Ah weddings! Beautiful, symbolic, joyful ceremonies to celebrate the union of two souls in love, committing their lives to one another before God and their loved ones; “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, til death do us part.”
It’s a moment all little girls dream about, and one of the most pivotal days of any couple’s life. When I was a young girl, dreaming way too far into the future about my wedding day, I didn’t just imagine that day. I imagined all the days leading up to it, and all the days that would follow. I wondered what my Prince Charming would look like and my heart pounded at the thought of him tearing up when he saw me for the first time at the end of the flower sprinkled aisle on that wonderful day. I pictured him fitting into my family like as if he’d been there all along, and me in his. I envisioned him asking my dad for my hand in marriage and feeling like the luckiest man alive to have heard my father proudly say yes. I imagined what the proposal and the ring would look like, and that I’d cry tears of joy as I jumped into his strong, loving arms and screamed, “Yes!” to that long awaited question, “Will you marry me?” I daydreamed about our children and what our own little family would look like. I believed I’d have a beautiful love story just like all the Disney movies promised, and prayed I’d find it sooner rather than later.
The Disney movies and romantic love stories we watch growing up don’t often show what happens when the dream turns into a nightmare. What happens when Prince Charming isn’t so charming and rather than being swept off your feet you more get slammed down on your head. When fun, sweet date nights with romantic cocktails end up as drunken house parties and bar hopping with a belligerent alcoholic calling you a whore (among other names) in the parking lot just before he fist fights your friend, drives home drunk, punches a hole in the wall and then blacks out…every weekend. When your self respect has been so depleted that instead of walking away, you stay and make excuses as you clean up the mess.
The movies don’t prepare you for what happens when your desire to be desired coupled with your strong committed spirit leaves you staying in unhealthy, abusive relationships because either you believe you don’t deserve any better, or you’ve convinced yourself it’s just a phase and your love will be enough to help them grow out of it. When late night love chats on the phone turn out to be sleepless nights alone watching the hours tick by as you wait for your boyfriend or spouse to return home from the bar, wondering where he is and if he will make it home at all. When butterflies in your stomach turn into twisted knots. When sweet nothings whispered in your ear end up being verbal screaming matches that demean and destroy your soul.
They don’t often show what happens when cute banter over who pays the bill turns into hidden purchases and maxed out credit cards filled with bar tabs. When the happy tears of a positive pregnancy test warps into a blame fest and a push toward an abortion. When a well planned proposal turns into, “Well, so I guess we better get married then huh?” When the big beautiful wedding filled with family and friends turns into a court house appointment that has to be rescheduled because the groom is too hungover to make the original date. When the flawless wedding ring he lovingly chose for you ends up being a ring from Overstock.com you picked for yourself and are still paying for on your own credit card.
No one prepares you for what happens when your sweet hope of a spouse who delights in children as much as you turns out to view them as a problem to be solved. When your excitement and joy over pregnancy isn’t shared and you end up doing it all on your own. When visions of lovingly welcoming your newest baby into your home and a doting husband sacrificing sleep just to hold him and help you any way he can, turns into being left alone in the hospital while he tries to convince you to let friends babysit the older two so he can go hunting…and then dumping you and your 3 sons in the door after being released from the hospital so he could spend time in the woods. When reveries of a partnership are changed into single parenting even though you’re together.
You’re probably thinking by now, “Well who in their right mind would stay in a situation like that? Who would allow that to be their story when they have a choice in how it looks?”
I often ask myself those same questions when I look back over the last four years of my life. I honestly have a hard time stomaching a lot of the choices I made based on my sick, codependent heart and my confused, deluded brain.
Ideally, a marriage happens between two people who love each other more than they love themselves. Who have made a conscious decision to spend the rest of their lives together, even in the hard seasons. Who know and respect each other and who each want to honor and uphold the other at all times. Who share the same core values and plans for the future, walking hand in hand toward a united destination. Who understand love is not just a feeling but a daily choice to lay your life down for the other.
After my first marriage failed, I vowed to myself it would never happen again. You’d think a promise like that would give me enough strength to choose the next one carefully and to only give the remainder of my broken heart to someone who had fought for it and proved himself worthy of such a gesture. You’d think I’d have taken my time, healed and become whole before trying again, trusting that God would bring me to the man he had for me when the time was right.
But I didn’t. I pressed forward against all sound judgment and loving advice. I believed what I wanted to about this person I’d found drowning in his own self destructive filth and tried with all I had in me to be his savior. To be my own savior. To trudge the dangerous waters, naked and afraid, naive to all that lay beneath the dark surface of this uncharted territory. I made excuses and believed lies, putting duct tape over each new wound to my heart and hoped that someday it would become a beautiful love story of perseverance and faith. I ignored the red flags and even defended the inexcusable behavior I continued to endure. I worked tirelessly to change this man into something he wasn’t, spraying perfume on a giant pile of shit and trying to convince myself and everyone else it was a pile of roses. I sacrificed my morals, surrendered my soul, and gave away pieces of myself until there was nothing left.
A wedding ring is not just a symbol to the world of your love and commitment to another person, letting everyone know you are spoken for. It’s not only a reminder of the most important relationship in your life and your devotion to that person. It is also a symbol of their love, commitment and fidelity to you. A promise of their faithfulness and love to you. A vow to honor and cherish you for as long as you both shall live. A daily reminder of their choice to dedicate their heart to you and only you, above anyone and anything else, other than God. While wedding rings are beautiful in their own right, the true beauty lies in what they represent.
Mine does not hold any of that depth and beauty.
My wedding ring was not given to me by a man who cherished me or even wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. Mine was delivered to me by a mailman. This ring was not carefully selected by a man who valued my heart and what the ring would represent for the rest of our lives as a couple. It was selected by me, from a website, while I was home alone and my husband was out at a bar. This ring was not placed on my finger in front of a church filled with my closest family and friends. I put it on my own finger when it finally arrived in the mail.
It’s pretty, but it’s meaningless. It’s expensive, but it’s worthless. It’s a daily reminder of my love and commitment to someone who didn’t uphold the vow.
Although I’ve been separated from my husband since March, my divorce is not anywhere near finalized yet, so I have continued to wear the ring. Many people who know my situation have seen the ring and asked why I’m still wearing it, assuming it’s because I can’t let go or it means too much. My primary reason for wearing it is simply because until I’m no longer married on paper, I’m still married. Although the ring itself carries no meaning or value at this point, and really never did, I’ve wanted to demonstrate that despite the lack of commitment and promise on the other side, I wanted to uphold mine.
This journey has just begun and the road ahead looks almost as scary as the road I left behind. Worse in fact, in many ways; but also so much better. The divorce is not over and I am still legally married, so I still feel a need to wear a ring on my left hand. But I believe it is time to let go of this one.
It is time to let go of the broken promises and the shattered vows. To say goodbye to the childhood dream and another failed marriage. To release the burden that my love wasn’t enough and my fidelity was one sided. To forgive myself for my poor choices and sick heart, and to forgive him of the same. To take off the meaningless ring and untie the twisted ropes that held us together.
With this ring, I am bound. Bound to a lie and a heartache I didn’t choose. Bound to the pain of my poor choices and their lifelong consequences in me and my son’s lives. Bound to an empty promise and a broken vow; a devastating loss of an unattainable dream.
It is time to undo the binding. Not to be free to find another, but to be free from the bondage of the past. To be released into the arms of the only One who deserves my heart; the One who has fought for me and earned my eternal love and devotion. To untie the mangled knots of lies, deceit, and selfishness and be fixed rather to the only One who is pure in truth, grace and sacrificial love. To heal through the fallout, letting go of what never was and holding onto hope of what will be. This is not the life I had planned for myself or my children, but it’s not a surprise to God and He is redeeming every broken piece of my heart and restoring it to Him.
“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” Proverbs 31:25