I can’t really pinpoint the exact moment when everything began to fall apart, but I want to say it started while we were registering for our wedding china.
I remember that day like it was yesterday, standing in the middle of Macy’s arguing over which plates we would scan with that stupid gun. He wanted something plain and unassuming. I was leaning toward patterns and colors. I thought we were just succumbing to the stress of wedding planning. All couples fight during this process; at least, that’s what the magazines all said.
But those plates were a metaphor for our entire relationship. We were fundamentally two very different people. Unfortunately, we figured it out four months too late.
I should have called our wedding off a dozen times leading up to the “I do’s,” but I didn’t. I just kept pushing forward because I believed the lie the bridal magazines had sold me: that it would all get easier after the stress of wedding planning was over. We just had to get through that one day and we’d have our entire lives to get back on track.
“Let’s just get this over with” is not the mantra you want to be repeating as you walk down the aisle, but it’s the tune that played in my head as my father gave me away.
In a fitting start to our lives as husband and wife, it rained almost every day of our honeymoon. We were wet and uncomfortable when we found ourselves arguing over plates again in a small Mexican gift shop. I had fallen in love with the bold colors and Aztec prints that surrounded us during our stay in Mexico, but he seemed to want to keep our home devoid of color.
The fighting continued on the flight home and into the first few weeks of our marriage. Instead of celebrating our newfound freedom from wedding planning, we began to look for freedom from one another.
One month after our wedding, I sat alone in our bed eating sushi, my husband out somewhere else instead of being home with me to eat it. One month after our wedding, alone in our bed, I Googled, “marriage counselors in our area” and “how do I get an annulment?”
We spent the next month searching for the silver bullet that would save our marriage. He offered to stop going out to the bar every night with his single brothers. I promised to do more fun things and spend less time at work. We’d make an effort for a bit but then fall right back into our old habits.
Then we would cry and fight and cry some more while asking each other how we got to this point. I finally made an appointment with a marriage counselor, but the day before we were scheduled to see her, he called me while I was walking into my office.
“I’m not even sure I want this marriage to work,” he confessed. I knew what he meant.
The stupid plates that we had fought over sat unopened in our spare bedroom. How could our marriage be over before we’d even put away the gifts? There were still bits of wrapping paper stuck with Scotch tape on the side of one of the boxes. I noticed it as he walked through our living room with them on the day he moved out.
My mother took me to meet with the divorce attorney. He was a kind man who quietly slid a box of tissues across his desk when I began to cry. My mother also took me to a bar on the way home. We sat there at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon, and she quietly slid an ice-cold beer into my hand when I began to cry.
I had never been more miserable in my life than I was in the year leading up to that afternoon in the bar, but the end of my marriage was never the solution that I had hoped for. I just wished we had never gotten married in the first place.
It wasn’t long before I got angry. I felt tricked into marrying a man who had no intentions of remaining married to me. I imagined him as a time thief, having robbed me of both the past few years and the years to come.
Waves of guilt would hit me as well. What could I have done differently? Where did I go wrong? Should I have changed for him? Should I have changed for his family that never thought I was good enough?
Eventually, I would discover the full truth of the matter, which involved an overdrawn checking account and other women. My guilt shifted slightly from blaming myself for the failure of our marriage to wondering why I hadn’t been able to see that it had been doomed all along. My anger returned; was I blind or just stupid?
The days and weeks following the divorce from my husband of four months were full of sadness and embarrassment. I hid away in my house until enough time had passed that I assumed the news was public knowledge.
The sadness came and went. As time went on, I realized that I was mourning something that never really existed. The man I had fallen in love with and agreed to marry wasn’t the same man I said “I do” to. I grieved the loss of that life almost as much as I grieved for what I expected to be my tainted future.
I was surprised by the variety and strength of these emotions, but the biggest shock of all ended up being how quickly life went back to normal. One day I was sitting alone on my couch crying over diaper commercials and the next I was laughing in the middle of the mall with my sister. It was as if the past few months had happened to somebody else.
It was on one of those perfectly normal nights, five months and two weeks after my wedding day, that I met the actual love of my life. He never cared that I was an almost-30-year-old divorcee with a few cats. He never minded that I was gun-shy and had no interest in anything more than some casual fun. He didn’t want me to change; he liked who I was.
Five years and seven months after that fateful wedding day, I walked down the aisle again. We are still very happy with our plates, a teal and white set we got from Target, and every night we use them to eat dinner with our two daughters. In the end, I wouldn’t change anything that happened, because it all brought me here, and here is where I was always meant to be.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost.