When I got engaged two and a half years ago, people offered advice at every turn. I was given the names of good photographers, told the best place to buy a dress, and urged to eat breakfast on my wedding day (to avoid passing out).
Believe me, I was grateful for such tips. They saved me hours communing with the Yellow Pages, and may have spared me an embarrassing episode on the altar.
What I really needed, though, was advice of a different sort.
To wit: I was totally unprepared for the emotional tsunamis that pounded my psychological coastline during those pre-wedding months. I discovered that there’s a wide range of random emotion that can accompany an engagement ring.
Here are four key things that I learned during my fiancée days.
1. Getting married is kinda scary. Even when you’re as sure of your chosen one as I was of Scott, there’s no denying it: a decision that big is frightening. Hours after the proposal, it hit me that I’d just answered the single most important question of my life. Picking a college—an agonizing choice at age eighteen—was nothing by comparison. You divorce a college after four years. I’d be married for life.
2. The transition from “me” to “us” hit me in unexpected ways. Packing up my old apartment, I realized with a jolt that I wouldn’t have my own bedroom anymore. Now obviously, there are pluses to sharing a room with your spouse—I hardly need elaborate. But for an introvert who had always believed, à la Virginia Woolf, in having a room of one’s own, it felt disorienting to know that I’d soon be acquiring a permanent roommate.
3. I was blindsided by weird, weepy sentiment. A few weeks before the wedding, Scott and I watched the Steve Martin comedy Father of the Bride with my parents. Later that evening, alone with Scott, I had a mini-meltdown. “I’m not going to be my parents’ little girl anymore,” I cried.
That one came out of nowhere—I’ve never thought of myself as “my parents’ little girl.” But something was changing in my relationship with them, and I was just dimly starting to perceive it. It was a bittersweet feeling.
Not to worry!
Scary as all this may sound, there is good news too:
4. I learned that I wasn’t in this alone. When I shared these feelings, there was no end to the support I received. Female friends listened sympathetically and affirmed my emotions. Prayer helped to focus me. Scott was a constant comfort. Even when he didn’t know what to say, he was always there to hold me.
It’s a great model for relationships: when you can’t find the right words, listen and administer hugs. It made me all the more sure I’d chosen the right guy.
Now, post-wedding, I’ve found that my fiancée fears have come to nothing. I love having a permanent roommate, even if he never makes the bed, and my relationship with my parents keeps evolving in wonderful ways.
Sure, Scott and I encounter challenges as we navigate our life together. I’d be lying if I said married life was always perfectly blissful. But doesn’t every relationship have its rough patches?
The entire experience has taught me a tremendously useful lesson: even a positive life change can engender a whole lot of surprising emotion.
How to deal? Expecting it is half the battle. The people who love you will take care of the rest.