Total Divas’ Nikki Bella is a professional wrestler, a business owner and a reality star. She’s beloved by WWE fans, and she’s about to get even more famous when her own show Total Bellas premieres this fall. But whenever I read interviews with her, they seem to focus on the one thing: she’s not married.
Like a WWE-flavored Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani, Bella is famously dating the equally adored wrestler John Cena. Fans of Total Divas already know that because she talks about it as much as your girlfriends do about their boyfriends. Before the season premiere of the show last year, the E! News headline was “John Cena Tells Nikki Bella ‘We Can Talk About Marriage’ in New Total Divas Season 5 Preview: Watch!” On a trip to Paris last season, she made a wish a the that Cena would propose. As a viewer, I can see why a couple’s will-they-won’t-they surrounding marriage makes for a good storyline. As an entertainment writer, I have to believe there’s more to the story. As a woman, it’s tough to watch this push and pull become a point of public contention.
It’s well-trodden territory that single people hate answering the question, “So when are you getting married?” Bella was asked the inevitable question earlier this year during an interview with Latina. She’s open about her eagerness to tie the knot and equally forthcoming about Cena’s desire not to. “‘Marriage fever,’ she says with a sigh. ‘I have to remind him when I get hit on, ‘I got hit on because no one saw a ring.’ The good thing is, he’s more open to marriage now — kids, unfortunately, no.’ Despite the uncertainty about her romantic future, Nikki keeps it all in perspective. ‘When I envision having my life without John, it hurts more than having a life without kids.'” We all make compromises for our relationships. Fewer of us have them documented by Latina, InTouch, and E!. Does our coverage of this woman have to circle around her relationship status?
It may just be mesmerizing to read about a relationship sacrifice that appears uncommon. But Megan Costello, a licensed therapist who practices in San Francisco, say she sees couples struggling with unbalanced expectations often. “I see this a lot, and it’s not always the woman who wants to get married and the guy who doesn’t,” she says.
As with so many other things, the key is communication, according to relationship expert Andrea Syrtash, author of He’s Just Not Your Type (And That’s a Good Thing). “There are many things in a relationship that a couple can compromise on; but there are some (like the decision to get married or have a baby) that need two people to say yes,” says Syrtash. “If a couple wants to stay together with this issue lingering, they need to ensure they keep communication open so they’re not holding resentments. They also need to do a cost-benefit and ask themselves, ‘what’s it costing me to stick to my decision?'”
But the answer, again, lies in compromise. “Couples decide to meet in the middle by moving in together, having a joint checking account and managing their money together, those key parts of marriage. Oftentimes there is a way to compromise on the specific issues and then marriage in general becomes a more amenable topic.” For Bella and Cena, perhaps the trick is signing on do to a reality show together.