Are you planning your wedding or your marriage?

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There is a very nice woman who sits behind me at work. She is very, very nice. I am pointing out that she is very nice to indicate that I don’t have any particular problem with this woman. But the way she talks about her upcoming nuptials up and breaks my fucking heart. 

The way she talks about her wedding, I can only sense the reek of future divorce wafting off her. 

She wends every bit of conversational fodder back to her wedding. She says “my fiancé” like if she says it enough times it will be real. I see her falling face-first into a tangle of white tulle and Jordan almonds in her mind every time she speaks. It’s hard to put my finger on what it is exactly, but as a former sufferer, I feel somewhat confident in saying: She’s suffering from Wedding Planning Disorder.

I know it probably sounds cute, like Bridezilla or some caustic bit of wit from “Sex and the City,” but WPD is really just a symptom of something much more nefarious and all too common.

I spent 15 months planning my wedding — and no time planning my marriage.

I remember designing and ordering the invitations. And then I remember never being happy in our relationship again. It wasn’t a magical switch; planning the wedding didn’t make us unhappy, but getting married didn’t make us happy, either. 

We fought about money. I wasn’t good at talking about money; I also wasn’t particularly good at having any. We fought about feelings. He wasn’t good at talking about feelings; he also wasn’t particularly good at having them. We fought about me doing drag. And we fought, with the help of alcohol, about how all we did was drink. 

But through it all we had the wedding to plan. The wedding was a concrete goal that needed to be accomplished, and we could focus on that instead of, say, focusing on the fact that we perhaps at best had gone off the rails, and at worst were fundamentally incompatible. 

A few months before the wedding, my partner’s very sick mother instructed him to break up with me. Which he did, for about 24 hours. I was devastated. I was devastated that I was going to have to cancel my wedding. 

I remember very clearly the wave of panic that came over me as I stood on the second-floor landing as my partner shouted up at me from below about how I was to inform our guests the wedding was off. 

Don’t get me wrong; I was intensely, wrenchingly sad our relationship was over. In fact, I have never been more sad about anything in my life. But our relationship had, in point of fact, been over for quite some time, and was now only held together by fears of being alone and of coming clean.

In case I am the first person to tell you this, let me be very clear: Love is not all you need. If you have money problems, you have to address them. If you have emotional problems, you have to address them. If you have sexual problems, you have to address them. If you’re living in a fantasy world where love conquers all, where love is the ultimate panacea, where love will see you through — I am here to very plainly state that you need to address that.

I don’t know what it’s like to grow up with a realistic expectation of getting married. I’ve known since 1993 that I was a fag, and marriage wasn’t even a dream for baby fags in rural Michigan back then. So I’ll admit that I don’t know what it’s like to have external or internal pressure to see myself in a white veil. Unless, of course, I’m lip-syncing to “Like a Virgin.” 

But I can tell you what I can’t tell my co-worker because it would be uncouth: Your wedding lasts a day. Part of a day. And if your marriage doesn’t start really in some meaningful way long before that day, then all the white tulle and Jordan almonds in the world won’t keep you together. 

Marriage really should be the cake topper on an amazing relationship — if that’s the cake topper the people involved so choose. Marriage has to be built on open and honest communication, and a great deal more than love. 

Seize your happiness. But kick the tires.

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