My Engagement Isn't a Fairytale
Y’all: I’m getting married in less than three weeks. I cannot believe this is my life. As 12/29 gets closer, things are only going to get crazier, so I figured I should get this post out of the way ASAP. Here goes.
Engagement is beautiful and difficult and crazy and wonderful and everything in between...and I do mean everything. For some reason, probably because being engaged always seemed like something that happens to other women, I had an idealized vision of what it would be like to prepare for marriage. I had visions of non-stop romantic dates and bridal showers and holy hours together...and not much else.
Let’s just say that I was more than a little bit surprised when my adolescent Catholic rom-com visions of engagement didn’t turn out to be entirely accurate.
The biggest surprise was that, as overjoyed as I was at getting married to the man I love, the weeks following our engagement were emotionally difficult. All of a sudden, things got very real very quickly. Not only were Kristian and I talking dates, reception venues, guest lists, and who would preside over our wedding Mass, we had to start looking for a place to live post-marriage, have really uncomfortable (for me) discussions about money, and we had to deal with all of the issues that arise when you try to plan a huge celebration for two large extended families. The emotional intensity was kicked up a notch by the fact that Kristian and I have had a short engagement--less than six months--and had to prepare accordingly.
Oh, and if anyone is curious about what my least favorite part of wedding planning is, it’s the seating chart. SO STRESSFUL. But I digress.
What saved me from despair during the first few weeks post-engagement (aside from consolation from Kristian, therapy, and the adoration chapel) was the fact that several of my married girlfriends opened up to me about how difficult their engagements had been, especially in the first few weeks of stress-inducing wedding-related decisions.
I was comforted by this, but also perplexed; why hadn’t anyone told me before that engagement isn’t all staring deeply into each other’s eyes and getting showered with love and attention from the entire world???
My theory is that many women assume that there must be something wrong with them if engagement isn’t always easy, so they don’t talk about it, which only perpetuates the engagement-is-all-fun myth. Plus, there’s the Instagram feeds and Facebook updates and wedding websites filled with pretty pictures taken at the exact right time with the right lighting (or at least the right filter). I’m sure if that was the only information others had about my engagement, they’d assume it was 100% smiles all the time (which is why I’m writing this post).
Truth is, I was afraid to talk about my engagement stresses with anyone (other than my therapist) for fear that I would find out that there was something wrong with me, or that I was not meant to marry Kristian, or something equally terrible.
To save you from those same fears, gentle readers who are engaged or may someday be engaged, I’ll let you in on a little secret: engagement is a lot like the rest of life. If you're naturally prone to anxiety and (like me) a bit more high-strung than the average bear, that's not going to change because you're engaged. And even if you're naturally pretty chill, emotional rollercoaster rides are par for the course during engagement. To top it all off, your emotions will probably ebb and flow a lot more than your fiance’s. And that is normal.
For Kristian and me, being engaged has brought us to deeper levels of intimacy and love than we knew in our dating relationship. The bridal showers have been a blast, and even wedding planning has its bright spots. We love telling our proposal story to anyone who will listen (I once got a free bouquet from Trader Joe’s from the lady behind me in the checkout line for telling it) and we do a lot of gazing into each other’s eyes and daydreaming about our future together. All of that stuff is lovely.
BUT. Engagement is also a time of intense preparation for marriage, which is the biggest, most life-changing event in a couple’s life up to that point. Kristian and I have not shied away from talking about everything with each other, from how we’ll handle our finances to what Christmas traditions we want to be a part of our family culture. In our pre-marital counseling sessions (and conversations afterward), we’ve shared our ongoing emotional, psychological, and spiritual struggles with each other, which has required a level of vulnerability that is anything but comfortable. Wedding-planning stress has reared its ugly head on more than one occasion, leading to tear-filled (on my side) dinner dates. And of course, we both have our moments of OH MY GOSH WE ARE GETTING MARRIED AND EVERYTHING IN OUR LIVES IS GOING TO CHANGE FOREVER AHHHHHH!
The one thing I did get advanced warning about from friends was that, during engagement, Satan kicks the spiritual attacks up a notch. I’m so thankful my therapist recommended that I read Discernment of Spirits by Fr. Timothy Gallagher during this time, because it helped me to recognize when the fear and anxiety I was experiencing was the result of the Evil One trying to discourage me from pursuing the Lord’s will wholeheartedly. I highly recommend the book, regardless of your state in life, but especially if you’re recently engaged.
Throughout the past five months, regardless of the highs and lows, the one thing that has never failed is the certainty that it was the Lord who brought Kristian and me together and it is the Lord who will give us the grace we need to have a beautiful marriage. Never have I experienced God’s love so powerfully as I have through Kristian, and that is the rock to which I cling when my emotions are going haywire. I’m thankful that our engagement hasn’t been a fairytale, because I know our marriage won’t be either. It will be supremely real, and with God’s grace, we will be able to face whatever the future holds in our marriage: good, bad, and in between.
Any married ladies out there who want to share the joys and struggles you experienced during engagement? Please share in the comments!
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