photo above taken during a morning run in the Dominican Republic.
I loved my wedding. It surpassed my fairytale dreams, and was the work of many—many not even related to me. It came from the efforts and love of my community; my village. My family was not in a position to afford a wedding, but I had neighbors baking cookies, church members decorating, friends arranging flowers, invitations designed and given as a gift, extravagant showers, money given to help, an anonymous donor contacting the caterer to purchase twice as much food, a cake fit for royalty, bridesmaids who acted as wedding planners. … this only hits the surface. I’m overwhelmed remembering. Writing about this is still hard. I have shame, still. I question how much I deserved all of this if I made such a mistake.
I looked forward to showing my gratitude to all of those who helped after the wedding was over. I was going to write an article about DIY weddings, have it published along with wedding photos, and honor the love my community and extended family showed me. I understand the irony: I’m instead using those same photos to write about my divorce.
I personalized thank you cards for each of my bridesmaids and in the first week back from my honeymoon I did pass out a few thank you gifts, but never finished. My marriage was bad, it was filled with uncertainty, and shame kept me hiding.
Before I was married I was a talker, a blogger, a writer, a speak-my-minder, a communicator, and a friend.
A few weeks after my marriage I went ghost. What could I blog about, being in such a sad situation? How could I thank people when I realized my marriage was a mistake? Shame stopped me from writing thank you cards. Shame kept me from reaching out to my friends or those I trusted. How could I feel worthy of the fairytale wedding I had just been given when there was no fairytale ending? The gifts? The attention?… I didn’t feel I deserved a lot of things.
Here in the Dominican Republic, taking my morning walks along the beach while trying to feel confident in my decision to divorce, I wasn’t just focusing on how my marriage was hurting me, but also how I was going to hurt others if it ended. There was also a lot of blame: How could I have married someone who didn’t want to be married to me? How could I have married someone who didn’t want children with me? … so many layers of guilt and embarrassment. I was a strong woman … wasn’t I? How could I have allowed myself to marry someone who treated me like this? Did I deserve this relationship, then? Should I be a martyr and stay, and own this bad decision? Should I just give of myself and love him? No matter the pain?
There were a few people I was confiding in: My mom. Ruthanne. Jenava. At 1:00 in the morning, I would sit in my freezing car to escape from my tiny studio apartment, crying while on the phone with Jenava. I had just confided in Gretchen and Andrea once I landed in Salt Lake from Boston. Those I chose to speak with were kind, but I was still ghost for the most part. This only deepened my shame, because I felt like a bad friend. I valued that I was a good friend, and I didn’t feel like I was that anymore. I had just been given the wedding of a lifetime, was shown such love and compassion, and I followed it up by disappearing. Shame.
It was this week in the DR that I received an email. It was from a woman in the neighborhood I grew up in. Someone who had helped with my wedding. I hadn’t been in contact with her since then, but now she was reaching out:
Oct. 2, 2013
“Hi Lauren: I am wondering how you are doing? Are you happy? If you have time to chat, I would love to talk to you. I am thinking about you. Much love.”
I wrote back …
“Thank you for writing and checking up on me. That means a lot. 🙂 I miss you. I am not my happiest right now, no, but I will be happier soon, I know this. I would love to talk, but I am in the Dominican Republic until the 9th, and can only Facetime until I’m back in the country. I came to watch a mission companions children and visit with my old friend. Marriage hasn’t been what I thought it would be thus far, and I am making some decisions. Love you. We will talk soon. Lauren”
… and she responded:
October 2, 2013
“Yes, we must talk. Marriage should be wonderful. You should feel loved, adored, valued, and secure in that relationship. I don’t think it will get better if it isn’t that way as a newly wed. My daughter married someone who had such potential but didn’t know how to show his love. Her husband could be nice sometimes, but would switch to be controlling and mean. She didn’t know what to expect from him day-to-day. She tried for many years, had 3 children with him, never feeling good enough for him. She would try to leave, and he would beg her to stay. Finally, after 21 years of unhappiness she left. She should have left much earlier but was scared and hoped it would get better. You don’t deserve that. you are a treasure and should be treated that way. Those are my thoughts. I tell you this with much love.”
So ashamed, so scared, so embarrassed, so confused: To read these words meant so much. Despite my disappearing, people still cared enough to reach out and give their valuable opinions. The people I was afraid to disappoint; were helping me realize I was worth more than my extravagant wedding, and unfortunate decisions.
There were others who reached out as well. A couple I admire took me to lunch and reminded me that every person who helped with my wedding only wanted what was best for me. This all helped encourage me and allowed me to realize I was worth more than this relationship.
I think about others who find themselves in toxic relationships, who might not have this community of strength that I had, or friends or family who just don’t grasp how toxic a relationship can be (I’ve had a few of those, and not everyone will understand), but I feel lucky to have had those who did understand. To those who need that last bit of encouragement, please know that this email from my friend is for you, too. You are a treasure, and deserve to be treated that way. Please know this, no matter what others say.
I’m still only beginning to find my voice again. I still have shame, but this book is helping me realize I no longer have to hide. Here in the Dominican Republic I was reminded that I was still loved despite my mistakes or the way I was being treated.
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