To Thine Own Self Be True
Part I of 3
It isn’t often that I delve into the personal on here, but the past year has taught me much about the overcommercialization of the heart, the true meaning of love, where to look for strength and courage, and the importance of doing the right thing over what the world may say the right thing looks like.
Take a look at my profile picture (as always, courtesy of Decadence Photography. I can’t recommend her highly enough). I’m a girly-girl. I like makeup and fancy curls and fairy tales. This isn’t to say I can’t handle firearms or a half-ton horse, but I’m more Belle than I am Brunhilde. Ergo, I’m a firm believer in love and romance.
Or at least I was. I admittedly was a bit of a late bloomer. My girlfriends still like to tell stories about how they had to bring me home and teach me how to walk with my hips and in high-heels and flirt a bit so I wouldn’t get so tongue-tied talking to the hottest guy in the eighth grade…which I still did. A true talent, as the conversations we had were limited to the scripts in our hands. A year later, I fell hard for one of my best friends. That was at the end of freshman year. We dated until midway through senior year and saw each other through a lot- thick and thin, good and bad. It was hard to let go. Harder for me, I think, and that made it worse for him, because despite how angry I was most of the time, he really is a good man, and I thank him for it. Five years of on-again, off-again is not the way to let one’s self heal and move on though.
Move on we both did, finally, and eventually when all the dust settled I met this guy I’ll call Lenny. We hit it off pretty much right away and even though we lived about an hour apart, saw each other nearly every weekend and quite a bit during the week. I got along well with his family, and he with mine. He proposed after we were together for only nine months, and I accepted. Things were chugging along great. Wedding plans were falling into place perfectly; my dress was ordered, the church was booked, the reception venue arranged, bridesmaids fitted for their gowns, our wedding bands were purchased…
…then he lost his job. And the people who rented property from him moved with almost no notice. His parents, who lived with him, started pressuring him and making him feel guilty that he’d be moving out with his wife and they’d be all alone. (His parents were perfectly capable of being on their own; his mother still worked full-time.) Things he promised me about our life together, important things – suddenly he’d change his mind 24 hours later and there’d be no further discussion on it. His siblings started sticking their oars in, and practically accusing me of breaking up the family and throwing their parents into the street (yet I noticed how none of the siblings offered to help with the parents’ bills, rent, etc.; it was all to be on us.)
Something in all this seemed Not Right to me. I felt like I was getting buried, not married, and this shouldn’t how a joyful bride feels. I wasn’t eating, I wasn’t sleeping. As far back as February my own mother asked me, when I was ranting about such and such situation, “Is this something you’re willing to live with for the next 30 years?”. That was the first time I really caught myself and thought about it. As her words turned over in my mind, heavy as lead, I was forced to look at her and say, “I don’t know”. We were seven months from the wedding then.
It snowballed. Stupid things – refusal to come to my nephew’s birthday party. Blowing me off to drink and watch sports with his brothers at the bar instead. Shutting down completely when I tried to get him to see that the financial situation as it stood was not sustainable and we needed to do X, Y, and Z so that we wouldn’t go bankrupt right after we signed the marriage contract. He would agreed to a plan and then again change his mind almost instantaneously.
The final straw was the argument over the budget. As it was, with both of us working picking up the tab for his parents and the property was not going to work and there was no way in hell I was going to move in with my in-laws. Not when they were capable of looking after themselves and we newlyweds. It would have been different had one or both of them been ill and incapacitated, but that was not the case. The day before we’d had a plan to sell property, help them find an apartment, get ourselves one with cheaper rent, etc. Then, again, I was accused of insulting them, throwing them out to die, oh, and we won’t think of selling for at least ten years or so. I don’t lose my temper often, but I did that night. A broken mirror, a broken pair of spectacles, and 125 miles added onto my car. A complaint that his parents were worried sick and frightened that I had driven out there in the middle of the night, but he’s my fiancée – shouldn’t I be able to see him whenever I want? I’m 30, not 13, thanks. (For what it’s worth, I’m five feet tall and weigh just over 110lbs. A friend once described me as the “least threatening person he’d ever met”.)
That sealed it, I think. I am an adult. I needed to be treated like an adult, in an environment of adults. I was not going to live with my in-laws any more than I would expect Lenny to be happy about living with my parents. I wasn’t going to be lied to, or be expected to obey his parents or siblings because that’s what the women do. I’d lost nearly 10lbs and couldn’t remember that last good night’s sleep I’d had. On the drive home from his house I had my last good cry over him. I hadn’t broken the engagement, not yet, but it was pretty inevitable. That was a Thursday night, Palm Sunday weekend. Friday morning, the ring came off. I adopted a kitten, instead. Looking back, good trade.
Friday, a friend slept over and we cold-bloodedly analyzed my choices from every angle. I think it was most telling when she said that if I did go through with this, she couldn’t stand by my side and be my Maid of Honor. I appreciated this honesty. I went to work and spoke with a few of my coworkers whom I’d known for a long time and trusted almost as if they were family.
Sunday, I went to his house and told him that it was clear we had different expectations on what a marriage should look like, and I wanted out. The worse part, I think, is that he didn’t even fight for me. Not an, “I’m sorry, let’s try to work this out,” or “We can put the wedding on hold and get through this,” but just let me walk away. Five months before we were to be wed, I was instead putting his stuff into a box to be mailed back, including the three rings, single yet again.
End of Part I