I had just made the biggest decision thus far of my life – my new fiancé still on his knee – and all I could think was, “What are my parents going to say?”
The uncertainty of their reaction unnerved me so much I avoided calling them for over three hours. It was supposed to be one of the happiest moments of my life, yet a huge cloud hung over my happiness.
Sadly, my worries weren’t exaggerated. While my father offered congratulations, my mom let me know she wasn’t pleased. Everything was wrong – how the proposal happened, when it happened and namely my choice of husband.
For the next year I cried myself to sleep more times than I can remember. I cried in the car, in the shower and did my best to hide tears at my office desk. The stress of wedding planning, defending my fiancé and dealing with negative feedback nearly broke me. I felt abandoned by my family.
My fiancé and I considered a pseudo-elopement. I cringed every time my phone rang, fearing my parents would be on the other end. We argued about napkins, candles, dress styles and songs for the ceremony. I’d be misled into having a phone conversation with my dad about some of the struggles we were having, only to realize five minutes later that my mom was secretly listening on the other line, jumping in to tell me all the ways I was incorrectly assessing the situation.
I didn’t know who or what to trust and was afraid of saying anything, worried my words would be used against me in the future. I remember telling myself, “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.”
Looking back, I was the second oldest of five children but the first to get married, and so it was a new emotional experience for everyone. Still, their doubt in me, in my choice of spouse, and doubt in the goodness of my fiancé cut me to the core. While no legitimate reasons for their dislike could be found, I wrestled with wondering if they were right. Was I making the wrong decision? Have I been blind this whole time?
But time and time again, I came back to the same conclusion: there was no man better suited for me than the one I had chosen. I didn’t let just anyone into my life, and when I looked at his family and friends, the people he chose to hang out with, it reaffirmed what an amazing guy he was. Thankfully, my friends, coworkers and adult family friends all felt the same. They gave me the encouragement and confidence I needed to keep trudging forward to our winter wedding date.
Amid all the strife, there was beauty in it too. My fiancé stood by me the entire time, encouraging me and wiping my tears. When so many guys would have said, “See you later,” his love for me only expanded. His actions confirmed his commitment to me. I was also impressed that he never bashed my parents, but did his best to love them even under imperfect circumstances.
Weeks after the wedding a profound sadness came over me. I was angry, hurt, and baffled by what the last year and a half had been. I felt I was cheated out of what was supposed to be an exciting time for me – one of hope, joy, and dreams. Instead it was a time of depression, that thankfully I came out of, but it took time and space.
Now, three years after the wedding, I can thankfully say much of the hurt has faded. Still, small waves of sadness rush over me whenever I hear of families celebrating engagements, listen to moms gushing about new sons-in-law, or see joyous engagement party pictures on Facebook. Immediately I’m flung back to a few years ago, wishing things would have been different, mourning the “what-ifs.”
But I only allow myself a minute or two of self-wallowing before I remind myself of my amazing husband and beautiful marriage. The engagement wasn’t the end, just a prelude to the beginning, and while that heartache and healing is a part of our story, I refuse to let it define our marriage. As hard as it would be, if I knew I would have to go through all of the pain and frustration again to have what I have today, I would. It would be worth it.