Being newly married, I have people ask me fairly often if it feels any different. The truth is, it really doesn’t, at least not in a tangible, physical sense. Being on the inside, the changes I feel are based on the solemn pride I have knowing that I stood in front of my family, my friends, and my God and made a vow to my wife. It’s a vow to protect her, to cherish her, and above all, to be loving and loyal to her to my dying day. That is a serious and heavy promise, and the change comes in knowing you have earned the right to be there and make that promise. You earned the right to wear that ring. It should be a symbol of love, sacrifice, honor and commitment. That ring should mean everything to you. You should fight to your last breath for that ring.
If I had to compare it to anything, relationships and marriage is much like joining a motorcycle club. If you’ve never been inside the motorcycle world, I realize this sounds funny, and you probably think that I’m joking or mocking the institution of marriage. Quite the opposite. I’m actually implying that people who approach relationships and marriage the right way have the same commitment and fierce loyalty of those who give everything they have to be part of a motorcycle club (MC).
First off, I have to clarify what I am referring to when I talk about joining an MC. I am not referring to a default group that you are automatically entered into when you buy a specific motorcycle. There is nothing wrong with those groups, and they serve their purpose. They just don’t require any loyalty and commitment beyond paying the occasional dues and owning a certain bike. For some, that is good enough. It’s all they require, and the lack of commitment suits their needs just fine. They will go on the occasional ride, have a waffle, and collect their patch.
There are others who want more. They want to feel a closer bond with their club. They want a true tight-knit brotherhood. They want to know that they are part of something, and they are willing to fight for it, to sweat and bleed for it. They are willing to make it their whole world. They are willing to go through the long process of earning their patch and becoming a full member of that club, because they know if and when they reach that point, it means they have given everything, and have earned the right to wear that patch.
That patch is their wedding ring.
When you make the decision to join a club, there are several steps before you are a patched-in full member. Each club differs in their individual requirements, but they usually have a similar process.
When you look at the process, it’s very similar to the process people go through when they are dating and entering into a relationship. The end goal is the same: To qualify you, make sure you’re the right person and you truly want this, and to test your loyalty and commitment.
The first step is to become a hang-around. When you decide that you want to join an MC, you have to see if it’s a world you want to be part of. At this point, you are in no way affiliated with the club. You are exactly what the name implies: A hang around. You hang around with the club in their activities to get a fee for the club and see if it’s something you’d want to commit to any further. It is also for the club too get to know you and make sure they want you around. They’re feeling you out at this point.
This would be the dating phase in any relationship. It’s an important phase because you’re both seeing if this would be for you, and your tying to decide whether you could see yourself invested in the relationship any further. At this point, if either party decides it’s not for them, both can walk away, hopefully with no hard feelings. This is the trial portion of things.
After you’ve been a hang around for a sufficient time (it varies based on the club and the individual) you may be approached to become a prospective member or “prospect.” If you become a prospect, it is a step closer to becoming a full member, and you are now more invested in your prospective club. They will start trusting you more, and giving you more club rights and responsibilities. In many clubs, you will now wear a “prospect” rocker patch, signifying that you’re prospecting for their club.
They will still keep you at arms length, because you’re not a full member, but they will give you more responsibilities to test you and make sure this is what you really want. It’s not always going to be glamorous. It’s not going to be pretty. You’re going to have to put in work. You’re going to have to prove your loyalty and commitment and show the club that you will do what it takes. You will have to show them that the club comes first. Talk is cheap, and they want to see you show it. Prospecting, like being a hang around, can be a long process. It can take a year or more. It varies from club to club, but if they do decide to patch you in and vote you a full member, it typically takes a unanimous vote to do so. It’s a very serious choice that is not taken lightly.
Being a prospect is the equivalent of being engaged. It is a serious step, and tells the other person that you are serious about your intentions, and you are committed to the idea of marrying them. Like prospecting, engagement can be a lengthy affair. Some people take months, many take years. It takes as long as is necessary for both sides to decide in certain and absolute terms that they want to be fully committed to this marriage. It is a necessary and critical process to ensure that neither party is entering into this lightly. They should see and experience both the good and the bad. They should see what life will be like once they take the next step. They should be entering marriage with not doubts, concerns or reservations. If they have those, this is the time to get out.
So you made it to the end. You’ve proven that you love this club and you want to be a part of this world. If the club feels the same about you, you made be patched in as a full member. You now have full rights as afforded to all full members of your club. You have proven yourself to them as much as they have proven themselves to you. But it doesn’t stop there. Now you must continually prove to them and yourself that you belong there. You must prove that you’re a valuable member. You have to continue to put in work and handle business.
Marriage is the same way. You’re a full member now, but the responsibilities don’t stop there. In fact, it’s just beginning. Now you get to start proving to your partner why they made a wise choice, and you must continue to honor this union and sacred vow you made. Everyday, you should strive to show your partner and yourself that you want to be there, present, and in the moment. You can’t become complacent. It is a privilege and and honor, and it’s important to keep that in your head. This is your club now, this family you’re building.
This might seem like a crazy and illogical comparison to you, particularly if you haven’t had any experience in either world. In my experiences though, the similarities are striking. Not everyone is suited for club life. Or marriage. For those that do chose it though, it can be highly rewarding and can give you just what you’ve been missing in your life.
A place to call home.