Listen here, y'all. If there was ever an article that I need to write for myself as much anyone else, it's this one! That said, I've never been the kind of girl who took weddings lightly. To me, they are sacred.
So, just like couples shouldn't enter into them lightly, wedding parties and guests shouldn't either. Attending one should mean you are in agreement with two people coming together and that you're also on board to support the union as best as you can.
Therefore, I haven't agreed to be in enough weddings to subscribe to feeling like I'm always the bridesmaid and never the bride. Oh, but what I can totally empathize with is "Why does it seem like I'm always the one who's getting some dude ready for his wife?" (I know this because quite a few of the men I've dated have told me so.)
I'm not sure if the guys who've said that to me found it to be a compliment or not. But as someone who really dug some of them and is currently still single, being the one who helped a man mature for who would become the ultimate lady in his life, more times than not, low-key pissed me off. Here I am loving you, supporting you, giving my all (bookmark that last part) and, rather than wanting to give me a wedding band and your last name, you'd rather send me an email in the middle of the night to let me know that my journey with you resulted in you fully committing to the next chick? What in the world?!
What time and healing, along with self-love and introspection has taught me is, wanting to know why a man sometimes opts out of a woman who loves him like she's his wife only to marry someone else (sometimes not more than a year later) is not a question they can answer. Beyond maybe chalking it up to bad timing, not knowing what they really wanted at the time or not responding well to ultimatums (please don't do the ultimatum thing; ultimatum is just another word for threat), they usually don't know.
Sipping Over It GIF by Insecure on HBO Giphy
Oh, but baby. After doing some real self-work, I've got a few reasons why I believe I used to be in this kind of pattern. I think they're worth sharing because once I switched a few things up, the emotional roller coaster of always being a man's pseudo wife whisperer ceased to be an issue…anymore.
So, why did it seem like I was always the woman who prepared a man for his wife instead of actually becoming his wife?
I Tended to Do More Assuming Than Asking
Some of y'all are gonna not be happy with me with this one, but that's OK. I can take it. Although I know a lot of women who are quick to call men "liars", that hasn't been my personal experience. Often times, a man has told me exactly what was up; I simply didn't want to hear it. They weren't lying to me. I was lying to myself. Another common scenario is they answered questions based on what I asked…just as I asked it.
Example. If I asked a man I was seeing, "Do you see me as marriage material" and they say "definitely," I would take that to mean that they could see me as their future wife. If that is what I really wanted to know, what I should've asked is, "Do you see us getting married someday?" I might not've liked the answer, but it would've saved us both a lot of time and, me personally, a lot of bitterness and disillusionment.
But since I ran with being marriage material, many times I would look at mere dating as marriage preparation. Meanwhile, the guy was on a totally different page. Sometimes in a totally different book too.
A ton of trial and error has taught me that if you want to know how a man feels about you, don't ask your mama, your friends, or even his mama and his friends. Ask him. Do it in person so that you can observe his body language and be as direct as possible.
A man who is all about making you his for the long run is going to make it abundantly clear that is his mission. You can take that to the bank. Or Jared's. Whichever you prefer.
I Didn't Know How to Love in Levels
For years, I've believed that while women can fall in love a billion times in one lifetime, a man might do it three times — his first love, another woman, and then his wife. I'm not sure if we as women do it so often because we're brave or they do it so little because they're more discerning, but my ultimate takeaway is that I've needed to learn more about how to love in levels.
What I mean by that is, I can love a man without acting like we're destined to be together. If we agree that we're dating, we're dating. If we want to become exclusive, we should mutually agree upon what that means. Until it goes from dating to exclusivity, I need to live my life like I'm just dating. If dating isn't enough for me, I need to express that, see where he stands and, if he doesn't want to move forward, I need to move on. I love him, but I also love me. I love me enough to get what I need.
See…love in levels.
Using this strategy has helped me to discover something else. Sometimes loving a man like I'm his wife before he's ready to become a husband robs him of the opportunity to come to the place of being ready for marriage. In other words, while I think I'm pouring love into him, what I'm really doing is suffocating him.
As a result, a guy moves on from me just so that he could get some emotional breathing room. I was awesome (which is good). However, I was also all-consuming (which is not so good). Once he got the space that he needed, he came to the conclusion that, "I want a love like Shellie gave but I want a woman who will let me come to that on my terms and in my own time." I got him open to seeing marriage as a possibility but it was the time between me and the next gal that got him to the point of making marriage a priority.
I Was "The Wife" Without Being HIS WIFE
There's a woman I know who lived with her boyfriend for several years before they got married. However, it wasn't until after he proposed that another side of her started to show. Her now-husband always cracks me up whenever he talks about how he didn't know how well she could cook or even how nurturing she was until after he put a ring on her finger. When I asked her what was up with that, she said, "I'm not giving him all of me until I know I'm going to get all of him in return. Living with him didn't show me that. Proposing to me did."
I know a lot of us roll our eyes (or sometimes even get a little defensive) whenever someone says, "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?" but try and see "milk" as being symbolic of more than just sex. There are a lot of us who end up devastated and heartbroken, all because we acted like a wife to a man who acted like a boyfriend (or less) in return. Meaning, we physically, emotionally, and sometimes even financially contributed to a relationship as if we were already married to someone. While that might've shown a man that being loved that way is truly special, that doesn't automatically or necessarily mean that they want to love us in the same way in return.
An even more direct way of putting it is this — until you're his wife, you're not. And if you're not, try and set boundaries within your own self so that there are some things he doesn't get until he is your actual husband. For some, that's sex. For others, it's certain types of sacrifices or emotional (or financial) investment. I'll leave that part up to you. Just try and come up with things that, should you not end up together, will result in calling it quits feeling more like a break-up than a full-on divorce.
Take it from me, life is a lot easier and your heart is a lot safer when you decide that until you're married, it's cool to not act like a wife — or even "wifey". It's OK to not give all of your mind, body, and soul. It's perfectly fine to not feel like you need to convince a man to see you as his future bride.
I've done enough marriage life coaching to know that the woman who catches a man's eye and keeps it is usually the one who is not trying to get him to marry her but is instead confidently living her best life. The one who conveys he brings surplus to her life, but he certainly doesn't fill any big voids.
If you live like that, you significantly increase your chances of hearing "Will you marry me?" instead of "Thanks for everything — for showing me what I do and don't want in a woman and how to decide what I'm looking for in my own way and time," which is basically the subtext of "Thanks so much for preparing me for my wife."
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