My dream wedding dress is a Vera Wang, and it is more than $5000.00. Without a veil. No shoes. Just the dress–cloth, dye and thread–is as much as a used car.
But, I found this dress while I was dating a man that tried to kill me in the apartment we lived in with his father and his girlfriend. I thought if I just loved him hard enough, he would see how badly he had treated me, and I would get my happily ever after. So, with that goal in mind, I looked for a dress.
From the dress, I registered with theknot and was determined to make this man love me. I wanted him to love me like I loved him. It wasn’t until that relationship was over did I realize how askew my focus was. And just how detrimental that is.
This isn’t the exact dress, but it’s damn close.
I tease people that I grew up as a pagan. I didn’t come to knowledge of faith in Christ until I was 8. I was baptized at 16. I wasn’t brought up in a house that made or put God as its center. But. after 16? I knew that sex before marriage was wrong. With that guilt, compiled with a me sleeping with my ex on a regular basis? I knew that marrying him would make everything go away. All the guilt. All the shame. Once I put on this white dress, this ring and told God I would be his wife–my absolution would be complete.
But here’s the rub.
It’s deeper than chastity. It’s deeper than spending more focus on a dress than on a relationship. The rub was prizing the decor and decorations over a lifetime. Being with someone in a dating relationship is much different that being with someone in a marriage. In the pursuit of trying to be chose (which I’ll discuss later), I put up with behavior I wouldn’t think of putting up with now.
I wanted him to see how strong I could be. Just like the gold in the ring I wanted. I wanted to keep myself pretty, always eye-catching. Just like the diamonds I envisioned I would wear. I loved him, I forgave him, and accepted anything that he gave. I wanted him to see me as adaptable, like any circle. Like any ring.
Marriage is more than a wedding.
When people ask me what I think about relationships (which is actually pretty often), my advice is the same. I suppose now, with the most toxic relationship I have ever had being over almost 20 years ago, I have a unique vantage point. I stayed with a man that tried to kill me because he said he loved me. I stayed with him because after everything we had gone through, after everything he promised me, he owed me a ring.
He owed me dress, a day and the chance to celebrate us. That would be the proof that he loved me. It would be proof that I could maintain a relationship. It would be proof that I could withstand the ebbs and flows of a committed relationship. It was proof that I was wife material. A wedding, the wedding–my wedding–would be the ultimate trophy. It would have been a win for us. I would be the coda of everyone that didn’t think he was good enough for me. It would be a middle finger to everyone that thought we couldn’t wouldn’t last.
The altar wasn’t a culmination. It was a finish line.
Marriage should be a culmination.
A wedding is a party.
Marriage is what you do when no one is looking. The staying together when the world around you goes to shit. You shouldn’t have to prove how much you love someone by how much you take. Love doesn’t require being emotionally trampled. Being someone’s wife doesn’t mean that you need to prove your ability to get back up after being knocked down.
Marriage doesn’t change who people are, not really. It fortifies and reveals who they are! It shows if you have the ability to compromise, to be selfless or selfish. Can you compromise? Can you, do you hold grudges? Can you put do what is necessary because it has to be done? And the most important thing to consider: can you want the best for someone whether it benefits you or not?
Can you allow this person that you chose, and whom has chosen you, to grow? To mess up? To forgive and be forgiven by? Do you have the stamina to really love someone?
If you don’t, if you cannot fathom such a thing beyond sex, then don’t bother picking a dress. Or buying a ring.
You ain’t ready.