When you've hit your mid-thirties and have a string of exes in your past, chances are you're going to find yourself holding an invitation to one of their weddings.
The one I held in my hand a few months ago was no surprise, and there was no debate as to whether or not I would go: we had dated for almost a decade, broken up amicably, been supportive friends to each other ever since with no dramatically lingering what if's between us, and our many mutual friends would be there to celebrate. If the groom-friend wanted me there, too, then there I would be.
I still found myself unnerved about going. And since digging into the intricacies of dating, relationships, and breakups is one of our raisons d'être on Love Bites, I took to the Internet to see what guidance it had to offer that we could possibly discuss on our "Going to an Ex's Wedding" show.
There wasn't much.
"Do look smoking!"
"Don't outshine the bride!"
"Don't talk too much to his family!"
"Don't get wasted!"
Duh, I'm not an idiot, thanks.
We talked about my very specific and vulnerable fears leading up to the big weekend, instead. With the wisdom of my co-host, Ben, and wedding officiate Daniel Neiden, I was ready to make it through the weekend. And make it I did. I saw a friend make a commitment to a beautiful human being who he loves, surrounded by family and friends. I lived to tell the very un-dramatic tale.
And I came home with some takeaways a touch deeper than, "Don't make a scene!" that I hope will help the next lady strapping on her stilettos.
By the time I was packing up for the wedding weekend, I had (over)thought through pretty much every potentially worrisome scenario. Which means I was prepared to combat them all with tools I'd collected in my physical and metaphorical arsenal.
So I over packed that arsenal!
I brought options of attire, jewelry, and makeup for all events so that I could assess how my body felt and wear what was most comfortable in the moment. Instead of focusing on looking "smoking hot" I focused on feeling like my best self, armed with all the tools to make that happen.
I have a regular meditation and yoga practice, and so I brought the most efficient parts with me as reminders to do sun-salutation during quiet moments, to track my breath when emotion threatened to overwhelm, and to continue the practices that help me stay true to my beliefs.
And I brought anxiety medication, alcohol, sleeping pills, and naturopathic herb blends. We can't always be expected to just zen our way into stillness, right?
Conclusion: We talked thoroughly on the show about "bringing your best self" to weddings. Don't worry about efficient packing: bring anything that might help you feel calm and confident, both outside and in.
On the show, I made it clear that "this wedding has nothing to do with me."
It's 100% true: your ex's wedding has nothing to do with you. If you choose to go, it should be because you support the marriage of the man and woman (or man and man, woman and woman, obviously) and are showing your respect by witnessing it. Period. If you can't say that with all honesty, don't go.
But being seen as "the ex" or, even worse, as "the ex who's still single" is a valid fear. Chances are some people are going to know you shared a bed for many years. Some may know why you broke up. Some may project their fears about being in your shoes by assuming what you're thinking or how you're feeling.
But have you ever heard a friend talking in the months before their wedding about how easy everything has been? How everything has just fallen into place and the whole experience has been loving and relaxing?
Weddings take a feat of strength. They take money and compromise and patience. They bring out the best in people, and the worst in people. So when the big day finally comes, there are so many fires being put out far bigger than your nerves. Fewer people will be contemplating your presence than you think; they have their own angst to deal with.
Conclusion: Slap that smile on, and take heart that there are so many more dramatic things happening than you being there.
Weddings are celebrated from behind the lenses of rose-colored glasses: we're taking a few hours to believe in the power of love, commitment, and lifelong partnership. And because we're bred to mark the success of familiar milestones like weddings and births, those beautiful rituals often dominate the catch-up conversation.
But those aren't the only signs of personal growth.
Keep a short tab of the successes you're proud of and have them at the ready. When asked about my dating life or absence of a husband, I instead shared how I love doing my radio show and how I'm jazzed about my work right now. Especially if there are milestones you want that you haven't hit - marriage, babies, that job - be prepared to turn the conversation to the good that is happening in your life, instead.
Conclusion: Be a part of celebrating life. Rose-colored glasses can be good for the heart.
"I love you."
This was said to me all weekend, by so many lovely people. I was hugged. My hand was held. I was pulled onto the dance floor for a slow one by another single friend. I was brought wine when someone made a trip to the bar. I was passed babies and tossed jokes. We were all fully celebrating and supporting the marriage we were witnessing, but I was never made to feel invisible.
If you don't have such intricate relationships with your ex's family and friends, make sure there's someone there to offer you silent but present support, even if you don't think you'll need it. Bring a friend-date, or have one girlfriend at the ready in case things get emotional so that you can let what you're feeling out without getting sloppy or inappropriate.
Conclusion: You're there to celebrate love in its many forms. Allow people to love you, and love them right back.
Invitations come months before the wedding. There's a lot of time to ponder thoughts and feelings, and for nerves to build.
But weddings are short. Wedding weekends are a few days in the grand scheme of things. To quote the great Kimmy Schmidt, "You can do anything for ten seconds." So just get through the next ten seconds... and then the next. Before you know it, you'll soon find yourself tired and gently hung over, driving your also-single friends home, moving slowly away from a celebration you a successful part of, and having no idea how it all happened so fast. At least, that was my experience.