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Before my wedding in 2007, I was having doubts, lots of them. While some of my good friends listened and understood my hesitation, the greater population did not.
Handfuls of married folks, bridal magazines, bridal message boards, and sitcom pilots chalked my feelings up to simply being "cold feet." I was assured that my feelings were just wedding jitters, stress about the planning, excitement for the big day, and after a while I started to believe it.
After all, how could I not want to get married? My fiancé and I had been dating for seven years, we got along great and he was (and still is) one of the most amazing men I have ever met. He is a "catch." And since the creation of girls, we've been taught that catching him is the ultimate achievement. That your wedding day is the "happiest day of your life." That once a ring is on our finger everything will be OK.
Except nothing was OK. My feet were frozen and my denial caused me to be depressed, angry, and scared. Yet rather than face the truth that I simply did not want to get married (at that time) I instead faced my fiancé on the altar.
Our marriage lasted only 13 months. In retrospect I can now see the signs that should have led me to say " I don't" rather than "I do."
1) You ask everyone, "Should I get married?"
When I was drunkenly walking around my bachelorette party asking my guests “Should I get married?" my very honest and smart friend Margot said, "If you need to ask, I think you know the answer." Good point! I responded by ignoring the obvious and ordering more shots. Getting married is a decision that should only involve the two people getting married to one another. If you have to poll the masses whether you should or should, you probably shouldn't.
2) You really really really really really don't care or do care about wedding planning.
If you aren't someone who normally cares about party hosting or details, then you can maybe ignore this one. I usually love planning things, I like organizing fun stuff to do, I like being a thoughtful hostess, I like events. My wedding should have been really unique, thoughtful, and personal but instead my response to most planning decisions was "Whatever."
Two months before the wedding my sister was like "Uh are you going to pick out bridesmaid dresses for us anytime soon?" I wasn’t actively planning because I wasn’t actively sure that the wedding would happen. It did happen, and it was lovely and fun but it wasn’t the kind of party I would throw in a good state of mind.
Indifference toward your wedding is a red flag. On the flip side, hyper-focusing on wedding details can also be a red flag. Many brides-to-be get so lost in wedding planning that they lose a sense of self. Yes, your wedding day is an important day but more important than your wedding is your relationship with your future husband. If you find yourself obsessing about small details in order to suppress a bigger problem, get off TheKnot.com and get real with yourself.
3) You hardly hang out with your fiancé.
When I got engaged, my fiancé moved from New York City to the suburbs of Boston because I insisted I wanted to quit the entertainment business and live in the 'burbs near my family like a "real grown-up." A month into my ridiculous plan I started traveling to New York a lot, alone. Before I knew it my fiancé and I were spending more time apart than together and it didn't bother me. So if you are avoiding spending time with the person you're planning to spend the rest of your life with, maybe reconsider.
4) You've become a belligerent bloated oaf.
Some gals go nuts with Bridal Bootcamps shrinking down to an impossible size to fit in their gowns, and some gals (me) go on a bender of binge drinking and eating making themselves fit uncomfortably in their own skin. Overdoing the pre-wedding dieting isn't cool, neither is completely letting yourself go.
If you find yourself overindulging in unhealthy habits, you may want to figure out why (this is a general life rule, not just pre-wedding). I was trying to escape by drinking most nights a week (not in a celebratory wedding way), eating my feelings (not in a celebratory cake-tastings are fun way), and just taking overall horrible care of my body.
I know for myself, when I am in a good place in life I am balanced, I take care of my appearance, I take care of my digestive tract and liver. When I am in a bad place, I look like I'm in a bad place. Pay attention to your vices, chances are if prepping for your wedding involves abusing your body you might want to put things on hold (including that fifth cocktail).
5) You cry, like, a lot.
As mentioned earlier I did a lot of crying during my wedding process. It’s totally normal to cry when you’re stressed, cry when you’re happy, etc., etc. -- but I was crying every week in my therapist's office dramatically wailing, “Will I ever know how to truly love?”
I cried when I went wedding dress shopping, partly because nothing fit right and partly because every time we put another deposit down on something for the wedding, I felt more and more like I couldn’t bail. I cried at my rehearsal dinner when my fiancé’s dad gave a beautiful speech about how he was still madly in love with his wife (my fiancé’s mom) because I was jealous that I wasn’t madly in love.
I was in a funk, a major one and I don’t think most people who are excited to get married drunkenly walk around Times Square alone at night with sunglasses on to hide their tears as they judge “happy” tourists (yea, I did a lot of that too). In the words of the great Roxette, Listen To Your Heart. It's a tough thing to figure out since big life changes can make us all emotional, so be sure to take some time (meditate, go for long walks, journal, sit in silence, whatever works for you) to figure out if you’re crying tears of joy or tears of sadness.
6) You think about being single like, a lot.
I hate the image of the guy being weighed down by the “ol’ ball and chain” because sometimes it’s women that feel weighed down, sometimes women wonder what else is out there, sometimes women (gasp!) fantasize about other people. It’s common and normal for men and women in amazing committed relationships to think about other people. Acting on those thoughts is a different story.
I married my college boyfriend who at the time had been my only real long-term relationship. Some folks can be with their high school or college sweethearts and be totally happy never considering the other options, good for them, I was not one of those girls. I couldn’t figure out if I was staying with him because he was “the one” or because he had just been the only one so far.
I didn’t have much to compare us to and so I found myself constantly thinking about dating other men. So I suggested to my fiancé that we have some openness in our relationship because after all we were super cool enlightened soulmates that knew we’d be together forever.
I thought I was being so progressive but I was actually just trying to satisfy my curiosity for the single life while keeping the security of a relationship. I was being really immature, dumb, and selfish. I know some people have open relationships and it works out great, but that wasn’t the case with us because we weren’t totally clear on the rules and our feelings.
I can’t tell you what “normal” is as far as crushes, fantasies, flirting, openness go, only you and your partner can figure that out, I just know that if I ever get married again it will be because I am super focused on the man I am with rather than being super focused on the men I could have been with.
7) You don't want to get married.
Plain and simple, if you don’t want to get married, don’t. If you are getting married because you feel pressure from your partner, your family, society, you are afraid to be alone, you are afraid no one else will love you again, you’re getting older, all your friends are married, you want wedding gifts, you don’t know what else to do but get married: DO NOT GET MARRIED.
Timing is everything, and when I got married I wasn’t ready but I did it anyways because I couldn’t think of a good enough reason not to, now I know in retrospect "I don't want to get married right now" is a reason enough. Don't get trapped by your fears, do what is best for you and you will be fine. It may take some time, but you will be fine, I promise.
If you live in New York City and want to hear more about my marriage/divorce story come see my solo show Bad Bride at the Upright Citizens Brigade theatre. Upcoming show dates and tickets here.