June 16, 2008. That was the date we had set. Our wedding date. It was going to be in June because we both liked summer—at least I did—and 2008 because that would be the year I would be graduating from grad school. We had our kids names picked out (my last name and his mother’s maiden name), wasn’t too sure where we would live, but I’m sure I could’ve talked us into living in Charlotte because that’s where we met. My college years were consumed with him. We started out as a friend and sloooowly (emphasis on slow) became a couple. We were always “a couple” so to speak we just denied it for the first 2 years because we were silly. It felt natural and right that after everything we had been through (him helping me when I had my car accident and broke my wrist my sophomore year of college, constant arguments around his insecurities, our ex’s no longer surfacing, the normal boy/girl relationship junk) that we would end up marrying each other. That’s how it’s supposed to go, right?
So wrong. As wrong as two left shoes! I believe I have it figured out…life, at least to some degree. You can have things planned out to the very last minute detail and suddenly this big wagging finger comes waving in your face to and fro saying, “no, no, no!” (just like the Geico commercial with Dikembe Mutombo).
The point I’m trying to make is that I had my life figured out. I was going to be the first out of my group of close girlfriends to be married. I was going to join the “married ladies club” at the tender age of 23, him 25. We would have our first child the following year and live the family life, visiting his family in Winston Salem, mine in Augusta. It sounds nearly perfect, right? This is the kind of life that people dream to have, one that seems stable. Naturally, we would have struggled just coming out of college, me having graduated from grad school during the worst time in our economy, the recession. But we would have made it through. We were firm believers in God and went to church regularly.
It was the life that seemed to be one that I was to live. But looking back, it wasn’t a life I can say with absolute honesty and certainty that I was ready for. No doubt, I wanted a family, I wanted to be married, but I felt I was too young and I wanted to experience life. He was a great guy, but we were both so young and immature that I have no doubt the marriage either wouldn’t have lasted or we would have been one of those miserable couples that walked around trying to figure it out but not really figuring it out and staying together for appearances. I didn’t want that. I couldn’t do that to myself, to him, to our families. We both had issues. He was a jealous guy and I was a crazy jealous girl, always feisty, quick to argue and pick a fight, always had a guard up or a chip on my shoulders. I wasn’t the woman I am today. I had to grow into a woman that could learn to be vulnerable and love without thinking I needed something in return. I needed to learn what it meant to be with someone that loved me for me and could put up with some of my crazy moments without flinching.
The other part to all of that was I was feeling as if I was scared of marriage. My parents had been married for maybe slightly under 30 years at that time. They had a normal marriage, from what I saw. They raised their children, paid their bills, traveled, worked, etc. My mother cooked and cleaned, my father made repairs and other odd jobs around the house, as the man does. They played their “part”. It wasn’t just my parent’s marriage I saw like that but others I saw “playing the part”. At first I thought it was normal but my mind was starting to change direction, I was in a whole new lane. Whether I was in the slow lane or fast lane while I was with my college sweetheart thinking of marriage, I had to get off on the shoulder of the road and really think about where I was going with my life. I didn’t know. I was confused. I thought, so what else comes with this marriage thing? Where’s the fun in it? What’s the benefit? Please excuse me for my naiveté but that’s how I thought in my early twenties.
I started getting more and more uncomfortable, because I was starting to see my life differently than what I had planned it to be. I wanted something different. I loved him but I could no longer “play the part” of wanting to “play the part”. I just wasn’t ready. He hadn’t formally proposed to me with a ring so there wasn’t a scene of having to break off the engagement and give the ring back. There were tears, there was hurt, but there was also the feeling that I was going to be starting over and be on this journey (I’m not a fan of that word, by the way) of finding myself and growing.
I never looked back or regretted my decision. Our relationship ended my senior year of college. I think it happened the way it was supposed to. We ended up where we needed to be. He has a life and I have mine too. We both grew up as we should have, without one another. Marriage doesn’t shake me up as it used to. I don’t look at it like playing a part as I did. I look at it as something that, if you are mentally prepared and ready for it, you can make it work. It takes both individuals to be in the same lane. One can’t be in the fast lane, the other in the slow lane. It’s a matter of working it all the way through, if it’s worth it and if it means something. I have a lot of friends that have been married or are married and I learn from the things they tell me. I want to be a better version of myself and not have to worry about playing the part of someone else that is not me just to fit into the club.
So beloved readers, do you have any advice on what to do to shake any pre-marriage jitters? Have you been through a similar situation, and what did you do?