I have struggled to write about this. Actually, I have sat down multiple times and began wondering if I ever really would. Never before have I found a topic so difficult to pen, but this one is. It is not that I am worried about being vulnerable or seeming "less then tough", I think this has just been a subject that I did not want to express to myself. Consider this a mini-therapy, "go someplace that makes you scared" post.
I struggle with weddings. Just typing that statement feels so trivial. It is not weddings themselves, or people that I know and love getting married. I celebrate other peoples' unions wholeheartedly. This is more about roles in life, disappointments and past scars. (Ack!!! the "baggage"!!!)
To start out, let me explain how I was raised. I come from a family where marriage generally happens once, and it endures through times, good, bad and the spectrum in between. My grandparents stayed married, aunts, uncles, cousins and my parents...all married, mates for life. I was also raised with the belief that I should never live my life relying on a man, because every woman needs to be able to stand on her own. I agree with this. I think everyone, man or woman, should be secure enough, especially financially, for survivalism.
Now for more personal info. Marriage was not something I ever pushed for or tried to force, I just happen to have a history of engagements and long term relationships where marriage was discussed. I, however, have never wed.
With my first engagement, we were young but we agreed to being engaged for a long time before we even set a date. Some people in my life disregarded this engagement as "being real" and that hurt. That relationship ended abruptly a few years later. He is a good person, but our lives were very different. I was blessed with a wonderful family and had no major traumas (well, except eggplant...make note to write a blog explaining that), his life was hard and he struggled with drugs and major traumas. He broke up with me, said he made a mistake, got back together a week later, broke up again, he wanted to get back.... I encouraged him to get counseling. It was over. No hard feelings.
The next serious relationship lasted six years. There was talk about marriage, but it never went beyond that. He gave me his word that it was what he wanted, but when his mother offered us her engagement ring and he blew the idea off, I knew that it would not be forever. I did not leave, we dated for quite some time more. Then I got sides-wiped at the end. For the final month, I had been in rehearsal for a show I was doing in the city and did not get to see him much. He kept giving me his word that things would be fine once my performances were over. Needless to say, the day after the last curtain call, the curtain went down on the relationship as well. Insult to injury, actually. I had fallen down a flight of stair and got rushed to the hospital after the last performance. The next day, I heard from a mutual friend that he and I had broken up. This news was confirmed by him in a parking lot.
The last engagement/relationship/fiasco lasted quite a few years, on and off. I went into this relationship not expecting to ever get engaged or married. When he first mentioned getting me a ring, he was really sick so I wrote it off to delirium from his fever. When he was back down to 98.5, he brought up the topic again. Hmmm, maybe he was serious. We got engaged, even had a party with friends and family. But that relationship crashed and burned...several times. After the fact, friends and family openly expressed all the negative things about him and how they figured the relationship would not last anyway.
I realize that I am the common thread through all these relationships. I began seriously questioning what was wrong with me; why was I bring mates into my life that have talked out of both sides of their mouths? Was I just ignoring the red flags? Was I so much of a hopeless romantic that I believed that the storybook ending was possible or was I just hopeless? So what do I do? I put on my happy face, crack some jokes and pretend that I am tough enough to handle anything. And I am relatively good at that. Stuffing down pain, never letting them see you sweat, all that mumbo-jumbo. When a relative attending my brother's wedding insensitively brought up my former engagement party (when I am clearly with a very different, much more wonderful guy) the knife was turned. I cracked a joke, changed the subject and looked for the quickest exit away from said relative. But all this past stuff, the baggage, the wounds, the scars, can work wonders on the psyche.
I sit here now, living with a wonderful man. A man I have known since I was a punk chick teenager and we both were cool enough to produce our own zines. (I should share the story of how we became a "we". It's a strange and wonderful tale.) And I struggle. I struggle with fully healing past hurts so as to not infect this current relationship. I struggle with keeping the anxiety at bay when people inquire, "so when are you two getting married?" I struggle with staying in the here and now, staying out of my head and keeping grounded in what is. I struggle with insecurities and self-imposed expectations. I struggle with keeping up the illusion of a tough woman who can handle it all. I struggle with letting go of outcomes. And I mostly struggle with admitting that, yes, I have been "always the fiance, never the bride" and even admitting that, yes, I want to one day get married.
So here it is, a post that I found hard to write. It took me three sittings to get through it. I debated writing it and deleting it, since it shows the blog-world one of my vulnerabilities. It demonstrates that despite my want to be an independent, strong woman, I still do want to be a wife. I do not know where I started believing "wife" is not synonymous with "strong woman", especially since my mom is an incredibly strong woman and a wife.
I am working on it, all of it, and trying to make myself a better person, mate and strong woman.