Most women I know look back fondly on the time leading up to their wedding day. I can honestly say that those were some of the worst days of my life. There’s a lot to be said about the family of origin’s influence on the relationships you choose and what you think is normal in a relationship. Perhaps one day I will dig into that a bit more deeply, but for now let me just say that my sister and I have had a strained relationship most of our lives.
On this particular occasion she became very angry with me after John proposed to me and stopped talking to me because her significant other proposed to her four days prior. She felt as if I was stealing something from her by being engaged at the same time. I had a hard time understanding what I could have done differently and I spiraled into a depressed state. Despite our issues, I loved my sister deeply and something inside of me broke when I realized how conditional her love for me was.
I didn’t put much effort or care into most of the details of the wedding as a result of my broken heart. My girlfriends, who have been like sisters to me and from whom I draw strength in my darkest moments, picked out my wedding dress for me. In fact they helped me with many of the wedding details. Perhaps if there had been a little bit less drama in the months leading up to my wedding I would have been more reflective on my relationship with John and how unhappy I was with him. Perhaps not. Who knows. Unfortunately I was too focused on how to gain back my sisters affections (I went as far as to raise caterpillars into butterflies to make live centerpieces for her wedding shower) that I didn’t give our relationship or my reaction to the proposal much thought.
Before I knew it my wedding day had arrived. I imagine that most brides have butterflies and overwhelming feelings of joy and excitement. I, on the other hand, was sick to my stomach. I lied to everyone and told them that I was feeling sick because I was nervous about being the center of attention. But of course the real reason was that I realized I was marrying a man that made me nervous. I had cornered myself into a relationship that was built on control and aggression … and I had no way out. I smiled for the cameras and did the obligatory rounds, thanking everyone for coming … and all the while I was fighting desperately not to throw up. Deep down I think John knew the desperation I was feeling too. He noticed I wasn’t eating. He asked me about it. I told him I wasn’t feeling well. But he didn’t dig and I didn’t offer any other information. This was my life now. I hadn’t escaped when I could and now I was trapped.
Looking back I can see all of the opportunities I had to leave that relationship, but in the moment I couldn’t see them. I knew this was not the love of my life, because how could the love of your life force you into corners or scream in your face or bang on doors while you are huddled in the fetal position saying “Please go away. You’re scaring me.” I said “I do” because I felt trapped and because somewhere along the way I started to feel as if I didn’t deserve love. I had learned that love is conditional and I am the reason that people withdraw from me or yell and scream at me. I internalized it all as my fault. And so if my relationship with John wasn’t what I thought it should be …. that was all on me.