That Second Sparkly Ring


I'm on my own timeline

by B.

That Second Sparkly Ring | A Practical Wedding

I didn’t expect her social media status update would hit me like it did. My cousin, two months older than I am, announced that she got engaged for the second time. She has a big sparkly ring. Her first ring was also big and sparkly. I have never been one to begrudge a lady her big sparkly things, but this one hurt. This one felt like a kick to the gut.

I’ve been content knowing that my path is different—slower, apparently, with a lot more turns and big branches in the way. I’ve attended nearly three dozen weddings in my lifetime (seriously, that many), been involved in a handful as a bridesmaid or maid of honor. Aside from the weddings where I didn’t know anyone and didn’t have a date (okay, so technically I kind of phoned it in at those three weddings and sulked over my glass in the corner), I am usually your most supportive attendee. I bring gifts! I dance! I beam and cry happy tears on your blessed day! Throughout it all I’ve been patient with myself, knowing I just had some things to take care of before I was ready for marriage—like, say, finish grad school, establish my career, and, um, find the right guy. Details. Yes, there used to be the offhand (or direct) comments from my extended family pushing me towards marriage and family, but I think they’ve given up, and that’s fine with me. I’m on my own timeline.

One particularly charming fellow, the best man in a friend’s wedding, actually had the balls to say to me, in front of the entire wedding party, “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, huh B?” Did I mention that guy was… drum roll… single? How did a catch like that ever get away?

But when my cousin announced she was swiftly moving into this next phase of her life, I could not summon supportive, happy feelings for her. I was pissed. “She’s working on a SECOND MARRIAGE, and I haven’t ever been engaged?” I hissed at the computer screen, jealous. She already had the opportunity at a fairy-tale wedding, the princess dress, the expensive reception, the McMansion house, the happy kid. Instead of feeling happy that she had healed from the pain of her divorce and found someone new who made her smile, I seethed.

I never wanted those fairy tale things; I’ve always been a simple lady who would prefer a small potluck meal and barn dance wedding, a humble pearl ring to any of those expensive things. And yet… here I was, ragey jealous of her. I felt like a failure. I’m thirty-five. I don’t own a home. I don’t have a husband. I don’t have a kid. None of that has been a problem, until suddenly it was. Why couldn’t it be my turn for my humble fairy tale story to be told? Was I asking for too much?

I closed the computer and tried to forget about it. That tactic worked really well, and I’ve let it go and made peace with it. Oh sorry, that was what happened in Opposite Land. What really happened is that I fought with my boyfriend over something unrelated, stormed out of the apartment, went for a VERY long walk on a VERY cold beach and then came home and sobbed on his shoulder for about two more hours.

The good news is that, between the sniffly, snot-filled sobs, I was finally able to talk to my boyfriend about my feelings regarding marriage—something I had been hesitant to do before for fear of making him feel pressured. We had our first really honest conversation about marriage in our three-year relationship. That night, we came to a place of understanding without any hurt feelings or pressure. Yes, we both want to get married at some point in the future. No, we’re not in a rush, we’ll know when the time is right. No, I don’t want a diamond, but I would like a pearl. You wanted to make me a wooden ring? Maybe we can do that for our wedding rings so we both get what we want. A pearl engagement ring and a wooden wedding ring will look beautiful together, just like our path: slow, filled with twists and turns, challenges and obstacles, and simply beautiful.

B.

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  • BeccaC

    The one thing I always remind myself (especially when looking at social media) is that there is not a limited amount of happiness in the world. There is more then enough for everyone, and for you to have some too (hopefully lots!). Just because someone has success it does not take away from your success and the chances of your future success. Also facebook is very carefully curated (and mostly just the good stuff in a persons life); you never know what else is going on. Being jealous of what you see on social media is not a failure, it just means it got in your head, just like it was desinged to.

    • Jules

      This is very wise, and yet so much easier said than done. Sometimes sharing is perfectly innocuous, sometimes it’s meant to prove we are keeping up with the Joneses (hi, house in the suburbs!), sometimes it’s a gigantic humble-brag about how great your life is. I got to the point where I couldn’t always distinguish between the three (maybe the posters weren’t even sure which one it was either), and it was actually hurting my chances of satisfaction with my own life. It was like a giant highlighter pointing out things I didn’t have (and didn’t even necessarily want).

      Meanwhile, I was sitting next to a wonderful man that I want to marry, head of the department at 23, with enough people who love me in my own life. And I STILL couldn’t shake off the green monster. So I quit it altogether.

      Of course, the same *things* are still happening – friends have diamond rings, go on vacation, do things without me, get pregnant – but I find it easier to find joy in them because suddenly most of the implications are gone. My life is about me again, what I want and what I have, and not what’s missing.

      • BeccaC

        Very true – I still have trouble sometimes with putting what I said above into practice, but those thoughts are (so far) the only things I could come up with that would help me (aside from quitting facebook). I am impressed by people who manage to quit facebook, because I just can’t. Kudos to you for getting rid of the giant highlighter (great analogy btw).

        • Jules

          I convinced myself it was far more necessary than it actually was. In college, that might have been true (social events, study groups, etc), but not anymore. I weaned myself off slowly, and at the end I found that…I was okay without it. I think it just depends on how you use / handle it – if the good outweighs the bad, great! For me, it just didn’t. Also, your “unlimited happiness” theory is a great way to approach life in general.

          Weirdly, I now get updates from my 60+ year old dad on which family member put what on Facebook…

      • vegankitchendiaries

        This actually makes me seriously want to quit too.

        • Kristin

          I quit Facebook a few months ago. It was one of the best decisions I could have made for my mental health.

          • vegankitchendiaries

            I am downloading my “facebook archive” (IE, my photos) as we speak. Mostly what’s driving me is for the past few months I’ve been thinking about quitting facebook and then I’ll have a flash of, “but I should wait until after the wedding so we can post photos”. And like… isn’t that kind of sick? It’s a total “keeping up with the Joneses”/humblebrag disease… I’m better than that surely!

            The bummer part is that I spent most of my adult life in another country and have just moved ‘home’ to Canada after 8 years in the UK. So, as someone who *enjoys* keeping up with everyone’s baby pictures… that’d be nice. But it’s a bad excuse for me to hang around. Personally, I need to admit that FB isn’t good for my psyche.

    • rys

      I think facebook makes some of these feelings more regular, but in the end, social media is merely an instigator for feelings that are already there. I’ve had similar feelings of resentment and jealousy when learning about engagements and pregnancies over the phone and in person. It’s timeline creep meets dating frustration meets fear about never being partnered. I don’t like these feelings, but they exist. The intensity ebbs and flows, and I’ve gotten better about avoiding the single spiral of despair, but it endures in one form or another, set off by this piece of news or that one, on facebook or in person.

  • Anne Schwartz

    Girl, I feel this so much. All of the love and good thoughts.

  • CH

    This piece is very personal for me because I’m the second-time bride, lapping many of my friends and family who have not yet been engaged or married. It sucks on this side too. You feel jealous; I feel guilty. I feel guilty that I got a second chance at happiness when some amazing women in my life haven’t even found *one* person they’d like to commit to for life.

    Ultimately, I *still* feel like I don’t deserve it — this beautiful, wonderful life that my husband and I have created. I still feel like I had my chance, and I blew it, and now I need to wait until everyone else gets their #1 marriage before I get my #2. I don’t know why it happened for me…why I found someone incredible to marry after going through a horrendous divorce. I don’t know why it happens for me and not others. I feel really guilty about it. This is really hard stuff.

    None of this is meant to be a knock at the writer of this piece — I think her feelings are totally legit. Just wanted to offer a perspective that it’s hard on this side of things, too.

    • Anon

      Thank you for sharing – your perspective adds a lot to the discussion.

    • Dawn

      This is interesting. I think you seem to be struggling with the “limited happiness” concept much as the OP is.

      Just to share a different take from ghat of the OP, and not to invalidate her experiences at all: My perspective is almost the opposite of the limited happiness concept, though equally illogical. I came later to marriage and several friends / relatives were divorced and onto marriage number 2. I felt like I had gotten lucky to miss the really tough times my divorced friends struggled through, and I admired them for trying again. It helped me be courageous enough and patient enough to keep taking the risks that relationships require.

      I guess the take home is that some never marrieds / not yet marrieds are really happy that you’re willing and able to give it another try.

    • Helen

      Same here – for me it wasn’t so much the guilt over getting another go, and more the guilt of bothering people with another wedding. I’ve worked my way through it, but it was tough for a while – I found myself squashing my fiance’s ideas because she wanted bigger and I would have been happy screwing up our wedding into a little ball and hiding it in a cupboard so no one would notice. Thank goodnes for APW, is all i have to say.

  • Eh

    Just before I broke up with this guy I dated for five and a half years, someone I went to high school with got married for the second time and had a baby. I felt pretty crappy that I had been dating this guy when she got married to her first husband and now she was having a second wedding and I was still with this guy (and we didn’t seem any closer to marriage). My ex accused me of wanting a “day” and not a marriage. After my ex and I broke up his therapist told me that if I wanted to get married “young” (which to her was before you were thirty) I should move to a small town (I grew up in small town – a lot of the people I know got married young and, at the time, in their mid-twenties a number of them were getting divorced or remarried).

    As that relationship ended I started to worry that I was going to be like my cousin. As a kid I had always looked up to her. And now as an adult I still looked up to her but I don’t want her life. We both had strings of long term relationships (3 to 5+ years) that seemed to be heading towards marriage and then ended. Relatives would tell us that our ex seemed like a good guy and would make comments about how we should have married him (at one point I told someone that there was probably a reason we broke up). Then she was in her mid-thirties and her biological clock started ticking and she ended up getting pregnant. Adding a child to the mix didn’t help their relationship and she lived with her parents after their son was born. When she got pregnant the second time she moved in with the guy. The relationship did not last long after that, and now she has full custody of their two sons because he is not interested in being a father. She is an awesome mother and she does the best that she can for her sons but it is not how she thought her life would be.

    Eventually I found an awesome guy (he’s from a small town) and now we are married and own a house (in the ‘burbs). Our paths crossed at the perfect time – I was fed up with online dating and asked a friend to set me up; she set me up with her husband’s cousin who wanted to settle down because his brother was getting married and starting a family.

  • Meg

    I think it’s ok to feel these things (I certainly would in your situation). It’s ok to be resentful, but just try not to direct too much of it at her. Was the guy supposed to give her a crappier ring because she’s a second time around bride? I don’t think so, and I doubt you do either.
    Anyway I really liked this because thanks to FB we’ve all been there.

  • Fiona

    Facebook is quite talented at inspiring jealousy. Seriously.
    It’s important to remember that we usually only show the sparkly stuff on facebook. Your cousin may post beautiful first marriage things and beautiful second marriage things, but you won’t see much of the painful divorce in between. That doesn’t make the feelings any less valid though!

  • Anon

    I needed this today. My last friend got engaged on Saturday and now I am the last single girl out of all my friends. Immediately, after I hung up with her I started shaking because of the distinct possibility that I may be alone forever now really feels real.

    • Class of 1980

      I can assure you, it is NOT real. ;)

  • Juanita

    This so much. Facebook makes it so hard to see the good in your life. I’ve felt this about jobs more than anything. Especially when I hear about people having multiple job offers or getting a job right after graduating. Even though I didn’t want to work right after graduating. I’m working at a camp later this summer, but hearing everyone else good news over facebook it burns.

    But also being engaged at a young age I know that others have felt like their lives aren’t quite where they should be. I am blessed and grateful I don’t know why I found someone I know that I can commit to, but that doesn’t mean anything is wrong with those who haven’t.

    Being confident in my own path is something I’m just starting to find peace with. It’s a long journey though.

  • TeaforTwo

    I was a single lady for a long time before I met my now-husband, and I had a lot of timeline panic. (And still do, but now it’s about kids, careers and real estate instead of relationships.)

    The thing about Facebook and timelines is that they only highlight the positive, and don’t show the other side. Two sparkly rings! Two wedding days! Two stand mixers! The reality (and I don’t mean to chip away at your cousin’s happiness) is that the second-marriage timeline isn’t one I want to be on. The second engagement is on occasion for celebration and joy, but the path to it (presumably, an unhappy marriage or period of unhappy marriage and then a divorce) isn’t one that I would envy.

    Timelines are a myth, not only because we all have more time than we think, but because we’re all on different paths.

    • Eh

      When I was in my mid-twenties and a five year relationship ended I had a lot of timeline panic. Things had just started to fall into place. We had both just graduated from grad school and we both had good paying jobs. The next step was *obviously* to get married and have children but that was not in the cards for that relationship. People kept telling me that I was still young and had lots of time. Meanwhile, I was thinking that if it took us five years to finally get to that point and then we realized that it wasn’t going to work what was going to happen next time. (It takes time to build a relationship!) The year we broke up I was the age my mom was when I was born. That hit me really hard.

      Now I am married, we have a house, I got a promotion and I am turning the age this year that (in my previous timeline) I wanted to be done having children by and we haven’t even started yet. I know that I have more time so I’m not freaking out yet. I had a list of things I wanted to do/accomplish by my birthday this year and the only thing on that list that I haven’t done is have a baby so I think that I have done pretty well.

  • SarahG

    This reminds me of the AA saying “Don’t compare your insides with other people’s outsides.” Which I need to remind myself of *all* the time.

  • JSwen

    Great read, thanks for sharing!

  • Whitney

    I think everyone’s life has twists, turns, stumbles, and falls. It’s just not what most people choose to display on social media. You always see the ups in their lives, not the downs. And everyone has downs!

  • NicoleT

    I feel like everyone has a longer path somewhere. Some have a longer path towards marriage while others have a longer path towards financial stability or mental/physical health. I fall into the category of financial stability. Whenever I start to get jealous of friends getting new jobs or posting pictures of their work, I always do my best to remember that this could be something that they need to celebrate, either because other things aren’t going so great or simply because things are lining up for them after putting in a lot of work. It’s harder for me to be jealous after that.

    (That being said- if I do find myself getting jealous of a close friend, I will stop following her on social media because a) I’m not letting posts on social media warp my view of my friend and b) I should be talking to her directly to find out what’s going on in her life in any case.)

    • Eh

      I totally agree that someone else has a longer path to somewhere else. I hit three milestones within 6 months (marriage, house, promotion) but I had been working a long time to get those places.
      I also stop following people on social media if their negativeness upsets me. If going to FB results in me being upset I know that I need a break from FB or from that person. I took a social media break from one friend for almost a year. When I started looking at her posts again I noticed that she was far less negative. (Previously the majority of her posts were negative rants about her neighbours or the co-op board or her daughters school or her inlaws.)

      • ElisabethJoanne

        I actually invited people to my wedding after unfriending them on Facebook. I love them; we’re good friends, but real-life friendships don’t always translate well to online social networks (and vice versa). Online, you’re usually seeing things out of context, interacting with all your friend’s friends (most of whom you don’t know at all) at once, etc. I “unfriend” people online so I can stay friends face-to-face, on the phone, etc.

        • Eh

          Our social media break was good for us. I was having a hard time being around her in person when I knew that she was ranting about her inlaws (who I know and she knows that I know them). She also seemed like a totally different person online. Either she was fake in person or fake online – for example, she would rant about someone to me in person and then invite them to be her friend on FB which seemed a bit odd to me (and I know she invited this person because they told me since they were surprised she wanted to be their FB friend). Our social media break forced us to communicate better, i.e., we had to call each other if we wanted to do something together (our husbands’ had to take a text message break – instead they have to call – since they end up with lots of miscommunication with texts messages).

          • NicoleT

            Exactly! Social media has a weird affect on a lot of people, myself included. Usually I’ll feel “guilty” if I haven’t contacted someone in awhile to see how they’re doing; FB completely removes that guilt because I know what they’re doing since I saw their status on my newsfeed (well, sort of know what they’re doing…). I’m forcing myself to make that change to at least texting them. Phone calls are uncomfortable for me, so I’m still working on that.

          • Eh

            A number of people have told me that they were upset at someone because they found something out on FB. (This woman broke her leg and people were up in arms that they didn’t get a call before she posted about it on FB.) My response is that if they want to know what’s going on in someone’s life that they should pick up the phone and not watch the persons’ life on online.

          • ElisabethJoanne

            Add in different levels of software savvy, and you’re in for a mess. My grandfather has a Facebook account, and seemed to use it, but during wedding planning I got an urgent email from Mom that he does not like getting information from Facebook and I needed to contact him directly. (This was information for the entire family, not just Grandpa specifically.)

            Mom herself is not email savvy. She regularly jumps to all caps and lots of exclamation points when I don’t think she’d use the implied level of emotion face-to-face. Certainly I usually think that level of emotion would be uncalled for face-to-face. Of course, she says my emails to her are too curt. I hate the phone, but now I call when I know she can give me an answer off the top of her head.

          • Eh

            Short, curt text messages were the straw that broke the camel’s back that resulted in a family feud in my husband’s family right before our wedding. My husband hates talking on the phone but I remind him that it’s better than getting in a fight because a message was taken the wrong way.

          • researchwarrior

            Exactly! Or – cross referencing that article about bridesmaids being grown ups – it breeds frustration when someone posts what seems “irrelevant” or “frivolous” (quotes absolutely needed) while going MIA for wedding responses.

            Plus, lets not discount the amount of heartbreak inspired by “I saw my ex tagged…” It’s so draining how upset and entitled we can feel now that we’re able to view everyone’s lives at any given moment. The glossy version, sure, but still.

    • E

      “Everyone has a longer path somewhere” – this is going to be my mantra from now on! Thanks!

      • NicoleT

        I’m glad you liked it!

  • http://cheriarmour.com Cheri @ Overactive Blogger

    I’m happily engaged now, but I remember about a year before we got engaged, feeling this feeling of uncontrolled jealousy when a friend and her boyfriend that I didn’t care for got engaged. Why was she getting engaged to some loser, and my winner of a boyfriend couldn’t propose? What was up with that?

    It was the wrong way to feel, and I know that now. But it’s easy to let what other people have start to make you feel like you’re under the gun. Great article.

  • Anon Today

    I know this feeling. My sister, who is 12 years younger than I am got married. Then my relationship of 14 years ended. And now my best friend is going to be getting married for the third time. It’s hard to keep for wondering what the hell is wrong with me that I’m not married yet.

    Luckily my ex was kind enough to tell me it wasn’t that there was something wrong with me. It’s just that I’ve been off the market with him. Which is a good point. Still, it stings a little to see other people hit goals you have for yourself.

  • Anonymous today

    Whoa – I could have written some of this. I was the maid of honor in my cousin’s first wedding and did everything asked of me to help her create her special day. I was a shoulder to cry on when she went through the divorce she wanted a few years later. But when she texted me a picture of her new engagement ring a couple of years after that, I cried bitter jealous tears and wallowed in feeling sorry for myself. I too knew my path was slower. I was in graduate school. None of my long term relationships had been marriage worthy. But damn did it sting anyway.

  • SillyInSF

    This sooo isn’t restricted to they are engaged and I’m not. I have been getting it when couples who have known each other less time than we have get engaged and then married while I’m still planning our wedding (this month! but I’ve been planning for 3 years). Hopefully it goes away after the wedding but I surprised myself with how upset I was that other people were getting married more swiftly than I am. As if I had to wait and so should they *rolls eyes at self*. So for the most part I restrict my contact with their posts and focus on my life. And that helps sometimes. And others take a walk and iced tea, still others a good cry into my fiance’s shoulder, or a long swim. At some point I center again and can focus on the parts I can control. Until the next post that I see when I’m feeling vulnerable.

    • anon

      This reminds me of a story. When I was in college I had a friend who was devastated when her boyfriend dumped her and even more devastated when, years later, he got engaged. She hadn’t even dated anyone since they broke up and now he was getting married. But, it took him and his fiancé so long to save for/plan the wedding that she met someone, started dating, got engaged, got married all before his wedding happened. It was frustrating for him to watch someone else have an entire relationship in the time it took him to figure out how to have a wedding. Years later everyone involved is married and happy (and still friends), but for both of them there were parts of the story that were nearly unbearable while they were happening. I guess the point is just to reiterate what everyone else has said: plenty of sorrow and happiness to go around even if it hits some of us at different times than others.

    • Anon for now

      I can relate on multiple accounts. In one case, a close friend of mine got engaged the month before my wedding & then got married 6 months after my wedding. Though for me the hardest part was actually watching 2 couples who got married after me get pregnant before me while my husband and I were unsuccessfully TTC the entire time. I didn’t unfriend either of the women, but I couldn’t “follow” them on FB while they were pregnant. Then the first one had her baby & I was fine. I learned I was pregnant a few weeks ago, so I’ve been able to follow the other friend again through the last weeks of her pregnancy.

      While I consciously KNEW both of their timelines were different than mine and that in no way could I really control whether or not I became pregnant, their pregnancies (and those of every other pregnant woman I’d pass on the street) felt like taunting to me. It was hard to see other women having the experience I so desperately wanted, whether or not I knew their story and their struggle(s) to get to that point.

      I don’t think this means anything is wrong with us, just that we’re human. And that’s normal and okay, as long as we don’t let those feelings take over our lives.

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  • researchwarrior

    I’ve been lurking for awhile here but had to come out of the woodwork for this.

    To those who have quit Facebook: how did you do it, logistically? It feels ironic to post a status update about hating status updates and using FB to announce no-more-FB, but did you give your friends some sort of a warning? Refer them to email or Instagram instead? Collect contact info before deleting your account? Fade out and just stop checking without actually disconnecting technically? I’d love to do this but am trying to figure out exactly how to make it work without being too flippant or rude. Right now my gut instinct is, “your babies are cute, your trips look awesome, that gif is probably hilarious, but social media is making my head implode. Peace out.” Which might not be the best option…

    • Eh

      I have had a couple of friends announce that they were quitting FB and either post their number or send a message to people with their number, and asking friends for their number.

    • anon

      I put up a status update saying that I was leaving in a week, left it up for a week, and then closed my account. I think I emailed a select group of friends to let them know and to ask them to still keep me in the loop on big news. Some people who didn’t see the message or status update were confused (one friend told me she thought I had unfriended her until she realized my entire account was gone). Most people don’t care. Occasionally I miss out on a party because people forget you won’t see the Facebook announcement. Otherwise, it’s been several years now and I certainly don’t miss it.

  • Amanda Michele Rhaesa

    I have to say I have a similar story. All it took was one really close friend getting engaged and subsequently married to throw me head first into the preengaged state. I had been with my boyfriend for about 5 years at the time and it never once bothered me that we weren’t engaged yet, until that moment. And this past year I had the misfortune of going through two out of nowhere engagements from both my younger brother, who still lives with my parents I might add, and my partner’s next youngest brother. I mean there are no real “turns” in getting engaged and married, but it’s my turn already and to find out about both on Facebook with no call, who even does that. Rant complete.