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Why Long-Term Relationship Weddings are So Sweet

I don’t take being invited to a wedding lightly. Especially ones that are small, intimate or even outside of the country.

Weddings, large or small, courthouse to cathedral are special.

It’s two people deciding to choose each other everyday, and while it seems like relationships are always under attack, its honestly refreshing to see people who truly love each other and have gone through the fire, unite.

Recently, my latest rash of friends who have been tying the knot and are about to tie the knot have something in common.

They were together at a minimum of 5 or 6 years and a maximum of 15, and each had an engagement that was probably less than a year before their wedding.

While many folks started the marriage talk once these couples passed the two or three-year mark (except the high school sweethearts clocking in at 15 years), these couples blocked out the noise and ran their own race at their own pace.

Hence, these weddings felt the most emotional, because as friends looking on over the years, you truly got a feel for their ups and downs, their patience with each other, the acceptance of flaws and the universal understanding that these folks weren’t going to leave each other. They were going to stick together, no matter what.

And while the length of their relationship and delay in “making it official” is often the source of jokes and even criticism, these couples played by their own rules. Isn’t that what marriage is? Learning what works for you and your partner and doing just that? Maybe these friends in very long-term relationships decided they wanted to master that.

And let’s face it. The more time you invest in someone, the more you don’t want to let them down or vice versa. It realistically takes time to work through that. Experts say, we come down off of the high of love at the 2 year mark. That’s when the decision to love someone really kicks in after your endorphins and hormones have slowed down and you’ve gotten used to the person. So for the folks who stick and stay, after the fuzzies have subsided, you’ve got something.

I’m not knocking any people who found love in 6 months and locked it down, and are making it work. But it seems like society gives folks taking it slow a much harder time. So this is why I do want to take the time to shout out people who took their time and got hitched at their own time table, even if within the couple, there was disagreement about the pace at which they were getting to the altar.

Or there’s fear. There’s money and feeling established, which seems to be harder and harder to do these days. The economy, student loan debt, high rent and mortgages are impeding the progress of our generation, it’s slowing our ability to get ahead and stabilize. It hinders our confidence in taking on another person.

We live in a society of instant gratification, and we often try to place that on relationships because, we like love, we like weddings and hey, if people like each other or get along in a year or two years, we believe it’s a miracle and folks should snap that person up right away.

But the prospect of marriage is a sobering experience, when you take away the fantasy of the big celebration and finding the love of your life. It’s one of the biggest choices a person can make, and most of us hope to only make it once.

It makes you take a hard look at yourself. It humbles you that someone has seen you for who you are and wants you anyway. They want to tell the world that you are theirs, they want to wake up with you everyday.

So cheers to my friends who took their sweet time. Their ceremonies were filled with so much love and it felt like a victory lap and a fresh beginning all at once. It’s a true celebration of an honest love that took so much time to nurture and build and is admittedly still a work in progress, with room to grow and improve.

Be Yourself, Demand Love Unconditionally

Folks have said all the time to “be yourself.”

For a large part of your life, you swear they are lying.

You do what you deem is necessary to fit in at work, or to make friends, or to be in a relationship.

But those words are the truest words you’ll hear.

You just have to be brave enough to actually do it.

Why is it that something that should be as natural as being yourself so damn hard to do?

Well, it’s because we are acutely aware of our faults more than everyone else is, hence we have the power to alter it, mask it and pretend. But that only works but for so long. Folks who truly know you, know when you are genuine and when you are not and thank God.

The lies we tell ourselves are the worst and most potent and hardest to break and reverse.

The reason I’m on this kick today is because this morning I woke up with about 30 epiphanies. I had to text them to myself so I wouldn’t forget.

I went to a beautiful wedding this week of a fantastic college friend who I hadn’t seen in years.

She was absolutely stunning, but what made her glow all the more enchanting was she was truly happy. She loved that man and he clearly loved her. It was in the little things, the way she picked an eyelash off his face, and the way she still made silly faces with exaggerated eyes and smirks even in her formal photos. Every inch of that venue had her mark– from the songs she selected to the party favors. Individual, unique, simple, understated but not buttoned up.

The moment of the wedding that stopped my heart and hit me like a freight train was during her written vows.

She thanked her husband profusely for loving her for who she is. And I believed her. Those weren’t empty words. Even as she said it, she began to cry, and my eyes began to well. Because I know the impact of those words. And yet, I can’t think of a relationship where I completely felt like was loved exactly for who I was. I didn’t feel like I was enough in every last one and it was frustrating because I truly did my best in all. But it wasn’t on me, that was the thing I couldn’t control, even though I tried to. Either someone is going to love you for you completely, or they just won’t.

They will love you when your house is dirty or when it’s clean. They will love you if you gained some weight or if you stayed the same weight. They will love you and your child if that’s what you came to the table with. They will love you when you are sick and take care of you, as they will love you when you are healthy. They will think you are amazing if you are at the top of your career, and encourage you if you got laid off and can’t find work for a year.

I guess I’m afraid of that kind of love.

Because it’s actually real.

Because I can’t make excuses for it or why it didn’t work. To lose that kind of love would seem devastating, worse than the devastation I felt when the person didn’t love me that much, but I loved them that much.

I’ve said before that love is negotiable. And we have to keep coming to the table and reminding our loved ones what the terms are if they are slipping, and they should require that of us too.

I recently accepted a job. Go me!

I did something different this time.

I asked for what I wanted, what I felt I deserved in compensation and I was willing to keep it moving if they didn’t offer me the job or the salary I asked for. I had already made up my mind what I was willing to accept, and my friends asked well what if it’s this number but not that number? And I said, no. Something in my spirit said, no. This time you won’t take less than what you deserve, you’ve been doing it you’re whole professional life. You can get what you deserve even if it’s not this particular opportunity, this time around.

So it made me think, if I can have the courage to say no to a job if they aren’t coming correct with money, why am I so flexible when it comes to my most valuable possession? Me. My heart.

I had to laugh at myself.

I started thinking about all of the relationships where I broke my neck to be the perfect girlfriend, the cool girlfriend, the compassionate and understanding girlfriend who accepted men as they were, as broken and complicated… but I had to be the one that was whole, for the both of us.

I was broken and complicated too, in many ways. I needed just as much nurturing and care and occasional eggshell two stepping for my feelings too. I didn’t stand in my truth, I pretended that I was so strong that I could live without that, but still provide it.

I kept choosing men I felt I could make better and in some cases I helped in their progression. But I didn’t get the benefit. They’d go on to marry other women and blatantly give them the things they said they couldn’t give me. But I didn’t demand more of them, I didn’t threaten to leave if they didn’t. I don’t believe in holding anyone hostage in love, but I’m learning not expressing clearly what you need and what you want in a relationship is the worst thing you can do. Because if that person really wants to love you, you aren’t giving them the tools to do so properly. And if they don’t want to love you, and you don’t tell them, you can’t be mad that they disagree with the way you desire to be loved.

I was too afraid to say what I wanted. I thought that love was sacrifice and if they saw how much I gave, then clearly they’d return my love in a tangible, fulfilling way.

They didn’t.

And those words the bride said tearfully have rattled around my head since I’ve returned home.

By George, that was it, stupid. Be who you are completely and let him love you completely. Let him decide and if he doesn’t choose you, it’s not your fault, it’s not something you necessarily did wrong. Be strong enough and be fearless enough to be you. Say what you don’t like. Say what you want and what makes you happy. Say when you are upset and hurt.

I’ve often turned my nose up at the women who lash out and raise all kinds of hell when they are mad at their men, but the men do react. And of course they do, those women made it very clear that they were upset, and if the man really loved them, they were going to be about the business of correction.

I confused my silence for class, while being complicit in the demise of my own relationships and my own self esteem. I won’t let air out of tires, or burn clothes, but I have a mouth. My fear of rocking the boat should not be placed above my own happiness. There’s a balance. You don’t have to be a jerk, but you don’t have to be a pushover either. And I always had difficulty balancing that. I hated arguments because I had a fear that there would forever be a strike against me that I couldn’t come back from. But that’s not love.

I wrote in Facebook yesterday, that my father loves me unconditionally and has been ridiculously patient with me over the years. I was a curious, head-strong child who preferred learning the hard way. And he let me. But I always knew he was proud of me and that he thinks the world of me. In that post, I said my dad taught me that I deserve a man willing to fight for me, one who won’t take a day off or who will think the task of loving me is so daunting and intimidating and overwhelming, that he’d prefer to not even take a stab at it.

And these are the men I picked. They always went out with a whimper. And that always upset me. Why didn’t they fight for me? Why didn’t they try harder? But maybe I was the one who set the tone, don’t argue, don’t fight, be classy, move on.

But I got that wrong. Life is indeed a fight in itself, messy and tangled. There are tears and ugly cries, there are yells and screams that are not the end of the world, and that don’t mean you aren’t classy. Life leaves you with far more bruises and scars that fade with time, but don’t necessarily disappear, but it doesn’t subtract from the overall beauty of life. Those scars don’t negate our inner beauty, our true selves.

I was classy and crying alone in the dark. I was classy and falling apart on the inside or filling with rage on the inside.

There is catharsis is speaking your mind and your truth be it loudly or quietly. There is a time and place for everything.

I don’t place the blame entirely on me, because that’s what I would tend to do. But I did pick men who I allowed to have red flags and flaws up the wazoo and think it was healthy to love them despite of, but not give myself the same privilege.

And now, I know to do things differently.

He will love all of me, because I’m a rare and wonderful being to love. Even on my worst days.

The Thaw

During my weekend of darkness a few weeks ago, I decided to torture myself a bit and watch the first Sex and the City movie.

The reason why I say it’s torture is because I watched that film multiple times after the ending of my engagement because I really identified with Carrie’s pain of being jilted at the altar. Now, we didn’t make it that far, but plans were rolling along, I had picked my dress and was about to start the alterations, and I had the shoes, and my friends started planning parties for me. The movie was not only torturous because it reminded me of the funk I had to pull myself out of, but the happy ending was also difficult because I couldn’t see my own happy ending anywhere in sight.

She ended up with Mr. Big anyway. Big, like my ex is an extremely messed up person, and like Carrie, I’ve vacillated back and forth with the hope that one day he’d get it together and give me the love I deserve, with feelings of never again and a nagging mistrust.

I’ve started to notice that even though from this time last year, on, I had been really trying to give various men a chance, deep down I knew they weren’t it. I’d even say it. He ain’t it. But I still forged through, because I needed practice in reintroducing myself to giving and sharing and just being nice to a man again and meaning it.

I had to return to the crux of who I am. If I care about you, I really, really care about you. I can’t love you half way. It’s not in my nature.

There are moments when you do something and you realize a year or two years ago you weren’t in a place to do so. When my wedding plans fell apart, I couldn’t watch anything or read anything about weddings. The other day, I found myself liking wedding photos or videos of proposals again.

I didn’t feel some kind of way about it or feel sadness. I was happy for strangers again and I could just enjoy the photos and videos for being lovely again. I’m not the single girl who build a pinterest board for her dream wedding, but I can totally appreciate beautiful brides and gorgeous locales. I’m happy for other people again!

I feel like that’s a sign that the thaw is happening.

I’m looking forward to spending time with Renaissance. I enjoy cooking for him and him enjoying my food. I want to cook more and find recipes to feed him. I want to dress up and slay him. I want to snuggle. I want to feel like a girly, girl around this guy. Lord. I have not said that he is not it, and I won’t say he’s it either. But I haven’t said he’s not it.

That’s a big deal. He may have a chance. He may actually have a chance.

Am I guarded? Hell yes. Renaissance has called me out on it and I don’t mind. It’s honest and I’m doing what is comfortable for me right now. I like the fact that he doesn’t seem to mind and that he’s willing to coax me out of the cave and is trying to apply some heat to the ice.

The other men I’ve dated recently haven’t given me such a warm feeling. Sure, they wanted sex, but the feeling was not warm and personal.

It seems like the thaw is taking place and I won’t fight it.

Have you ever been heartbroken and woke up one day and noticed the things that used to make you sad don’t make you sad anymore? Were you surprised to discover that you didn’t hurt as much as you did before?

The Blog I’m Not Afraid to Write Anymore

One of the grand life events everyone hopes to have nailed down by 30 or wants to nail down shortly after 30-especially women- is getting married.

I’ll be heading to NYC tomorrow to celebrate the union of a good friend and his beautiful and wonderful bride. They are a great couple and I’m very proud of him, especially considering he’s one of those nice guys who had no problem complaining about always seeming to finish last.

He has made it to the winner’s circle. Not because he’s getting married, but he found the right person and he actively works on making her happy. In turn, she does the same for him. When he made his mind up, he was ready.

He was ready. That part takes a lot of patience and a lot of courage.

I should know. Here comes the hard part.

I got through my younger cousin’s wedding  about two months ago managing to get only a bit misty-eyed. But this one may be tougher, especially when friends in my circle take that stroll down the asile.

I wanted to leave my personal baggage out of it, but I’m going to keep it real.

I was engaged for nine months. My engagement ended a few days before the new year of 2011 rang in. The wedding was supposed to be in May. I was madly in love.

Long story short, as time inched closer and the reality of us becoming man and wife was getting more intense, the love of my life said he feared he wasn’t up to the task and that maybe he just wasn’t cut out for marriage at all.

I let out the most heartwrenching wail as he held me in his arms that night and I was numb. The next morning, I took off my ring, put it in its box and went to work feeling completely hollowed out. 

We were very happy for two years. I was going to uproot my life and move to his city. I had gotten the ok from my job to allow me to move and set up an office in our new home. We had passed our premarital counseling with flying colors, until one day he started to change and became more and more distant. I put the deposit down on the dress. The dress was awesome. My goregous shoes still sit high on a shelf in a closet, unworn. My dear friends planned, then quietly canceled showers and parties.

We tried to talk it out. I tried to ease his fears. I told him we could even push back the wedding for a max of two years even, but I couldn’t lose my best friend and we could get through it together and that this change would be scary for me too.

It didn’t matter. For him, a lifetime of dissappointments, a difficult childhood and an uncertain future was too much for him to handle and my love wasn’t going to be enough to pull him out of what was taking him over. He feared his string of bad luck was contagious, and would eventually find me too. He didn’t want to “bring me down.”

But down I went anyway in the subsequent months.

Just a month after the split, I went to see the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, a birthday gift from him he had purchased well before our breakup. I took a dear friend and as we were led about four rows from the front, I was overwhelmed. I wept in my seat. Embarassed, I prayed the house lights would soon go down to hide me. His gift was beautiful and exactly what I wanted. I would have been happy to just be in the building, but to be so close! That just made things worse. He was the one who was supposed to be sitting with me that day. He was supposed to be holding my hand. I was supposed to be crying because of how moving the show was, not because he was moving out of my life completely. 

The last 11 months have been painful, some days absolutely unbearable. But I’m getting stronger.

There was a time where I thought it impossible to write this down for others to read. I thought it would take years. I’m proud of myself.

Best of all, I can be happy for my friends and family and gush about how great it is to be in love, because I was blessed to be that happy at one time and I will receive that blessing again someday.

So yes, something may stir inside me causing me to cry tomorrow. While my probable tears for my homeboy will be of joy, there is one that I know that I can’t stop from falling– a remnant of the pain still left inside from a great love that just simply could not go any further.

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