Going To A Wedding As A Divorcée Was A Lot Less Romantic

Photo: Vasil Dochinets/ Shutterstock
wedding ceremony

It was the first wedding I attended since my ex-husband and I decided to separate. I hadn't been to a wedding alone since eight years ago (before we met) and I'd just started to properly grieve the end of my marriage.

How could this wedding possibly be fun? I felt bad because it was a celebration of love for one of my dearest and most loved friends. I was so happy for her, a single mom who found her right fit, her happy ending. 

Yet I was so scared to go. What if I cried and not in the "Oh, here's a few tears. Isn't this so romantic?" type of way. What if the joyous occasion was clouded in my mind by the fact that my marriage failed, despite standing in front of my loved ones and pledging to be there through good times and bad?

You should always be happy for your friends, but sometimes it's impossible to not be sad for yourself.

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When I pulled into a church pew with my two friends who were my "dates" for the evening, I was so excited to see friends, the bride, her family, and the groom. My anxiety lessened and instead of feeling intense grief as I expected, I felt intense excitement for my beautiful friend about to start her life.

But then, the ceremony started.

The pastor spoke about married life and how being married means depositing love and time into your partner each day. He spoke of tough times. He spoke of the realities of married life.

All around me, women sniffled and even one of my friends started to shed tears. I looked in my little evening purse I brought for the occasion, but there were no tissues. Perhaps this was a dangerous move.

Perhaps I should've expected my own tears and need for decent tissues. Except I didn't need the tissues; I didn't shed one tear.

In the past, I always got a little teary at weddings, just like the ladies in the neighboring pews. I'd get caught up in the romance and the testimony that two people loved each other enough to exclude any other possibilities with another human being for the rest of their lives.

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Ah, the romance! Love conquers all, I thought. Cue the Shakespearean sonnets. Cue the sunset, dreamy background, and two people riding off into wonderland.

Weddings were hopeful and abundant with possibility. Weddings meant that if two people could fall in love, so could I.

But that day, weddings weren't all about the sunset and harp strings ... but they weren't doom and gloom either. Instead, for the first time, I saw marriage for what it was: an act of love and an act of work.

Instead of imagining babies, white picket fences, and romantic imagery as I'd done at previous weddings, I heard the pastor's words for what they truly were: marriage is work and requires daily effort.

My divorce hadn't ruined me or made me bitter; rather, it made me truly understand what marriage is about. Let me tell you: It's not standing in front of someone's house with a boombox playing "In Your Eyes," and waiting for an unrequited lover to change his or her mind. It's not carving your initials into a tree and snuggling up to watch movies every night.

It's work to love. It's a diligence that must be met.

When I saw my friend and her official husband exchange their first kiss, my first thought wasn't, "Aww," as I dissolved into a pile of mush. My first thought was, "Bless them and may they always know and understand what marriage really means."

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May they always make "deposits" of love, time, and listening in each other's accounts each day.

I went into the reception with a different woman. Sure, I cringed a little and felt sad when I heard a few love songs (and the one song my ex-husband danced with his mother at our wedding.) 

But mostly, I had a blast with my girlfriends, which is the single most important thing a woman getting a divorce can do: rejoice with friends. Repair with friends. Reconnect with life and what it means to be happy.

Going to that wedding didn't break me. It reminded me of what I'd been through, and what I needed to look for and cherish if I'm ever to love again.

It reminded me that I deserved someone who wanted to deposit into my account — into my true self and heart each day. It reminded me that marriage isn't just doe eyes and warm caresses; it's also a lot of elbow grease and sweat.

To my newly-married friend: never forget that you're worth many deposits of love, time, and listening. But at the same time, don't be afraid to give, give, and give in return and break a sweat while you're at it.

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Laura Lifshitz is a former MTV personality and Columbia University graduate currently writing about divorce, sex, women’s issues, fitness, parenting, and marriage. Her work has been featured on YourTango, New York Times, DivorceForce, Women’s Health, Working Mother, Pop Sugar, and more.