The only thing worse than smug married couple: lots of smug married couples. – The one, the only, Ms. Jones.
Like so many women (and men!), I’ve always dreamed of having a fairy tale wedding. I’d pictured the engagement a million times in my head. I’ve even pictured the two babies in a stroller that I would be walking through a Saturday morning farmer’s market with my husband, a giant chai latte in hand, two years later.
And while I’ve pictured myself walking down the aisle to the most romantic of love songs, until recently, I’d never really considered being in an actual marriage. The intrinsic entangling of your life with someone else’s. The idea that in some ways, your life is no longer your own. And not that this is something to fear, but it’s one of those massive changes that life simply does not or cannot prepare you for.
Last month, I had this overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety when it dawned on me that I wasn’t planning a wedding, I was planning a life. I was afraid that I would lose parts of myself that I couldn’t afford to lose.
Though most may not realize this, I largely consider myself a loner. I am blessed with amazing family and friends but given the choice, I’d often choose to be alone. Being alone gives me time to think. To (over) analyze.
To be, without apology.
So when I started to understand that an engagement is not about a wedding, I was overcome with an almost debilitating panic. This wasn’t about finding the right color for my bridesmaid dresses. The perfect old, new, borrowed and blue. The ideal tier count for the cake.
It was about joining my life with another person whose feelings and desires and dreams were just as important as my own. Something you can often forget when your evenings are filled with the ordinariness and banality of real life. Emptying dishwashers. Watering flowers. Being woken up by animals at all hours of the night.
And despite how deeply I love this person with whom I’ve pledged my future, I – who values solitude almost as much as my relationship – was terrified. Paralyzed, even.
To recalibrate my heart, I decided to take my last and final solo trip down to a remote hideaway south of Key Largo, on the way down to Key West. I thought about sharing my experience in a post, but there are some things that I want to and should keep private.
What I can say is that this trip changed my life. There are things I experienced, saw, heard and felt that I believe permanently changed the temperature of my heart. Yes, I love my fiance with every fiber of my being, but in order for me to be married, I needed to feel the same about myself.
Despite the solo trips I’ve taken to London, to Paris – there was a piece of my heart that I found in the sea. I don’t know how it got there, but whatever was pulling me to that part of the world at that particular moment – it knew how it got there. And it gave it back to me.
Since Chris and I got engaged nearly six months ago to the day, I’ve juggled nearly every thought that one can have about their wedding, their partner, their future. The stress of an engagement causes what one can only assume is the forecasted stress of a marriage. The disagreements about trivial details. The balancing of one family (never) over another. The constant juggling of opinion, after opinion, after opinion….
It’s only been in the last week that the pieces of our engagement have started to come together. Sure, it’s in no small part to the fact that the pieces of our wedding are starting to happen now that we’re five months from our special day. We planned nearly our entire wedding within the first two months of being engaged, and then we sat and we waited.
Waited for answers. Waited for life to begin.
And I can feel it.
And it’s beginning with the person who, despite seeing the worst in me, has always given me the best in himself.
What I’ve been most surprised about through this whole process is the insane ebbs and flows of emotions that come from being engaged and planning a life with your partner. I’m sure some of that is due in part to the undercurrent of melancholy that has shaped my life, but there’s something that most women refuse to share with other women – that being engaged is really, really hard.
Yes, I know – marriage is harder. But hopefully by the time you’ve walked down the aisle and exchanged “I Dos,” you’ve had the chance to run through the whole gamut of feelings and emotions that plague the engagement. By that point, you’re ready. “I Do” suddenly carries an immense amount of weight because it’s saying: in spite of everything we went through while we were engaged, you’re still mine. Even after the party is over, I still choose you.