Three years ago today, I loaded my silver Honda with my closest “friends” and set off in search of the perfect lace clad dress for my bridesmaids. It was every basic 23 year old’s vision: a sunny day, Starbucks, and friends who vowed to stand beside you as you said “I do.”
I’ve learned a lot of things in the past three years: relationships don’t always last, marriage is not for everyone, and just because someone says they are your friend does not mean they have your best interests at heart.
As you’ve probably guessed, my relationship ended. There was no wedding, no everlasting love. Hell, there weren’t even invitations yet.
Despite my own actions playing a major part in the death of this relationship, I still sought comfort. As a lifelong academic, I turned to research to soothe the ache within my soul. According to an article published by Time Magazine in 2003, an online national poll conducted by Match.com and Zoomerang for Time concluded that of 565 single adults interviewed, 20% of them had broken off an engagement in the past three years and 39% knew someone else who had done so.
The article gave me peace. I wasn’t the only one; there were other people just like me. I wasn’t an outcast to society. In fact, I was part of an ever-growing number of people who were part of a failed engagement rather than a failed marriage. While this gave me comfort, the article also brought to surface an entirely new issue: my lack of camaraderie and sense of community.
In addition to including statistical data, the Time article also began with an anecdote of two friends who made the decisions to end their relationships together. The blow of calling off their weddings was lessened by their camaraderie.
Where was my camaraderie? Where were my friends?
My wedding party was to consist of nine bridesmaids: my sister, a cousin, two friends from high school, three friends from college, and my two future sisters-in-law. In the past year, I haven’t even spoken with four of them. Of the ones I have spoken to, only three of those interactions were more than a greeting in passing. Two of them never bothered to ask me why we weren’t getting married. One of my bridesmaids sold her bridesmaid’s dress online and two of them wore them for other functions. And that was when the wedding was postponed and not even cancelled.
While making the choice to leave a relationship is heartbreaking, my bridesmaids broke my heart more than any man ever will. I chose these women to stand next to me on my wedding day because they meant something to me. I valued their friendship, I appreciated the time I spent with them, and I loved having them in my life. From school plays to sorority meetings to dancing at our favorite bar, these women had been there throughout the vastly different stages of my life. Their presence was an integral part of the landscape of my memory. While it is true that some friendships fade, I didn’t expect more than half of my bridesmaids to fade from my life especially those who had been there prior to my relationship. In the wake of a failed relationship, I felt alone. The women that I hand selected had left me too and I was devastated.
I spent a lot of time being hurt and angry. I wanted to hold a grudge against them for just going about their lives. I didn’t want anyone to say anything; I just wanted someone to be there for me. I wanted to feel like I wasn’t alone. Their silence hurt me more than any harsh word.
A lot of people dream about their failed relationships; I still have nightmares about losing the friendship of my maid of honor.
Despite years, the dissolution of a long friendship still appears regularly in conversations with my therapist.
Failed relationships are not uncommon, but, unfortunately, most people don’t know how to handle a failed engagement. How do you mourn something that never truly was? Whether the wedding happened or not, plans were made, dreams were created, and now they’re all gone. Men and women go through a cycle of grief in the aftermath. In a fast paced world where everything is instantaneous, we don’t have time to deal with our own grief, much less the grief of others. I like to believe that people don’t act malicious, but rather, they just don’t know what to say and maybe one day I’ll have that conversation to clear the air. But until that time, I’d like to pass on some advice.
Ladies (or gentlemen!), if someone asks you to be in their wedding, don’t take it lightly. They chose you for a reason and it wasn’t just so their pictures would be symmetrical. You mean something to them and they expect your friendship to follow them into the next phase of their life. Be a friend through the good times and the bad, and for God’s sake, do not wear your bridesmaid’s dress before they’ve officially cancelled their wedding.