“Ma'am, what can I help you with today?"
“I'm ring browsing and would like to try on some engagement rings."
“Congratulations. This is an exciting time! Can I ask if someone is joining you today?"
“No, my boyfriend would like me to take a look at what I like and let my best friend know my picks. He would like it all to be a surprise, all of this is so exciting but scary," I said.
“I know the feeling, it will all be great, so let's get started," the sales representative at Tiffany's said.
I discussed, pushed, and pulled my boyfriend to understanding that I am a traditional woman. I want the ring, then the baby, and happiness. I am a godly woman who believes in marriage and being solely committed to one person. I explained that I did not want to be in a relationship for five years without a ring. Marriage became a frequent topic as family (my mom especially) began to ask those daunting questions.
So here I am, going into year three with promises of a ring within a year. I was elated that we were on the same page. After I left Tiffany's, I sat in my car and thought about my future engagement to my boyfriend.
Then, my fear of marriage kicked in.
Are we really going to do this? Am I really ready to be married? I am 26, but I am only 26. Am I the right woman for him? Is he the right man for me? Can I really be with only one person for the rest of my life? Have I had enough share of my fun before I making this leap?
All those questions came to me at once. I started to feel like walls were caving in. The lump in my chest would not go away. My heartbeat increased dramatically and my stomach began to fill with constant agony. Nervousness became my emotion for days as I started to feel like my freedom was going to be taken away. Why are these thoughts creeping in now?
Then one day, while in bed, the answers came to me. I remembered my psychology classes and how I learned that bad memories could cause physical and mental blocks or even sickness and anxiety. My bad memories about marriage began to surface. My mother's marriage of almost 10 years with my stepfather brings so many haunting and bittersweet memories.
My mom stopped working when I was seven years old and became a stay-at-home mom. She helped with homework, cleaned, and made sure we went to church. She instilled in us godly values. But, the dependence she had on my stepfather made my skin crawl. Their relationship was engulfed in volatility due to both their pasts and controlling personality traits.
My mom is very much opinionated, but her opinion became a little more persuaded by his. She would wear certain clothing or keep her hair a certain way because he liked it. She would keep a certain weight because he didn't like her too skinny. She would do things that I knew she really didn't want to do because he wanted her to. If they were mad at one another, he would leave and "desert" his family for that moment in time with no money or food, as she didn't have any money to feed us.
Moments being home eating Bologna and peanut butter spoons made desperation turn into anger and created a negative memory in my psyche. It was up to him how we ate, and his controlling ways and insecurities enjoyed that thought that he controlled every financial decision or even our mere essentials. I could never let a man control my financial sustainability.
At the age of 12, my mom re-entered the workforce. She began to regain some independence, and my stepfather did not like it. The vivid memory of my mom wanting her own car and he “deciding" it wasn't necessary rings through my mind. With my uncle's assistance, she purchased a blue Neon car. I was happy for her, but I could see the jealous look in my stepfather's face.
That jealous look created another negative impact on my psyche. He started to see the affects independence was having on my mom and his controlling ways and insecurities made him jealous and fearful that she would leave. She was going out more, socializing, and even becoming a little flirty. It took a toll on their marriage. Shortly after, she began to go back to being the dependent wife, hoping to save their partnership. All the while, I couldn't understand why she couldn't be an independent woman and still fulfill her wifely duties.
They eventually divorced when I was 16, and for the first time I saw a sense of freedom in my mom. It seemed like she let go of something that was holding her back for so long. She regained her love for fitness, lost the weight she wanted to lose, found financial freedom, and became a new woman. For the first time in a long time, I saw happiness in my mom's face. I enjoyed seeing my mom truly independent and being the woman she always wanted to be.
Psychologists say when we first witness a scary or bad event, the thalamus relays sensory information to the amygdala, which stamps the memory as emotionally significant and stores it for future use in order to help us avoid future threats. The bad memory had created marriage as a threat in my mind--a threat I didn't know was there until faced with the reality of my own marriage. I had made a promise with myself that no man would ever make me feel guilty about being a independent woman nor make me feel less than a woman because of his insecurities. Am I breaking my promise with myself if I decide to wed?
There's something called balance. I have to let go of that negative memory that my psyche had held onto and create a new memory, a positive one. I can be the independent woman, and still maintain being a wife to my husband. Being independent does not mean I cannot be submissive. My soon-to-be husband does not have the same controlling and insecurity issues so I cannot measure him to a nonexistent standard. My relationship is not volatile nor will it turn into that. Beyond all, all marriages are different and the positive lesson I learned from my mom's marriage is the support, loyalty, and love they had for one another. I hope to maintain those qualities in my marriage.
They say every woman is different and so, for me, my marriage has to be 50/50 or a conjoined effort financially, emotionally, and physically. I now understand that about myself and feel grateful that he understood I was that type of woman before I did. I am a traditional woman, but I am also my own woman and have to live life by my own terms and conditions that would make me comfortable enough to sustain a lifetime marriage. I am not the housewife type of woman who cooks and clean and waits for her husband to get home. I enjoy the idea of both of us being financially responsible and some days I cook while he cleans or he cooks while I clean.
Many will say to me that maybe I am not truly ready for marriage, but would I ever completely be ready for marriage? My psyche will always tell me that I'm not, due to the bad recollections of the first marriage I witnessed, but I will not allow my psyche to control my life decisions, rather, I will control my own destiny and conquer marriage.
Sara Allie is an aspiring fashion stylist and writer from Baltimore, Maryland who is currently finishing up my bachelor's degree in English. Her future plans include moving to New York where she plans to start her own Fashion PR business.