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Why the heck do you get married at 23?

Oh, I get it. Well, now I do, at least. How can someone a week after graduating from college imagine committing to a marriage? At 20, I’d only experience high school relationships. Damaging relationships that cause a girl to question who and why she is. The mind-game-playing “relationships” that make the most shallow version of kindness feel like the “real deal.”

Anyway. Here’s my story…

When we met, I was inexperienced in relationships, which led me to an unawareness of what I did not want in a loving partnership. Without knowing what I didn’t want, and without knowing what love felt like – kindness, generosity, transparency and devoted inclusion felt a whole lot like love.

There were no secrets. He seemed to be smitten with me, and he made me feel important. He wanted me to be a part of his life. There were no games regarding what he was doing and with whom. I was always invited. I felt secure. I felt safe. That felt like love. My high school relationships were filled with games and doubt, but this sophisticated collegiate romance felt like I had found a home. It felt different, and I thought that must be love.

And without knowing what actual love felt like, I aspired for a “nice” life. Ugh, looking back I have to ask myself, “Does anything sound more repulsive?” But at the time, I wanted a calm, peaceful existence with cute, well-behaved kids and a nice house. I didn’t know what passion was. I didn’t know what being in love felt like. I didn’t know what love felt like outside of what I experienced in my family or toward my dog. I didn’t know enough to know that I didn’t know.

And I sure as hell didn’t know that I was making a mistake when I walked down that aisle toward a future that was much blurrier than I had ever envisioned.

When you put your vision of life on fast-forward, you miss things. You lose emotion and meaning… not to mention, reality. When I sat in my own mother’s kitchen that winter and helped with holiday cookies, decorations and meal planning, I pictured my soon-to-be-married life in a similar fashion. I pictured kids. Happy kids with blond hair and blue eyes and lots of energy. I pictured little people on whom I could devote my attention, humor and creativity. I pictured a husband who appreciated my devotion, even if he exhibited a detached version of love. I didn’t think I needed affection. I pictured a modest, happy home that would be built on similar beliefs. Things like conservative Christian religion that would never, ever be questioned. Things like the importance of family wouldn’t be questioned. We wouldn’t dig too deeply into our true feelings for one another, because we were legally bound together. We would be a family.

I didn’t know enough to know that I didn’t know.

I didn’t picture my marriage outside of that abstract vision. The marriage was a given. Once the wedding day ceremonial obligations were over, we’d be together. And I didn’t put much {or really, any} thought into the details.

And it would sure be convenient for many to assume that I was too wrapped up in the wedding planning to consider the marriage. It’s sure satisfying for many to believe that any short-lived marriage is the result of misplaced values or a desire of a young bride to make “her day” so damn special that she forgets about the relationship upon which it is built. Judgments like those, though, are best saved for one’s own mistakes and insecurities. A failed marriage, regardless of length, is anything but one-size-fits-all. Know that. If you believe or buy into nothing else that I write, please know that. Every relationship is singular with its own brands of mistakes, broken promises and heartaches. Every single one.

In truth, I didn’t care much about the wedding. Sure, there were things that were important to me: that I adored my dress (I did), that we have cake, that those most important to me were able to attend, and that we kept things simple. The thought of being the center of attention for a whole day in a humongous white dress that made it impossible to blend in for one single moment was not something that made me giddy. I have always preferred to be further in the background than playing the Bride on Wedding Day would allow. But it was one day. It didn’t have to be perfect for me, but it just had to happen. I had to get this one sort of uncomfortable day out of the way.

And, as it turned out, that one sort of uncomfortable day was only the first of many much more uncomfortable days that I would have to get out of the way in order to figure out what my life would be. If I had just stopped for a moment to consider what waking up the next day would be like, perhaps reality might have woken me up as well…

But I hadn’t. It felt like the right thing to do – this marriage. I can’t even tell you how often I sat and stared at my wedding album after our separation in an effort to figure out what the hell was going through my mind that day. I wasn’t filled with undying love. But I was filled with the feeling that getting married was the correct, next step in my life. That was so, so wrong. But mistakes are made everyday, even gigantic ones that are humiliating to admit.

This marriage qualifies as one of those. Definitely.

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