda Rhimes has made a firm declaration: Marriage isn’t for her.
It might not sound like a bombshell of a statement, but during a particularly revealing conversation with Oprah on OWN’s “SuperSoul Sunday,” Rhimes explained how it’s actually a pivotal moment for a woman of a certain age to declare publicly, out loud, “I don’t want to get married.”
“[It] feels obvious and maybe silly or something to people who are married or people who are older, people who have been through it,” Rhimes says in the above video. “But if you’re a woman in your thirties or forties, that’s a big deal. Everybody’s asking you all the time if it’s going to happen … There’s a huge amount of pressure.”
The pressure, she adds, is similar to the pressure women often feel to become mothers. “It’s a lot like the desire to want to have children in our society,” Rhimes says. “You’re supposed to want it, and if you don’t want it, what’s wrong with you?”
As a mom to three daughters, Rhimes always knew she wanted to become a parent. A wife, however, was always a different story, even stretching back to her childhood.
“I’m one of those people, since I was 5, I could tell you I was going to have kids. I could tell you I was going to have three. I could tell you they were going to be girls,” she says. “But I have never wanted to get married. I never played bride. I was never interested. I don’t know what it is; I never wanted to get married.”
This doesn’t mean she shies away from relationships. “I love having boyfriends. I love dating,” Rhimes clarifies. “I do not want a husband in my house.”
Oprah shares Rhimes’ thoughts on marriage, having chosen not to wed her longtime partner Stedman Graham. But she also made a candid admission during her talk with the mastermind showrunner.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever said this publicly, but I really wanted to be wanted to be married to,” Oprah says. “I wanted Stedman to want to marry me. The moment he asked me to marry him I was, like… ‘Now I actually have to get married?'”
That proposal happened more than 20 years ago and the wedding would have taken place in 1993. However, it didn’t happen.
“I was supposed to do a book at the same time … and the wedding and the book were happening around the same time. We were on our way from the book party and Stedman said he did not want to have his wedding disturbed by all these people asking me about the book (which I ended up not doing),” Oprah says. “I said, ‘OK. All right. So he said, ‘We should just postpone this wedding. I said, ‘OK.’ And that was it. We have never discussed it again.”
As it turns out, the delay helped Oprah come to an important realization about herself.
“What I realized is, I don’t want to be married,” Oprah says. “Because I could not have the life that I created for myself … I knew that I couldn’t do it.”
Rhimes feels similarly.
“I have so much going on inside my head in terms of writing, there’s such a large space in my life taken up by that. I can’t imagine it being taken up by a husband and children and writing, and everything getting its due,” she says. “I don’t believe there is room for all of it. I really don’t.”
That’s not to say she passes judgment on anyone who feels differently.
“There may be some people who are doing it and who are very happy and who love it. And I am not knocking any of you,” Rhimes says. “It’s never been a dream of mine [to be married].”
Making this declaration has been a powerful part of Rhimes’ “year of yes,” which she has chronicled in her new book of the same title. Like other events in her year of saying yes to things that scare her, allowing herself to be truthful about her view on marriage has been liberating.
“It was really freeing to say it out loud,” Rhimes says. “I always felt like it was a dirty little secret.”
“SuperSoul Sunday” airs Sundays at 11 a.m. ET on OWN.
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