As a marriage author who began her career as a divorce mediator, I’ve been privy to a lot of marriages…the good, the bad and the shouldn’t-have-done-it-in-the-first-place.
Although it’s not perfect, marriage – at least in my humble opinion – still provides the best shot for a woman to enjoy a stable, happy relationship and to provide a secure home for her children. Despite the divorce rate, the statistics are clear. Married women tend to be happier, experience less financial hardship and less abuse. Kids with married parents also tend to fare better financially and emotionally. For that reason, it’s a good lifestyle choice for many women. It’s not the only lifestyle choice – every woman has to do what’s right for her – but it’s certainly a choice that has merit.
But here’s where I pump the brakes – at that word “choice.” Because unless and until you make the right “choice” of man, you are destined to fall into the aforementioned shouldn’t-have-done-it-in-the-first-place category. A marriage can either be your greatest source of happiness or your greatest source of misery.
Then again, you already know this, right? Of course you do. Yet it doesn’t hurt to remind yourself of that, particularly during wedding season. Your desk drawer or handbag may already be stuffed with those gold-lined RSVP envelopes.
If you’re really lucky, or unlucky, maybe you’ve already sacrificed too many Saturdays trailing the bride and her entourage to bridal boutiques, oohing and ahhing at her dress picks and trying on bridesmaid dresses…the good, the bad and the please-don’t-make-me-wear-this-abomination-in-public.
We’ve all been there. I didn’t get married ‘til I was thirty-one, so I was there a lot. The horrific pastel dresses with puffy sleeves and stupid hats. Pretending to care whether the bride carried lilies or roses. Spending my Friday nights crafting cheesy table decorations for the reception. Dreading the call, “Hi, are you free on Saturday? We’re going dress shopping!”
Yes, weddings can be great fun and it’s wonderful to share in a friend’s happiness. But when you’re the last single standing, it can wear a bit thin.
To make matters worse, there’s always that one joker who thinks it’s witty to say, as loudly as possible, “Always a bridesmaid and never a bride, hey?” I was on the receiving end of that a couple times. Despite being in law school, despite having lots of friends, despite having travelled and by all accounts being pretty damn happy with life, the insinuation was that I wasn’t successful because I wasn’t married.
The funny thing was, the only people that ever delivered this shot were the ones I knew were in miserable relationships and had the most messed up lives. It’s like they had something to prove. You just don’t hear it from people who are happy…or who have tact.
At the time, I remember thinking, “If it saves me from having your life, then yes. Always a bridesmaid it will be. And let me thank whatever gods may be for it.”
I get that an article like this might come across as patronizing – “Don’t marry the wrong man!” Uh, thanks Mom. I don’t mean it that way. But as a middle-aged woman who works in the marriage business, I’ve seen too many brilliant, independent, fearless, amazing young women, women with brains in their head and wings on their feet, believe the lie that marriage makes you whole.
As a result, they’re quick to “settle,” to ignore those red flags in a relationship or to fool themselves into believing that “he’ll change” once you’re married.
Oh, he’ll change all right. He’ll get worse.
There’s no doubt that our society still sends women the message that they aren’t truly successful unless they get married. And I honestly cannot think of a more dangerous lie to tell or to believe.
Because the lie is just the beginning. It’s the beginning of a life of misery, of mistreatment, of wasted time and wasted energy trying to “make it work.” You know that whole “marriage is hard work” thing? Yeah, bullshit. It has its ups and downs, it can be hard work at times. But if it’s hard work most of the time, you’ve chosen the wrong person. And take my word for it – more women than you know have chosen the wrong person.
Instead of living life to its fullest, these women spend their days in a constant state of conflict, always angry, always sad, always struggling with feelings of betrayal or frustration or rejection. This massive, mind-blowing, magnificent world shrinks to the size of the petty fight they’re having in their kitchen. They wear a smile in public, but behind closed doors it’s nothing but scowls and tears.
Who needs it? Not you.
Enjoy being a bridesmaid. Enjoy those wings on your feet. Enjoy it until the day you meet a man who is worthy of your devotion. And if that doesn’t happen, enjoy it anyway. There are a thousand ways to find happiness in this life. There’s more to life than your marital status. Even if you do choose to get married someday, there will always be more to life than your marital status. If there isn’t, you’re in trouble. Because women who live their lives only around their marriage usually have the worst marriages.
So this wedding season, if you find yourself faced with a tactless relative or frenemy who pulls the old “Always a bridesmaid” bit with you, just give them a smile – the kind of smile that says, “Nice try” – and then let those wings on your feet fly you to better company, knowing full well that their classless behavior has everything to do with them and nothing to do with you.