This week, we wanted to explore different perspectives on getting married. Yesterday, we discussed becoming a stepparent at a young age, and then we talked about finding out right after the wedding that you were having a baby (surprise!). So today, Dorie is here talking about the fears of being a second-time bride and the bravery it takes to jump into marriage, every single time.
I just hauled a bag full of marriage improvement, couple-oriented, self-help books in for trade credit at my local used bookstore.
That line makes me sound bitter, perhaps, or hopeless. One might think that I just now decided that my marriage was over, that I have just decided to file for divorce. The reality is, though, I have been divorced since 2007. Instead of dumping those books in preparation for a divorce, I am getting rid of the marriage advice books in preparation for my upcoming wedding.
My fiancé and I were the product of a whirlwind romance, courtesy of, well serendipity. A native East-Coaster, R. was in Arizona doing some consulting, and he had just reconnected with his old college roommate who lived in Phoenix. Said former roommate and I knew each other through volunteer work. One day R.’s former roommate said to me, “I’d like to introduce you to somebody. He’s here on a consulting gig and a little bored. I thought maybe you would want to play tour-guide.” We met, hit it off, I played tour guide, and then those outings became dates. I really liked him, but I wasn’t thinking (too much) about our future.
We had known each other for only about five months when my now-fiancé asked me, “When do you think we should maybe talk about talking about getting married?” Despite all the hedging in that question, I nearly fell off the sofa, thinking, “What? Get married? Talk about getting married? He’s crazy! What never-married, not quite 50-year-old says things like that after knowing somebody for five months?” Yet, instead of saying what I thought, I mumbled something about the fact that I would have to move and would not be able to find a job. Lack of job security, however, was not the real reason I did not want to talk about (talking about) getting married. The real reason was that, simply, I was afraid. I had done this once before, and even though our relationship felt right in ways the other one did not, I felt worried and fretful: What if it doesn’t work the second time around?
Once R. returned to the East Coast, we had dates via Skype and racked up frequent-flyer miles. I met his family, and he had a few test runs with my good friends in Phoenix. I had told him we couldn’t even broach the idea of marriage until 2011. And then (as my ever-astute sister had predicted), he officially proposed—and I accepted—at the very end of December 2010, about 10 months after our first date.
So, we began planning a wedding. There was no need to panic; I had been through it all before. I knew what questions to ask the caterer. I knew the pros and cons of having a hotel wedding vs. a venue that out-of-town guests can’t walk to. I knew how to avoid the WIC (though I still occasionally fall prey to its lure). This time around I have a partner who is more than willing to help with the planning. In fact, early in the planning process he chided me for not letting him do enough, so now he’s made more phone calls and more arrangements than I have! The event planning feels easier, but the marriage planning… that’s what has me panicked.
As a second-time bride, I already know from experience that despite intense, deep-felt love, marriages can and do fall apart. And while, of course, I do not want this marriage to fall apart because I love my fiancé to the very core of my being, because I cannot imagine life without him, and cannot imagine causing him that pain, I also still feel some trepidation because, well, I do not want to go through a divorce again. I do not want that pain, and I certainly don’t want that mark of failure—again.
Now that our engagement has been official for over a year, I’ve read more “making your marriage work” type books (most recommend here on APW) in the past several months than I did during the seven years I was married. However, they all make me feel a little inadequate, or don’t seem to apply to us, or, more frustratingly, offer contradictory advice. Besides, R. has no desire to read them, and the information is not really helpful if only half of the couple reads the text.
At one point I told R., “I’m worried I have no good models for marriage. My parents are divorced. I’m divorced. A lot of my friends are divorced. I’m not sure I know how to make a marriage work.” He told me that he’s sure that I’ve learned from my mistakes and by the way, not to worry, for his parents had a wonderful marriage. He had great role models.
But what if I haven’t learned enough from my mistakes? Or, what if I haven’t learned those lessons at all? What if I only think that I have learned? We know that we have learned from our mistakes when faced with a situation we previously faced and react differently and make different choices about our behaviors. But the catch with marriage is that we often don’t get to try out those lessons—those learned skills—until we are in the risky situation in which we need to apply them. There is no paper-pencil test for marriage skills. I understand the purpose of marriage counseling and role playing, but I think most of us know that we don’t know how we are going to react to trying situations—or even joyous ones—until we are in the situation. We can rehearse events in our heads and with our partners, but in the end, nobody can predict where our emotions will take us on any given day.
So where does that leave me now? In some ways, I am still the scared woman on the sofa. But I have determined that despite my fear, I must truly trust in my partner’s feelings for me—and trust myself. I need to accept that we would never grow if we never took risks, that we, as humans, are life-long learners, that many great things are unrehearsed. And, I need to accept that doing nothing for fear of failure gets us nowhere.
Photo by: Kateryn Silva