It wasn't love at first sight and I didn't get married young. After years of average dates, hot hookups, and bad breakups, I'd actually found The One. Our love grew out of a deep friendship, which I believed was the secret to a lasting marriage.
This love was forever...until it wasn't.
The wedding day is one of the most coveted times of a woman's life. But what happens when marriage memories get trampled on, along with your heart? What's the best way to deal with these symbols of love and commitment to the future, which have lost their meaning?
Deal With the Dress.
When I moved out of our house, I left my Vera Wang wedding dress propped up in a windowed box in the guest room closet, conserved like a museum piece. I didn't want to take this painful reminder of my "happily-ever-after" day. From wishful white gown to mournful black, Juicy Couture sweats with suitcases in hand, a bunch of boxes, and a few bits of furniture, I left my marriage behind to make a fresh start.
Maybe deep down I thought when my ex-husband cleaned out that closet after I left, he would see the dress and feel shame or remorse for his affair. Neither happened. I don't know what ever happened to that dress, but I do know that I let my martyrdom get the best of me that day.
Whatever you do, deal with the dress. Donate it, sell it, or have a stellar "trash-the-dress" party. It's yours to do with what you will. And you'll feel better by having your say about what happens to it.
Put Your Ring On the Market.
I kept my engagement ring because I thought I could use the diamonds to make a necklace for our daughter's 16th birthday. I put it in a box with her Halloween tiger costume, her baby booties, and several other mementos I thought she might want some day. Years later, I came across the Tiffany ring receipt in a jewelry box. At that moment, I decided that it would be better to just sell it. But when I opened that keepsake box and dug to the bottom, the ring was gone. As with my dress, I don't know what happened to it. Yet another lost opportunity for closure.
Put your ring on the market. No matter how you rationalize it, there's no good reason to hang on to love-tarnished diamonds. Put them to positive use instead.
Let Your Daughter Wear the Tiara.
I'd forgotten all about the tiara until my daughter had "crazy hair day" at school and found it, stuffed in the back of a drawer. "Oooh, can I use this?" she asked. I stared at the tiara, once perched on my head like I was a Disney princess. Now it looked like a piece of costume jewelry. In some ways, it had been part of a costume. "Sure," I said. With her hair teased, rainbow hair clips, and that twinkling tiara perched on top, I knew it was always meant to be hers.
Keep Some Photos for Historical Reference, if Necessary.
I know this sounds counterproductive. When my husband left, I was 8 months pregnant. In the hospital room the day after our daughter was born, he said, "Maybe we should've never gotten married." That was a crusher. His words cut into me. It took all my strength to keep standing.
Days before I moved out, I opened a box and there were my Maui wedding photos. An idyllic couple in love stared back at me. I broke down in tears. I couldn't stop sobbing as I stuffed them one by one into a garbage bag. At the bottom were several framed photos. For some reason, my instincts said to keep those. Why I didn't toss them in the trash or do a ritual bonfire, I didn't know.
Years later, I found out why.
I was driving on the freeway and out of the blue my daughter asked, "Mommy? Why weren't you and Daddy ever married?" It was all the talk at school that day, and since most of her friends had married parents, she felt like the odd kid out. When we got home, I dug out those framed photos and showed them to her. I told her the story of how we met, fell in love, and how that love gave birth to the greatest thing in our lives. So, keeping those photos was my way of documenting the love that created her.
I knew our marriage was meant to be, just as I now know it was never meant to last. Today I'm engaged to an amazing man and I'll walk down the aisle for the second time in my life (yes, I'll wear white, but I'll skip the tiara). Photos will be snapped and framed. Memories will be preserved. But the most important thing I'll have with this new love is a new perspective...because love isn't just better, it's smarter the second time around.