Our Courtship Part 7: Engagement and Marriage

This is the final part in a series, you can find the previous installments here: part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, part six.

As the wedding date approached, my parents got more frantic to prepare me to be a wife. Dad tried touching me more, even putting his fingers in the belt loop of my jeans in a very possessive way. When me trying to pull away wasn’t getting the hint across, I finally told Mom (why not Dad? I don’t know, unhealthy relationship dynamics I guess) that it felt very creepy. Dad stopped, but explained at one point that he was worried I wouldn’t let Luke touch me enough and so was trying to get me more comfortable with being touched.

My dad, for his part, was just trying to be a good father-in-law and present not only a sexually pure daughter, but a sexually responsive one (my mom’s big advice was ‘don’t say no too often’). This caused me to enter marriage with a warped view of my own (and Luke’s) sexuality.

My parents, again, were worried that Luke and I were too emotionally intimate for an engaged couple. One thing they did to keep this intimacy from growing was not allow me to go to church with Luke. Church was a thing I was supposed to do with the family, and for now I belonged to my dad, not Luke. My parents grudgingly let me attend Luke’s church once when he was preaching, and maybe for another couple special occasions. After we were married, I was expected to go to Luke’s church three times a week, and be a contributing member of the congregation (Luke’s dad is a pastor), and know everyone and hug everyone and there was no easing into everyone’s expectations of me. I wish I had been allowed to gradually get to know everyone there without suddenly being ‘family’ to them. We ended up leaving the church a year after we got married.

There were many other issues during this time of courtship and engagement, including but not limited to squabbles between our mothers, which I was in the middle of, and many expectations of how courtship was supposed to function. Also Luke’s mom (with whom I get along quite well nowadays) seemed to be hanging on to her firstborn for dear life, which caused still more issues. Courtship was easily the most stressful time of my life. Add in the fact that I was undiagnosed bipolar 2 (mostly depressive) and you have a recipe for misery.

As the wedding drew nearer, I was nervous about getting married (after being infantilized during my teen years, I was being thrust into adulthood and responsibility). I was in turns mocked and criticized by my mother for these nerves, with threats of canceling the wedding because I was worried/stressed. This didn’t strike me as a kind offer but rather a ‘you better shape up’ threat.

Dad, on the other hand, was concerned. He told me we could cancel the wedding if I wanted to. I didn’t want to, but my response was actually ‘no, we can’t’. In my mind, I had given up to much of my heart to back out, even if I wanted to, because according to what they had taught me, I thought I would be unfit to marry anyone else, and as a woman my value was in getting married and having babies. He was really disturbed by this ‘no, we can’t’ response, but he shouldn’t have been surprised. He was the one who taught me all that.

Luke and I got married May 23, 2008, exactly nine months after we started courting. We had a beautiful ceremony – my mom is an excellent decorator. Luke and I held hands for the first time during the ceremony, and shared our first kiss at the end of the ceremony. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been – the pictures are alright.

We had an awkward wedding night (not quite this bad), but the cuddling was special.

I’d like to say we lived happily ever after and all the drama was over, but it wasn’t quite.

My mother-in-law still had to learn to let go. My parents were still controlling. I was still sick. Church was a problem. Luke and I had to figure out how relationships work without parents quite so involved. We had to figure out, like everyone does, everything physical and how to work around different sex drives and expectations, which have changed several times throughout the years.

My parents continued trying to control me (and Luke) for years — I think they loved me, but maybe they loved owning me more. Eventually there came a day that they chewed me out yet again, but now I was done being controlled, so I talked back more than I ever had (I called them abusive, but I don’t regret it). After that, they stopped inviting us over or contacting us.

We still have a good relationship with Luke’s family.

My parents said several times in the courtship days that we should write a book about our courtship — they had, at that point, a different view of how it went down than we do. I think this is probably as close as I’ll get to writing a book, and it’s not quite the courtship-lauding masterpiece they were picturing.

Luke and I did everything ‘right’ in our courtship, and still had a marriage with stuff to figure out. We didn’t automatically have the perfect relationship we were promised, but that’s ok. If we could survive courtship together, we think we can survive anything.

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