You know the movie… Julia Roberts plays a girl who had been engaged multiple times, struggling to figure out who she truly is and in result becomes the runaway bride. Well ladies and gentlemen, I am the real runaway bride… as much as I hate to say it, it’s true. Difference is I wasn’t struggling to figure out who I was, I struggled with finding my voice.
Here’s the honest and quite frankly, embarrassing story of the real runaway bride… aka me.
Fiancé #1 was my high school sweetheart as you would say. We started dating our senior year in high school and quickly were connected at the hip. He was an athlete and I truly was his biggest fan. I fell hard and fast for him. He was a wrestler and I went to every meet, my mom even drove me halfway across the state to his state competition. What I especially loved about him was his family. They were a strong and close family. He had several siblings and two parents that loved each other dearly. I seriously mean they LOVED each other. I never saw two adults interact the way they did… maybe some high school couples in the hallways at school… but these two never lost that “I want to touch you all the time” feeling or at least that’s the way it seemed. His family was engulfed in love for each other and you couldn’t help but want to be a part of it.
During our freshman year in college we decided to get an apartment together. My parents weren’t thrilled about the idea, but I on the other hand couldn’t wait to be with him whenever I wanted. I was completely and totally in love with him. We rented a small… very small… one bedroom apartment and quickly fell into our adult lives.
On Valentine’s Day when I was only 19 years old, he asked me to marry him. It wasn’t what you see in the movies or read about in the books. We had gone to dinner at a nice restaurant and for some reason I mentioned nonchalantly that I would kill him if he ever proposed to me in the middle of a restaurant with everyone staring at me. I looked up after making the comment and the look on his face made me yell “SHIT!” in my head. Needless to say nothing happened during dinner. When we got back to the car, he kept fidgeting with his sock. I asked what he was doing and he just said that his foot was itching… and then he sat up and was holding a little ring box in his hand. (Yes he was hiding the ring box in his sock… not ideal… but looking back on the memory, it was kind of cute and sweet.) He asked me to marry him with a simple “Will you marry me?” and I couldn’t be happier to say yes.
Another year passed and we continued living together until we just couldn’t do it anymore. The problem was we were two young kids trying to be adults and we just weren’t ready for that commitment at such a young age. And I don’t mean the commitment of being together, I’m talking about the commitment of being adults, the bills, going to school, trying to juggle it all… being engaged was the easy part. The weight of being on our own crushed us and we quickly fell apart. And instead of me telling him how stressed out I was, how much I needed to just lean on him, I instead ran away from him.
Fiancé #2 was a guy that I dated in college. We met our senior year and were both in the teacher education program. Now I’m going to go ahead and say this now… this relationship and engagement should have never happened. I mean no disrespect to him but to be very honest, it should have never happened. At this point in my life, I hadn’t dated anyone in a while and had been on a few meaningless dates.
We were in a couple of classes together and after a few weeks of talking he asked me out. He was nice and he got along with my friends so I figured why not. We dated for a couple of months and I quickly realized we really had nothing in common other than we both wanted to be teachers. He was from a farm, I was from the city, a small city, but a city nonetheless. He was a picky eater, I would eat anything. He had a temper, I was calm and patient. He got loud and hot-headed, I got quiet and said nothing.
After we had been dating for about five months I told Annie, who I was living with at the time, that I didn’t feel that he was who I was supposed to be with. But to be honest, I was scared to break up with him. Like I said he was hot-headed, had a temper, and was loud… and this being my first experience in this type of situation, I just didn’t know how to handle it or how to speak up for myself. It was like every ounce of my self-confidence and ability to stand my ground had exited the building.
One month later, he took me ice skating. I thought it was a little odd when we got there because everyone was leaving the ice skating rink and we were walking in. Then we walked into the actual rink and I realized what was going on. I got this huge lump in my stomach and wanted to run in the opposite direction but I seemed to be frozen standing there. Then I heard some music start playing and he stood in front of me and handed me a ring.
I can’t tell you a word that he said, if he said anything, if I said anything, or what happened from that point forward. I remember thinking oh my god, is this what I want? Can I do this? Is this right? Looking back, I knew the answer I was just scared to do it… I was scared to tell him no.
Four months later, with wedding plans in full force I was at home one night sitting in the tub and started to bawl uncontrollably. I had finally reached my breaking point. He had bullied, yelled, and argued the life out of me and I couldn’t do it anymore. I called my mom and as all moms do, she knew what was wrong and what I needed to do. At that point my parents took care of everything… venues were canceled, items returned, and I gave back the ring. I love my parents so much for being the strength I needed at that point. I was able to move on from that situation as strongly as I did because of them.
Fiancé #3 and I almost didn’t happen. He had asked me out once before and I said no… he had kind of scraggly (if that’s a word) hair, earrings, he shaved his arms and legs, and at times it felt like he was still trying to find himself and figure out who he was. A few months went by, and one night Annie and I went to visit him while he was babysitting a friend’s daughter. And that’s when I saw a side of him that I needed to see.
A few years ago, one of the hospitals in town would put on a fundraiser called Blast From the Past. People would pay to attend a show and would come dressed up in their favorite 50s, 60s, 70s, or 80s attire. I was always in the floor show… which meant we had choreographed dances that we performed each weekend for four weekends in a row. I loved it!
We had been dating about 10 months when that years show was taking place. I was surprised when his family, all of them, said they were coming to watch me in the show. After the show was over I went to their table and thanked them for coming just to watch me dance and then went to visit with my friends that were there. I was sitting at a table when I heard the host, a local news anchor, start asking for a young man to come to the stage and saw my boyfriend walking up there. And once again I started to yell in my head “SHIT!”
And then I was called on stage. I hate having attention on me and here I was with hundreds of individuals staring at me. He read a long speech he had written and then got on one knee and asked me to marry him. I said yes, without hesitation. At this point, life seemed perfect.
Fiancé #3 became my ex-husband. And out of respect for our relationship as co-parents, I will stop his story there.
So see, I am the runaway bride. When people ask me why I was engaged so many times, I tell them because I wanted to be sure. I wanted my first marriage to be my only marriage. I wanted to have what my parents had, a life long marriage full of love and respect. And on round 3 I thought that’s what I was getting… but I was wrong.
And now I am learning that you can never be sure about anything in life. You have to use your voice to get what you want, to speak up for yourself, and to demand what you need. I will no longer be a spectator of my life… from now on, this girl has her voice set to megaphone. I’m not settling. I’m not giving up on the type of relationship I want. I will be happy.