Conversations We Should Be Having

Dear Team Practical,

It’s been a while since I’ve written you one of these letters, huh? Well. Let’s blame book writing (which we will discuss in further exciting details tomorrow).

But I’ve been thinking. Here at APW we talk about relationships, under the guise of weddings. And it’s so easy to talk about when relationships go right, and never ever talk about when relationships go wrong. Which means that when something does go wrong in your relationship it feels isolating and scary, and like something is wrong with you. And it shouldn’t feel like that. This week, I was browsing back through old posts and realized it had been a year since we’d talked about calling off your wedding. What? A year is far too long.

So here are some conversations I’d like to be having in this space:

APW is about marriages and relationships, which means  it’s also about when marriages and relationships end. And talking about that makes all of us wiser. So, if you’d like to share a story, email us at reclaimingwife at apracticalwedding dot com. We tend to like submissions between 750-1000 words, with a picture or two, but honestly, we’re not that picky. We just want your stories.



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  • This is why your blog is my absolute favourite. I believe in the gorgeousness of weddings, but I also believe in real life – your blog is the only one to cross both topics in a positive way. the wedding day itself is such a miniscule aspect of a marriage, and I’m continually astounded how you provide a comforting space to discuss the other 99% of what makes a marriage, and what makes real life.

    It’s not just about the pretty pictures.

  • What about baby-proofing your marriage? (aka surviving the first years with kids)…

    • meg

      That will belong on the new site, when we launch it, not so much on APW. But until then, there is Offbeat Mama. Hooray!

      • Karen

        What about kid-proofing your marriage (or even your wedding) when the kids came first? That applies to a surprising number of us on here — those who had children with their partner and then got married later, those who had children and then met and married their partner, and all those new stepmoms who seemed to appear out of nowhere when I wrote my undergrad post.

        • meg

          I think *that* post would very definitely belong on APW. You know we love writing about kids and weddings and new marriages.

          • Karen

            Well, I could write something from the undergrad perspective, probably — I’ve been in a stepmom-ish role for four years now, and telling the kids about our engagement was one step in a long process of figuring out their role in our wedding/marriage (we’ve pretty much figured out my role in their lives already) — but I’d rather read someone else’s perspective, to be honest! So I hope someone steps up to write, because maybe someone has already been through it and can help me figure it all out….

  • Even though those topics are tough, I’m really glad we can all talk about them here! Makes my heart happy! :)

  • Things just keep getting more awesome around here. Way to go, Meg. :)

    • meg

      I’m glad. I’m in such a frenzy over here of trying to get things done, that I never quite know. SMOOCH!

  • Meg, this is why I absolutely love you and APW. Also, if I had the guts I would totally write a post about sex. But I’m not that brave yet, and let’s not even start to talk about how my parents found my blog and dropped it casually into conversation.

    • meg

      You could write an anonymous post!

  • We called off our engagement (and the wedding we had begun planning), took some time to work things out, and are now getting married in August! It was so necessary for us, and our relationship is so much stronger now — even though we lost a couple thousand dollars to our wedding-that-wasn’t. Worth it!

    These are the conversations that differentiate APW from a lot of other sites — it’s a place that brings together so many diverse voices and perspectives and puts them to use for the community!

  • Shae – write it up!

    This is one of the great parts about this site for me – it isn’t just great photography and fun dance parties (though those are here too) but real discussions. I look forward to reading more about these

  • Barbra

    I would love to hear some conversations about people’s roads to getting engaged, especially when there have been some difficult times. The standard story is, “We met, we fell in love, got engaged, and then got married! Yay!” In real life, especially in my life, things have not been that easy. And now, I’m wondering how we move from difficulties, fights, and counseling, to taking the leap of faith into engagement. I can’t be alone, right?

    • meg

      Ohhh! Write that up, maybe. Other people? Totally write about this! I almost put ‘more engagement’ conversations on the list, actually.

      • Ashley

        I would love to hear these stories too! As someone who’s living it right now, it would be so refreshing to hear more stories of how sometimes even when you’re sure you’re with the right person for you, it can still be really really hard. I love APW so much!

        • Barbra

          It’s so reassuring to hear someone else is living this. I would love to write it up when we get a little further in the process. There are just too many questions right now for me to sort things out…but I’d love to hear about it from someone else!

          • Heather G

            Hmmm. Now this might be something I could discuss in light of the very, very recent engagement that was not at all like “meet, fall in love, get engaged, yay!”

            Will ponder…

      • kc

        You know, I’ve been debating if I should write about this in my grad post submission. The boy and I had a rocky road in the beginning, which is part of the reason we were together for so long before we got engaged/married. Maybe re-draft is in order?

    • Anon

      This reminded me of a ‘fun’ conversation I had yesterday – my brother-in-law mentioned that I was not “engaged”. Preparing to be married in the near future yes but when things are not the expected path somehow it seems that term has societal expectations you don’t meet. It got me thinking on how my one our relationship and what it means have changed because of the complications we’ve had on our way but I’m not sure if that’s the type of post you’re looking for.

      • Anon

        Oops – “my view on our relationship”

    • I’d love those stories too (maybe if I get around to it I’ll write mine sometime soon). We broke up twice over the eight or so years we’ve been dating, once after he had already gotten a ring. We had problems because of distance for a while, because of the fact that we started dating so young, and because he had a hard time believing in a happy marriage after his parents had such a nasty one. The breakups were what we needed to learn about ourselves as independent people, and to restart our college relationship as an adult one.

      We’re happier than we’ve ever been now and on our way to an August 2012 wedding. While our friends and family are happy and supportive, I feel like many of them are secretly waiting for the other shoe to drop (again).

    • Caroline

      I could write that. Because our path has felt crazy at times. And frustrating. And scream at the world infuriating. And made me so jealous of people who appear to have straight paths. But at least my partner and I walk our path together. I’d rather have a windy thorny path with him at my side than a straight, easy path without him.

      • KMA(C)

        I hesitate to say this on the internet, even in the comments, for fear of assumptions and how-could-they-still-get-married?! But. I would venture to add “infidelity” to this list.
        This, like on-again-off-again dating and a variety of other really painful struggles, is the kind of thing that couples can come through, stronger, but seep back into life sideways once you’re engaged, and can lead to difficult family interactions. It is also very high on the list of things that no one talks about on the wedding-web. Maybe APW, which is so good at making people feel visible, could lessen some of that silence?

        • Caroline

          Hey, this is ape. We shame blast here, not shame. And people (including team practical) are living infidelity, so hell yes we should be talking about it.

          • Caroline

            stupid iPhone. This is not ape. This is a practical wedding. Sorry. For some reason, I can’t edit that.

          • z

            I think opening up the topic of infidelity will make folks a little less trigger happy with the ol’ shame blaster.

            I often find it a little off-putting how sugary-supportive one is expected to be on this site. It seems like expressing disapproval or disagreement is taboo, so a lot of the threads turn into echo chambers. I’ve thought of writing in a guest post just to see what would happen… something like My Bridesmaid Is Too Fat, or I’m Spending $1,000,000 Because I’m That Special… The dominant mode is to support women’s authentic choices no matter what, but how far does that take us?

            It seems like infidelity can be discussed here only as a regrettable error of the past, and certainly not as a deliberate choice or something the narrator doesn’t see as unethical or inappropriate. What will happen when someone writes in to say they’re cheating and not ashamed? Seems like something like that would really disrupt the dominant culture of the site.

          • meg

            This is not, and never has been an anything goes site. And the comments are not anything goes either. This is a site written around a particular philosophy, and edited as such. That’s the way it rolls, and you can and should go elsewhere if it’s not a match for you. Life is to short. But one of our core tenants is kindness.

            Would I run your post about you thinking your bridesmaid is to fat? Never. Have I run posts from women who spent a lot on their weddings? Yes, though not because “they were that special” just because that was the right choice for them.

            Would I run a post about someone choosing to cheat, that was written from an honest point of view? I’d kill to run that post, because that’s a conversation I’d like to have. I don’t particularly think that monogamy is the only way to go, though I think hurting our partners shouldn’t be viewed as laudable, because I don’t think hurting people is laudable.

            Hope that clears things up for you. If you’re asking if I’d ever run intentionally negative posts? No, I wouldn’t. If you’re asking if I think cheating is off limits, or something that can only be talked about as a regrettable error, I don’t. Not in my real life, and not on this site. And if you’re just trying to be provocative, well, move on.


          • z

            Thanks for the response, Meg. I’m not a frequent commenter because I understand that you want the site to be a certain way, and it doesn’t really work for me, but that’s fine, I mostly just don’t comment.

            I proposed those titles facetiously (Wedding Graduates: We’re FLDS!), but I’m actually really curious where the conversation would go, because you’ve cultivated a norm of non-criticism (which I think is totally at your discretion to do) that would be seriously challenged by an unrepentant infidelity narrative.

            All three examples (fat bridesmaid, million dollar wedding, unrepentant infidelity) are instances of doing something ethically debatable and outside the cultural norms of the site, in the service of one’s own wishes or felt needs. I’m not asking if you would run intentionally negative posts, but if you would run posts with which a large portion of your readership would find serious ethical disagreements, and how you would handle the repercussions. I think it would be a big risk, but very interesting. Certainly it’s a part of people’s lives.

          • meg

            We do that sort of thing. We ran ‘saving yourself for marriage’ back to back with ‘what being a bisexual taught me about sex,’ for goodness sakes. So, while we’re big on non-criticism, we’re also pretty big on diversity. And I’ve been working hard trying to find someone willing to write a polygamous post (something I’m totally behind, and then some), and I have plenty of good friends who are unrepentantly unfaithful, if not offering to write about it. It’s getting people to write about these sorts of things that is the trick, which is what this post was about.

            If you can go find me people to write these posts, you bet I’d run them.


          • z

            See, I’m talking about posts that explicitly defend actions that are contrary to the ethical beliefs of the commenting community. I don’t think bisexuality or remaining a virgin fit into that category at all. Maybe polygamy would… you could do a joint post with, I love that blog too.

        • meg

          Ohhh! I’d love that. Would you write that post? Do it, do it.

        • A

          I cheated on my partner shortly after we began serious discussions about marriage. It was a very drunken, one-time, but voluntary choice. We had (have) different views on sex in relationships, and were technically aware of the others’ feelings, but I didn’t realize how much it would affect him (and I selfishly hoped he would bend for me). I was giddy telling him about it the next day because I thought it was a kind of funny story and in no way threatening to our immense love and romance and lifelong promises – to the contrary, I imagined him rolling his eyes, forgiving my foolish behavior and telling me to not do it again – this would be a testament to our love (maybe this is a really immature way to think).
          It took a few months and a shitload of tears for the resulting bad feelings to resolve themselves. Everything turned out fine and for the better (we’re still together and on the same track and extremely happy). But there were times that I felt very lonely and confused because there’s not much solidarity in the cheating-isn’t-always-a-huge-deal vein and a lot of “once a cheater always a cheater” and “it’s the unforgivable sin, I wouldn’t take you back” comments. I turned to the internet for reassurance that I wasn’t a terrible person and that I really could genuinely love/be in love with and be marriage material for my partner with this mistake marring our past and was hard pressed to find it. I definitely didn’t find anything that validated my own feelings of betrayal that he would consider breaking up with me for something that to me seemed very trivial, from anyone, internet or real life. It made me feel like I was crazy and stupid and morally bankrupt and I could have really used some non-judgmental perspective – the only person that didn’t judge me was my partner (with whom I obviously couldn’t objectively talk through it)- despite his own hurt and confusion he never told me I was wrong about my views, but the fact that no one seemed/s to share them made/kes me kinda insecure.
          I love APW and read all of the “hard stuff” posts during our difficult time, gauging how I evaluated our resilience in every other way. I would have loved – still would- to see what this community has to say about cheating and their experiences dealing with it. Where the fear and the pain and anger and other uncontrollable emotions continue to come from when your cheating partner deeply regrets the transgression, and you know they love you, and they want to stay together. Do women tend to feel differently about it than men? Why is this relationship sin held in such high regard compared to other forms of lying and betrayal (I was pretty upfront with my partner and feel like dishonesty in this and other areas is far worse and where my hurt would stem from in regards to cheating. He maintains that cheating is the one and only thing that he can and will not deal with – he would rather I gamble away our entire life savings, a scenario I think Meg once mentioned in degree of cheating vs. other deal breakers comment – he might have been being dramatic – he really doesn’t want it to happen again – but still). Etc.

          • Zan

            Interestingly enough, at our pre-marriage counseling the leaders of the workshop thingie talked specifically about how infidelity shouldn’t necessarily be cast as the big-evil unforgivable deal breaker. It was an interesting conversation that I can’t replicate in the comments but I don’t think you’re a horrible morally bankrupt person. You’re just human.

            I like Dan Savage a lot and here’s some food for thought from him,

            “We ultimately have to figure out this sex/dating/mating stuff for ourselves. It would be nice—it would be a relief—if there was a final authority, an Uber Expert, someone out there dispensing one-size-fits-all wisdom about sex, dating, and mating. It would be so much easier if there was one expert that had all the answers. But that person isn’t out there—that expert hasn’t been invented yet. That expert wasn’t blogging on this website, doesn’t write my column or Wendy’s books, and isn’t hiding out in any of the books in Ed’s bible. Instead we’re stuck with arguments and muddles and debates, greater or lesser. We listen and participate—and then embrace what works for us, discard what doesn’t, and get on with things.”

            I’ve gone to the internet looking for support too on occasion, and not finding it can be tough. But ultimately it’s your life and no one else’s — you have to do what’s right for you. Granted, you’ve joined your life to another person at this point, but hopefully you can figure out a way that you can both feel happy with issues like sex and novelty (or lack thereof).

          • meg

            You should write an (anonymous) post! HOLY SHIT. I totally agree with you, by the way. I think one time mistake cheating sucks, but in the scope of a life, it’s a very small thing to me. Small enough that I explicitly don’t want to know about it if it happens. We’re human, we have sex drives, sometimes things happen. Hopefully they don’t, but sometimes they do.

            SO WRITE THE POST ALREADY. We’re dying over here.


          • Charlie

            I was about to propose to my partner when she found out that I was still seeing someone I’d been dating long distance (with her knowledge) and that she’d mistakenly assumed I’d stopped having a relationship with. Similarly to Z, I’d assumed that the fact that we were discussing engagement while I was in this other relationship only proved that we were ready/it was the right idea. And if we were getting engaged, then it must *really* be ok for me to be being ethically non-monogamous, right?

            The almost-breaking-up, tears, confusion and lengthy discussions that followed actually ended up doing a lot to improve and strengthen our relationship. We did get engaged, about 2 months later, and my other relationship ended about 4 months after that.

            I’d be really interested to read a post from Z, and contribute (hopefully a bit more clearly than this comment, and with more insight) to the discussion around it.

          • Charlie

            obviously I meant A, not Z.

    • My first comment on APW (after lurking for the last 8 months)!

      Barbra, you’re comment spurred me into action, because I went through a fairly difficult engagement last year and found it really difficult to talk to anyone about because no one wants to hear an un-romantic proposal story. So I have a story to share if anyone needs to hear about a difficult engagement with a happy ending (I’ve been married for two months now, and it was definitely a great decision for both of us).

      • bumblebee611

        Yes, I do need to hear that story! We had breaking up and getting back together, horrible fights, and a proposal story where my fiance pretty much tells people who ask that we’re not talking about it, and encourages them to admire the ring, instead. We continue to have serious conflicts and today my neck is killing me as I remain incredibly stressed about the future and what it holds.

      • Barbra

        I would love to hear that story! And also about what your relationship was like leading up to engagement. If you don’t want to write it on here, feel free to email me barbra {dot} resnick {at} gmail {dot} com.


      • Ashley

        I would love to hear this too. I’m going through a particularly difficult time right now in my relationship and would love to hear about how someone made it through. For that matter, i’d also love to hear about someone who didn’t make it through but survived the leaving. I’m feeling incredibly alone in this these days and hearing others stories would really help. THIS is why I love APW!

        • Barbra

          Ashley–you’re definitely not alone. I am right there with you. And I know how isolating it can feel. We’ve been doing counseling, which is one of the hardest things I’ve even been through (and I’m a therapist!). I’m still not convinced it is solving our problems, but I’m not ready to leave yet. But not ready to totally commit either. It’s a hard place, you know?

          • Anon

            I didn’t realize how hard therapy was until I started crying 15 seconds in to my first session.

            Now? I am *SO* glad that I went and it has been so helpful, cathartic, and positive for our relationship. I went to individual sessions usually, but was able to bring my fiance in a couple times to talk through my own personal issues with him and the therapist. I truly recommend it.

          • Ashley

            SUCH a hard place, not ready to leave but not totally committed. For me I think that hardest part is that the every day is so great. We really are happy together, and we get along great so much of the time but then we seem to have these big huge issues that just permeate some days. It’s so impossible to know what is right anymore, much less who is right.

        • Too long to write it all here, but I’ll send it to Meg & the lovely APW team. Wishing you all the best because I know how lonely it is when an engagement doesn’t happen the way that you, and all the people around you, thought it would.

        • I could have used something like that when I was considering leaving. For me, once I had started to think that leaving was what I wanted, I couldn’t figure out how to actually do it. In movies and books, it’s always some huge argument and someone says “I can’t do this anymore!” and storms out. Leaving for me what so much harder. I had to bring up the topic and try to explain myself to a man whom I had loved for a lifetime. Then I had to watch him fall apart. It’s no wonder it took more than one try to actually walk out the door.

          I wrote a post for APW and we’ll see if they like it enough to post but I could have used those words when I was facing this. If you feel it, write it. You never know who could use the help.

    • Jessica

      All I can say is.. WORD. Perfectly put and so true (for me anyway).

  • This is why I love APW.

  • Mayo

    I am marrying someone in September who has been through this before, but they called it off 6 weeks before the wedding. It’s been tricky for me navigating through this (though not really an issue for him), and I wonder a lot about the grudges I would hold and the thoughts that would be in my head if I had once planned a wedding-that-was-not with someone else. I’m looking forward to hearing from some ladies (and men!) on their own experiences in calling it off.

    • Katrina

      omg yes. Same here, my fiancé was previously engaged, and his GF called it off a week before the wedding. Now that we’re planning our wedding, I’m struggling big time with trying not to compare myself to the wedding-that-never-was. :/ It doesn’t seem to bother him, he’s moved past it, but something masochistic in me wants to know all the details. What flowers was she going to have? How did he propose? Would the guests have liked her wedding better than mine? I guess what matters is that he’s with me now and not her, but I cant help wondering..

      • holly

        I have a similiar situation–twice over. It was a surprising blow to find out that my boyfriend had been twice engaged before he met me. Now that we’re talking engagement and marriage, I often find myself thinking how he asked them. How they said yes, and will he feel the same or better when he asks me. I find myself trying to downplay the whole thing as if an engagement means nothing, because then his previous declaritive statements of love and commitment could be voided somehow.

        I have no doubts that when he asks I will say yes without a thought to what or how he said anything to anyone else but it’s interesting that it’s the one area I cannot see or imagine.

  • I wrote something a bit similar a while back on my blog (link below) saying that I wish more sites would talk about sex after marriage. Or just sex in a long-term relationship. Everybody’s big secret is that we’re all alike.

    • Yessss. One of the greatest things I read when powering through a rough patch with my long-term boyfriend was a chapter about how to keep sex on your mind when you’re dealing with everything else that goes on in that relationship. Most of us love the sexytimes, but when you’re dealing with everything else it can be the last thing on your mind.

      • Caroline

        chapter? where? I want to read it.

  • This is a very timely request. I’ve been wanting to send you an essay about hitting rough patches. What it feels like concretely. How scary (and lonely) it is. How the future suddenly feels so uncertain.

    • meg

      Do it do it do it do it, CHEER!

  • z

    Infidelity is kind of the elephant in the room here… “Wedding Undergraduates: He Says He’ll Leave His Wife For Me!”

    • meg

      Again, not the elephant in the room. I’m all for talking about this. I’ve lived through this with friends, and it’s a conversation I’ve had in real life, and would love to have on the site. I just was mostly thinking about divorce and partners dying when I wrote the post, because that is what I know for a fact is going on in our online community right now.

    • Zan

      Hey Z why don’t you write the post about infidelity? I’d love to hear your thoughts, it sounds like you’re a good writer (from your comments) so I think you should go for it.

      • z

        Aw thanks a lot! I can only write “Infidelity Sucks”– sorry. My story is that my mom had an affair, she doesn’t think she did anything wrong. She will explain that my dad was a jerk to her– as if that made her pants come flying off of their own accord. And she’s still with the guy she cheated with (who was also married), and it’s been a festering sore in our family for almost 20 years. It made planning my wedding much more difficult because my mom was super sensitive about it and so anxious that she was pretty unhelpful with all the logistics. Plus she asked me what Emily Post says about whether this guy should sit in the front row as a parent! So all I can really say is don’t have an affair, peeps, because it sucks for everyone, for years and years. And it’s a small town, so pretty much everyone knows my mom was telling lies and sneaking in and out of motel rooms with someone else’s husband.

        • Zan

          Interesting. I have kind of (kind of?) an opposite story. My grandfather had a mistress for 90% of the time he was married to my grandmother. On her deathbed my grandmother told my mom and her siblings to forgive my grandfather because “Life is just this way sometimes,” It wasn’t a particularly well-kept secret. My Mom and her siblings knew growing up, my Grandmother knew, people knew. No one knew everything, but they knew enough.

          So my grandmother died, we all miss her terribly, and suddenly we had a new set of people to incorporate into the family: my Grandfather’s girlfriend and their kids — my mom’s new half-siblings. As we plan my wedding there are some people, like my great-aunt (my Grandmother’s sister) who are refusing to attend the wedding if SHE or THEY are in attendance. But my grandmother asked us to forgive, and even though it didn’t happen in a conventional way these people are part of my family now, and I don’t have our wedding be a time of hardening divisions.

          So they’re all invited. We’ll see how it goes.

          Obviously it’s a longer story than that too (as I’m sure yours is) and it’s slightly different because it’s my Grandfather and Grandmother and not my Mom and Dad/ And even though my Mom chooses forgiveness, some of her siblings haven’t been able to do the same.

          I’d say oh, “Life is too short for hating people” etc, but there are definitely people I’ve written off in my life and I think I can hold both ideas in my life without being a hypocrite. I don’t think it’s a cop-out to say, “It’s COMPLICATED YO!” either.

          You’re the same Z from earlier up-thread commets right? I think you should write the post. You’re a good writer and your take on it is as valid as anyone’s. Besides, it gives us all something to think about — which in my opinion is always a good thing.

          • meg

            You should write about this, anonymously. Maybe even not the wedding planning aspect, but just the relationship aspect. It’s fascinating. I think we don’t talk enough about how a life together is made up of a lot of things, and sometimes you choose to look the other way on infidelity because the other stuff is worth it to you. Anyway, I think about this stuff a lot, and I’d love to hear more.

            And Z,
            Yes. I think you should write something. We’ll even let people wildly disagree in your comment section, if you’re into that. We’re mostly trying to protect the writer, so hey.

          • z

            Sigh. That’s a super difficult situation, and while I don’t think you were necessarily wrong to invite the second family, especially the younger generation, I would say tread super, super carefully with your relatives on your mom’s side. You might be asking more of them than you realize. The personality traits that made your grandfather able to carry on this very unique family situation probably made him a very challenging person to have as a parent, and I would have to think there’s a ton of painful back-story dating back to their childhoods. After all, it sounds like their father put their mother through some very difficult experiences, and deliberately kept them apart from their own half-siblings, right? And it’s probably difficult for them to see your grandfather’s girlfriend as someone who cares about their well-being or wants to be supportive of their family relationships. Your relatives might be really disappointed that your wedding and future family events that could have been uncomplicated fun will be made so much more problematic by your grandfather’s choices. They’ve been dealing with this for many years now, and might be running low on patience. And breaching the separation between these two families is probably bringing up a ton of issues. Infidelity issues can feel really sensitive at a wedding!

            Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you consider them family, or want to have them present at important family events. It doesn’t change a habitual liar into a truth-teller, or make someone have appropriate expectations and behaviors. And it’s nice that your grandmother wanted forgiveness, but she wasn’t the only one hurt and forgiveness isn’t an on-demand kind of thing. It knows its own timetable.

            It was really hard for me as a middle-schooler to come to terms with the fact that my mom would lie to me as much as needed in order to maintain her affair. Kids that age need to be able to count on their parents, and it’s nearly impossible, logistically, to carry on a long-term affair without a lot of lies and seriously letting people down. For example, one time I was in a minor-but-scary-for-a-kid car accident, in the hospital, and nobody could find my mom, because she was secretly out of town for the day with this guy and had lied about where she was. I didn’t know it at the time, but when I finally got a clue it was very upsetting. I found out about the affair because my 6th grade teacher, who was new in town, mistakenly thought this guy was my dad and listed him on a handout to parents. When I look back at my poor little self trying to explain to her that no, he’s not my dad, and no, my parents aren’t divorced, and the realization slowly coming over me…

            The repercussions of infidelity are long-lasting and unpredictable, and forgiveness doesn’t really take away the disappointment, or the awkwardness of answering people’s questions about why my dad chooses not to socialize with my mom and her partner, or why I didn’t think it was appropriate for him to be classified as a family member at my wedding. I just couldn’t see putting my dad through it when it would make him so uncomfortable, and it would send a message about the acceptableness of infidelity that simply doesn’t reflect my views. My mom and I had a lot of fights about it, and it was disappointing that she couldn’t really be there for me during the wedding planning process because she was so focused on using the event to legitimize her relationship and force my dad to share his FOB role with this guy. It was hard to overhear my future in-laws speculating on whether I would cheat too, since I was raised by someone who cheated. The worst part is that I wish I could feel proud of who my mother is, and look up to her for guidance and support as I decide how to live my own life, but we can’t really talk about anything relating to major life choices or ethics, so I’m on my own.

            But these experiences are what my mother chose for me and my siblings and our father. It’s not just “the way life is.” She chose to put our family through this experience, she’s choosing to continue to push for acceptance of her relationship after the way this guy treated me and my father, and it’s disappointing when she refuses to see it as a choice she made and is making. Sure, my parents had a bad marriage, but that doesn’t mean anything goes– it’s not like her pants came flying off of their own accord. I sometimes wonder if she would have made the same choice if she had realized how difficult it would be for the next 20 years, but she’s prone to self-serving beliefs so she probably couldn’t have done so even if she had tried. I sometimes wonder how I’ll explain this to my future kids, or if she would be able to be supportive to me if my husband cheated on me.

            So anyway, cheery topic– just to outline for you that it’s not always so easy for the kids, and it doesn’t necessarily get easier just because time passes, as long as the problematic behavior is continuing.

          • Zan

            I have to reply here because I can’t reply to Z’s comment directly but I would just say this:

            Every situation is different, just like all relationships are different (we’re all precious snowflakes right) and I’m confident that I handled my particular situation very well. I didn’t get into the details in a blog comment, but suffice it to say even though 100% of the people weren’t happy with the invitations that doesn’t mean it was the wrong choice. In fact I would say that 99% of the family is extremely supportive. I should also add that I made this decision in concert with my Mother, who felt strongly that she wanted to invite her half-siblings as well as her my grandfather’s girlfriend.

            What was right for me and my family obviously wouldn’t have been right for you and yours. I hope things get better for you.

          • z

            Glad to hear it worked out. I don’t think it was necessarily the wrong choice to invite them, even if you hadn’t gotten anywhere near 99% approval.

            When I was going through my planning process my uncle told me “Try to come up with something that everyone likes” which was seriously the least helpful piece of advice ever! So brilliant and creative, if only I had thought of it myself. But it sounds like you actually managed to do it.

          • Zan

            Z – tell your Uncle I have a trophy waiting for him when he figures out how to do something “everyone likes”. Jebus! :)

            And seriously, I do hope it gets better for you. Big hugs lady.

          • z

            I hope you enjoyed my novel there…

        • kc

          I had a similar situation. When I was a teen my dad had an affair, my parents eventually got divorced and my dad married the lady he was having an affair with. Made for an interesting dynamic at my wedding. And by interesting I mean, not fun, but it did work out in the end.

        • z

          And Meg, that’s super, super nice of you to say, but I don’t think I can do it without losing confidentiality. It’s nice and safe down here in the comments. If I ever sent in a post it would probably be about how incredibly, surprisingly disappointed I was not to have the kind of MIL I always assumed I would. I had thought it would be a second try at a good relationship with someone similar to my mom. But I ended up with the world’s nicest person with whom I have very little in common, she’s very unlike the moms of other guys I dated. She’s a really excellent MIL, but we’re not cut from the same cloth at all, not kindred spirits or anything like that. I didn’t realize how much I was thinking a MIL would fill that gap for me, and at the same time the wedding stirred up a lot of sh*t with me and my mom, so it was really hard to lose that imagined future MIL relationship too. It seems so silly in retrospect.

          • Zan

            Dude it’s not silly. I’d put good money on a bet saying that you’re not the only one who hoped that the Mother-in-Law would be something like the Mom she (or he) didn’t have.

          • z

            We could have a Facebook group! Ha.

          • Not silly at all! Except I was hoping my MIL would be just like the awesome mom I do have (who lives on another continent)… and got mostly apathy. So I would love to read something like your MIL situation, and would gladly contribute to the comments.

  • Meg, thank you for this post. These conversations are so important, and yet they don’t happen often enough (at least, not in my world).

    You inspired me to write about my divorce (which I was finally able to do, now that it’s not so raw), and about how I really should have paid attention to my gut feelings and not rationalize away my fears and panic attacks about marriage. I’ll send it your way shortly.

  • Paranoid Libra

    I’ve gotta send in a write up about dealing with a partner that wasn’t physically cheating, but more emotionally cheating and caught at it several times on it. Yet I am engaged to him now. Things can still be tough and I am pretty sure my one best friend is still hoping I don’t marry him because of these past occurrences….yet she has in fact cheated on her now husband and will not tell him.

    • Anon

      Yes, yes. Please. Emotional cheating causes so much lingering hurt and insecurity. Paired with an anxiety disorder, it’s crippling.

    • meg

      Do. It.

  • Anon

    And also? How to support a friend who has tragically lost a partner. Even perhaps from the standpoint of the partner left behind? What do you need from your friends? How do we help you heal?

    I can only imagine the loss, as I haven’t experienced the death of a romantic love. I don’t know what to do/say for my friend, and it hurts to not be able to offer the type of support she needs. I understand loss – perhaps more than one should – but losing a parent too young is a slightly different beast.

  • shannon

    Probably also not fair to assume that everyone’s sex life is an upbeat topic….

    • meg

      Sure it’s not, and we’re in to talking about that as well. But sex, in general, tends to add some fun to the proceedings.

  • Gemma

    I have read your blog from day one, and have never had the courage to comment, because I was one of those taboo items in the wedding world; a person considering, going through, and finally a divorce’e. And while it utterly engulfing at the time, that is not what I am and have had to learn to not let it define me. I survived, and ultimately, am happier than I ever imagined. My story is one of realizing that a divorce is not a death sentence, and when real and true love came along, I actually deserved it.

    • meg

      Well shit. You’ve been reading and not commenting all this time? I think you owe us a post (anonymous if you’d like). Divorce is definitely not a death sentence. I’ve had friends where it was the best thing that could have happened.

  • anon

    I vote for more sex posts. It’s one of the most important parts of a marriage and it’s difficult to find good writing/conversations on taboo sex topics.

    On my mind most recently (mostly b/c it is the definition of my marriage at this moment): when the husband is the one with the lower sex drive. This isn’t talked about enough in our society where it’s OK, almost encouraged, that the woman is always the one who “has a headache.”

    What if the man is the one with the “headache”? Where is the community for the sex starved wives? Or the sex-less marriage? Or what about a sex-less marriage BY CHOICE?

    It could be interesting to do back to back posts: one where the woman has a low sex drive, one where the man is the one not in the mood, and see where the conversations go.

    • Anon

      I’m not the only one in a relationship who feels completely sex-starved since my guy has practically no sex drive? Really? Oh thank God…

    • Blaire

      “What if the man is the one with the ‘headache’?”

      This rings so, so true.. the stereotype definitely says that the guy has the crazy sex drive, and that the girl isn’t interested. But I’m the one wanting more. So where does that leave me, the supposed uninterested girl? Wondering if he doesn’t want me the way he used to (beginning of the relationship = lots of sex), if I’m undesirable in some way, etc… and I’m not typically insecure. I’ve brought it up a couple times, halfheartedly. He brushes it off, says we just have different sex drives. Which leaves me thinking about it more, questioning myself more.

      It would be great to see a post on this topic.

  • I know there have been posts about marriage and finance, but what about getting engaged when you are knee-deep in debt? Like, there is no light at the end of the debt tunnel in debt. Or maybe to generalize, entering a marriage where finances are already a stressful issue.

    • My fiance and I are on shaky financial footing and I’d like to hear more about this as well.

    • meg

      Well, we’ve clearly tackled marriage and money a lot, but no one has written about marriage and debt. Maybe one of you two would like to write about it, ehhh?

      As ever, you need to write about stories you need to hear shared. I can’t write about things outside my own experience (and law school debt is a less stressful kind, for us at least).

    • Jeena

      I am completely baffled that even in this tough economic times, brides are going into DEBT to get married. Seriously, marriage is stressful enough (so is life). I’ve talked to a lot of family law attorneys who say #1 cause of marriage failure – money issues. I’m a bankruptcy lawyer myself and as you can imagine, I deal with a lot of debt issues. Oh, did I mention, I am engaged?

  • Something that gets touched on a lot here (especially in Wedding Graduate posts) is blending faiths and reconciling religious beliefs in wedding ceremonies, but I’m really interested in how that works beyond the actual wedding day and more in the marriage itself.

    This is not something that I can write about from personal experience at all (lapsed Episcopalian marrying a lapsed Episcopalian over here), but I have all sorts of questions about it– for people that convert to their partner’s religion for/before marriage, and people that don’t. ESPECIALLY for people that don’t, because– to me at least– it’s fascinating and mind-boggling to consider the idea of spending your life with someone who has fundamentally radically different ideas about where we came from and where we go when we die.

    Also, while I’m making requests, I want to read something about a couple whose faiths have changed and split after marriage– how does it work when two people grow spiritually in very different ways, possibly in incompatible ways?

    And I should say that I know blending faiths/evolving faiths within a marriage doesn’t always end in crisis– I’d be interested in reading about the successful navigation of mixed-faith relationships, too, but I feel like I see more examples of success than messiness.

    • Caroline

      Oh I’d like to see this too. I’d like to see a post about the struggles of a relationship that is one-sided religiously, since that’s where I’m at. And the experience of planning a wedding that way! I’m a fairly observant Jew (and a convert), eventually marrying a man who has no interest whatsoever in religion. We’ve actually figured out what we plan to do with raising the kids and religion, and we’ve had our big fights about religion and daily life, and seem pretty much ok with where we’re at now. But when we talk religion and wedding ceremonies, I don’t even know where to turn. There is so much advice about interfaith Christian/Jewish ceremonies, but not much advice for “The bride would really like to have a religious ceremony, and ideally, the specific religious ceremony that she can’t have because her groom isn’t that religion, but she’d happily settle for what elements of that religious ceremony she can have with lots of G-d language, since she wants to marry him, regardless of his religion, but the groom would really like a ceremony that never mentions G-d, Israel, Jerusalem, Zion, the torah, or other religious (rather than cultural) aspects.” Actually, I can’t think of ANY wedding planning advice I’ve seen for relationships between a religious person and a vehemently non-religious person who was raised in a radically different religion and rejects all religion.

      Any wedding graduates out there want to write that post? Please? Because we’re still somewhere between pre-engaged and engaged, and the wedding is a couple years out, so I have no idea how we’ll resolve it, and can’t write about it from a wedding angle.

      • Hi Caroline,
        We went through that in reverse, and while I’m not sure I’d be up for writing about it (hubs is a very private person), I’d be happy to chat with you about it– terremotia at gmail dot com.

  • Anon

    My fiance and I have a pretty typical narrative- met, fell in love, got engaged and will be married in October. At the same time I’m still dealing with the emotional scars of a previous long-term relationship that was physically abusive and it’s taught me to appreciate so much in my life now. But at times the lingering depression and PTSD from that experience is something the fiance and I have had to deal with together.

    • Anon as well

      I still have emotional scars from a relationship that was, now that I think about it, probably emotionally abusive. I can look back and I distinctly recall thinking that I could change him and help him get better and that if he was with me at least he wouldn’t be hurting other women. He was addicted to pornography and would go to topless bars after dropping me off at the end of a date. I felt cheap. I felt used. I felt less than human at times. If there is anything I could go back and undo in my life, it would be that.

      My husband has probably heard just about everything from that time by this point, in bits and pieces. And it doesn’t change how he sees me at all like I was so afraid it would back when it was happening, that everyone would see me the way that guy did. I appreciate so much how my husband makes me feel the complete opposite of that relationship. And I appreciate that he never brings it up. When the scars have been particularly painful he’s simply held me and promised to never do that to me.

      Hugs to you. And I’m glad you’ve found someone to help you through it.

      • Anon’s

        I remember sitting in a family health clinic a few months after leaving my husband and trying to explain to the nurse that I wasn’t sure if he had been faithful or unfaithful and that I just wanted to get tested to be sure. After she left the room, as I sat there in that too small, too thin napkin that they call a robe, I looked around for something to read. (Something I always do when alone.) I ended up reading “When the words he says hurt…” and was in tears when the nurse came back. I had been with my husband for 13 years and never realized how abusive my relationship was until I read that stupid little pamphlet. When I went home, I called my best friend and my mother and explained how amazed I was that they saw this happening to me and, out of respect for my choices, never forced the issue beyond “He should be nicer to you,”. Amazing what life will show you.

  • tirzahrene

    I’m looking forward to reading these posts.

    I’ve got less than a month until my dissolution is final from the man I fell in love with at 16 who pretty much left his wife for me. Spent ten years as a stepmom to five kids and made our marriage nonmonogamous about halfway through. Now my almost-ex and I are living in the same house until it sells and working to keep things amicable. (So: Infidelity, stepparenting, big age difference, open relationship – lots of juicy issues there.)

    I don’t feel like I’ve got any awesome post in me. I can just look back and say, “These things worked, these things didn’t, and these things were totally doable once we developed the right tools.” I definitely learned a lot from the whole thing, things I will and things I won’t repeat.

    • JEM

      I think even sharing your story can be helpful to others who will take the gained knowledge and digest it in their own way.

  • L.

    i would LOVE to hear more from the “pre-engaged” set… i’m currently approaching a six-year anniversary with my fella, and though we talk about marriage fairly frequently (so i know it’s at least in our future), he is not yet ready to take that step, and i have a dickens of a time knowing how to respond to nosey people–be they friends, family, or mere acquaintances–when they ask “What’s taking so long?”

    the brilliant list that was posted a while back (which, i believe, is where the term “pre-engaged” was coined, yes?) helped immensely, but it would make me feel so good to know that there are others who are waiting patiently (and, i’ll admit, impatiently at times, ha) to join the ranks of the engaged/wedding undergrads.

    in this same vein, it would be amazing to also hear from readers who (or whose partners) struggle with the idea of getting married due to traumatic divorce experiences in their childhood and how best to work through that struggle. how do you rehabilitate a severely a tainted view of the institution of marriage? can it be done? what do you do when one person believes wholeheartedly in marriage but the other is ambivalent or even all-out skeptical? if you know deep in your heart that this is the person you’re supposed to be with for the rest of your life and want to marry him/her, but he/she doesn’t support getting married, then what? does that automatically mean game over?

    • Re: the pre-engaged sect. I want to hear some pre-engagement stories and/or current engagement stories from people whose engagement wasn’t particularly romantic, but incredibly practical. I love my pre-ancee, but the entire marriage conversation has been like the discussing the merger of two incredibly awesome corporations. I get a little anxious that everyone will ask for an incredible engagement story and I’ll say, “Well, we discussed the pros and cons of marriage, decided it would be advantageous to both parties and sealed the deal with a firm handshake and a kiss.”

      • L.

        ha, sometimes i am pretty sure that we’ll get to that point, too. we are each other’s lobsters and there’s no doubt in my mind that he and i will be lovin’ each other until the end of time, but i feel like what’s eventually going to actually get us down the aisle is the more practical benefits of marriage–shared insurance, spousal rights for healthcare situations, etc…. not that i wouldn’t love a little romance, but he’s just a very no-nonsense kinda guy.

        • “we are each other’s lobsters”

          How long has it been since I heard that! Made my day!

      • Vmed

        What you just described is very very close to how the fellow proposed. Not romantic. Very pragmatic. I pointed out that he wasn’t kneeling. So he kneeled, and then the waitress tripped over him.

        There was one part of it leading up to then which was obscurely romantic in the abstract, by which I mean if you use one particular interpretation, the story he told first was romantic, but mostly it was morbid, and it’s essentially impossible to tell as a proposal story. The wic-y shrieking ring gawkers simply cannot parse it.

        It doesn’t matter- it’s personal.

      • ML

        kate! i was totally thrown off to learn 3 or 4 years ago that my parents had one of these engagements.

        at dinner –
        me: dad, how did you propose to mom?
        dad: (thoughtful silence). hmm. huh. i don’t think i did?
        mom: yeah, i don’t think we really had a proposal.
        me: (bonkers confused) what do you mean you didn’t have a proposal, you had a wedding!!
        mom: we had been talking about marriage for awhile. i think we just decided over the course of those conversations.
        me: what the what? have you no stooooory?
        mom: nope. we just decided it was the right next step, for us.

        it took me a long time to digest this (especially because i distinctly remember growing up thinking, here and there, that my parents’ relationship seemed like a business partnership with some thank you smooches after gift-giving on holidays), and accept that even if my parents didn’t have a proposal, or a particularly outwardly romantic relationship, they still deeply, deeply love each other.

        but especially after spending some time with the amazing women at APW, i have gained so much respect for my parents and The Way They Love.

      • Jeannine

        our engagement came about through protracted and practical conversations: i had someone ask me if it was for romantic reasons or for awful reasons, like health insurance. and the truth is that we’ve been together for 5 years and each other’s “forever person” for 3, and the reason we decided to get married is because…well, big life changes including my having gotten a job that will give him good health insurance. so i’m supposed to say “oh we’re getting together for the awful reasons!” ? the short-hand of the romantic proposal is much easier than the loooong explanation, replete with disclaimers, such as “we really do love each other and have long considered ourselves partners–health insurance is just the impetus.”
        but you know what, one of the things about the way our engagement came about that i really enjoy is that it isn’t a huge change for the two of us. i just feel wonderfully content that we’re preparing to publicly celebrate what we both have known to be true for a long time. that is, it feels like a solidification of an already-extant feeling, rather than a brand new phase. i like that.

        • “publicly celebrate what we both have known to be true for a long time.”
          Exactly! My partner didn’t see the point in having a big, expensive party when he’d already promised to love me forever. But we want to move to my country (the U.S.) & they don’t much like letting foreigners in, so we had to make it legal. And it doesn’t mean that he was any less committed to me, just that he didn’t see the point in having the government(s) tell him it was ok that he was committed to me!

    • FawMo

      Right there with you! Some days I’m patient and some days less so!

      I’m been struggling a lot lately with explaining to my friends, who are universally unmarried but mostly in long-term relationships, that I actually really want to get married. In a “I’ve thought long and hard about it and I’ve dated this guy for over five years” kinda way. I feel like everyone things I’ve got a rash on my left ring finger or something! Being slightly giddy about the whole William and Kate fiasco didn’t help that either.

      Bottom line: Would love some more love and support for the pre-engaged out there. And a little shame busting about being actually desirous of an actual (practical) wedding at the tender age of 25.

      • Caroline

        yes! to talking about being pre-engaged at a younger age. I’m almost 21. People look at me like I have two heads to want to get married. Or else they think I’m already married. I get them about equally as often.

    • LBD

      I could say I could tell this story, but I’d say likely the story is more my fiance’s story to tell. I was ready to get married five years ago. He was very ambivalent about marriage to downright against it, particularly as a result of his parents no longer being romantically involved (they are still married and still best friends, but not so much with the sex and romance). The unknowns were really scary for him, that it could not be guaranteed that we’d love each other forever and enjoy sex with each other forever. That was one part of it. The other parts of it were unrelated things in my fiance’s past of a traumatic nature that made the idea of “growing up” or making future plans very hard and scary. For me, it was important to get married, the biggest reason (among many) being that were anything to happen to him, or were something to happen to me, I wanted him to be the one making decisions on my behalf, and vice versa. Fights ensued. We have always fought rarely, and for the longest time, marriage was the only thing we really fought about.

      But yeah, eventually there was a heart-wrenching conversation in which I kind of put my foot down and essentially told him while I wasn’t going to say I was going to leave him (I loved him with all my heart, I didn’t want that either), I found it really hard to want to be in a relationship with him for the long term if marriage was out of the question. I also told him I didn’t want to feel like he was marrying me just to make me happy, I wanted it to be something he wanted too. I told him I didn’t care how long it took for us to get there, as long as I knew it was possible, that he was working on figuring it out. I talked him into going to therapy. And whoa boy did that ever start moving things along. And it also enabled him to open up and be more honest with me about why getting married was such a scary thing to him. The more we were able to open up and be honest about it, the easier it was for each of us to understand where the other was coming from, and talk about it.

      But really, I didn’t do much besides be patient yet firm. He’s really the one who had to do all the hard work. I only know/understand a small portion of what was going on that made it so hard for him, so I feel any attempts I could make to write about it would be woefully inadequate. Unfortunately it took the fear of losing me to spur him into action to figure it out. But I can reassure you at least that it can be done. We’re getting married in August, and he is indeed excited about it, which a mere two and a half to three years ago seems unthinkable.

    • The best response to nosy people I’ve found is one that shuts them up and makes them realize they have no business asking questions in the first place. We used to have a story that I would’ve loved to tell people about why we didn’t have children that involved some horrible accident resulting in infertility, being unable to adopt because of numerous past felony convictions, and ended with us looking to buy kids on the black market. I never used the story, but I’ve decided if someone asks now I’m going to tell them “We’ll have children when God thinks we’re worthy.”

      Maybe tell them, “We’re waiting on clearance from the queen,” or something.

  • Lynn

    How about the realization that you love two men? It’s been a very, very difficult thing that you can’t talk about because people don’t get it. It’s not an In-Love versus Loving thing…it’s a In-Love with both of them thing. The feelings are the same.

    My fiance doesn’t know; the other man does and he doesn’t understand it either. He doesn’t understand how I can love him and love my fiance, how it feels the same to me (it’s not a sexual relationship, it hasn’t been for years, since before I met my fiance). I know that in order for this marriage to work, I’ll have to let the other man go, to remove him from my life because it will destroy this family that I’ve never had, never thought I’d have, if I don’t.

    • Anon for now

      You’re right. I don’t understand what this would be like. But also, I think you are right about needing to cut out #2 in order for your marriage to work. The fact that you have told #2 about your feelings and not your fiance would probably put you in the category of “emotional affair”. I don’t know what your morals and convictions are about fidelity you might need to discuss boundaries with your fiance and maybe tell him about #2.

      My experience with something (remotely) similar to this was a few years ago. While I was out of the country for a summer I started spending a lot of time with a guy who was NOT my BF. Maybe I was vulnerable due to isolation? I ended up letting him kiss me. (While this may seem pretty tame it was a major breech in the trust/faithfulness based on our agreement about what fidelity in our relationship meant.) Not only was the relationship with my #2 physical but I became emotionally attached. I ended up confessing (a week-ish?) later and cut off all contact with #2. This was really hard both because I hurt my BF and because I cared about #2. Since deciding to cease contact with him it has become progressively easier. Only rarely do wonder how he has been over the last few years, whether I should email him. This was tough at first though and it required persistence and perseverance.

      I think for you it may be similar in that the road to giving up #2 will be long and rocky. It seems as though you know what you need to do. The longer you wait the more you will probably hurt all involved. (unless somehow miraculously your fiance doesn’t mind having a sidekick)

    • Annon

      Send me an email if you ever want to chat with someone who’s been through something fairly similar: mpk042 at gmail dot com.

  • msditz

    Are there any ladies out there that are dealing with alzheimer’s in their family? This may be super niche, but for me it is very present in my life. I am very close with my family, and my uncle will not be attending my wedding because he is too sick with the awful disease. It is sad for me, but I was thinking about the affects of alzheimer’s and weddings when I watched my uncle dance with my cousin at her own wedding a few years ago. He was not well at the time, but well enough to get through the day. Watching them I kept going over in my head, how meaningful is a wedding if you won’t remember it?

  • Marchelle

    Yes, yes, yes! Let’s talk about sex, baby. I’m always puzzled by the dichotomy on the internet between almost platonic blogs and porn sites, and how hard it is to find genuine places that fall in between. Then again, writing about sex is a firm boundary I’ve set for myself on my blog that I won’t cross, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. But it’s a conversation I’m willing to have if someone else will start it. (And if it isn’t happening *on* my blog.)