Fear mongering & you'll seeeee

My First Xmas Present of 2013
Photo courtesy of Stewart Butterfield

Can we talk about the stories that we tell each other about life transitions? It seems as though, during wedding planning (and, as I'm learning, childbearing — and as I suspect most big life transitions) we tell each other a lot of scary stories.

I mean, of course people want to share their experiences with each other. But all too often this storytelling slips into fear mongering. It's sort of a pre-emptive commiseration — an anticipatory sing-song of Oh, you'll seeeee…. It's our way of telling each other, "I had this experience, and I'm assuming my experience is universal and you'll have the exact same one. And mine was like this, so yours will be too — and then we can roll our eyes and bond over how awful it was together." We all love a common enemy, and all too often in pursuit of this shared experience, we project our challenges onto others.

Oh, you'll seeeee… people say once you announce your engagement…
"It's going to be so high drama and hard and you're going to be forced to do all these things you don't want to." And maybe it will be hard and high drama — but it doesn't have to be. If you chose to side step the drama ("Actually we're planning to skip place settings completely and let people sit where they want, so I'm not worried at all") people then seem aghast. "But, you can't do that," they say. "You can't just skip place settings!" I think what goes unsaid is You HAVE to worry! It's what we're going to bond over, because bonding over hardship is awesome!

Certainly I experienced some of this in my own wedding planning — friends who told me, "Just accept it: you WILL be a bridezilla at some point." And I think I had exactly one moment, when our 10 minute ceremony walk-through got interrupted by some guests arriving early. I bugged out for a minute and then calmed back down. Oh wait! There was one other, when I wanted to get everyone out on the front lawn for toasts during the Golden Hour. That's why we're holding champagne bottles instead of glasses in the photos. NO TIME TO POUR DRINKS!

But a cumulative 5 minutes of freaking out was hardly the inevitable bridezilla prediction I'd gotten, and in fact now I've spent five years trying to get people to STOP FREAKING OUT ABOUT THEIR WEDDINGS. Recognize the challenges and meet them front on, but with compassion and intention and minimized drama. Stop telling stories about how awful it all is — it doesn't help anyone. Don't white wash the challenges, but stop projecting that the challenges you experienced will going to be everyone else's challenges.

The wedding fear mongering is just one of the stories we tell. The expectations of marriage after the wedding are often heavily weighted. "Marriage is a lot of hard work," people confide with furrowed brows.

"You'll never have sex again," they wink.

"You'll stop hanging out with your single friends," they sigh.

"My stupid hubs!" they laugh. "YOU know how husbands are. Stupid, stupid husbands."

They whisper about cheating and boredom and bed death. And certainly these things can happen if you fall asleep on your life and just start going through the motions. But if you pay attention and go into with a lot of intent and questioning your own assumptions about why you're supposed to do anything … it just doesn't have to be that way.

I'm learning this about another phase with the fear mongering around pregnancy, childbearing, and babies. I've never heard more sing-songy You'll seeeeee!s than I have when talking to people about becoming a mother. I've witnessed the other end of the spectrum too — people chided when they opt NOT to have children, told "Oh, you'll change your mind about having kids. You'll seeeee…"

Certainly I've seen it in other parts of my life — my career, my home, my education, etc etc etc. You'll seeeeeee, people have always told me. And maybe because I'm a brat and want to prove them wrong, or maybe just because I live my life differently, or maybe just because I've been blessed and lucky … I've found myself NOT seeing.

My husband being an irritating ball and chain that takes "work"? I didn't seeeeee. Ignoring my dog because I had a baby? No, I don't seeeee. Spending a lifetime locked in a meaningless job? No, I don't seeeee. I don't want to be naive, but when it comes to having to accept other people's visions as what I seeeeee … I don't want to seeeeee.

It seems that in our effort to find shared experiences, we turn to each other and tell awful stories about how hard it all is. And you know what? Sometimes it IS hard. Sometimes the wedding plans fall apart and relationships fall apart and it feels like our life is falling apart.

But rather than tell the horror stories, why not share the lessons? Learn as much as you can and share the positivity of what you learned, rather than the shared grumping about didn't work.

Snarking and bitching feels awesome for a while — I totally get it. Four years ago, my job involved writing a celebrity fashion blog called "Carpet Burn" that was all about insulting red carpet attire. But snarking just doesn't really get you anywhere. So that outfit's ugly. So that's stupid. So that's not quite your taste or your values or your nature. Who cares? Time spent bitching could be time making yourself smarter and stronger and more awesome.

So, here's to each of us vowing that once we've gone through one of life's big, rocky transitions (whether it be wedding, graduation, marriage, career shift, lifestyle earthquakes of all sorts) we'll turn to those around us and tell the stories of what we learned and how we grew. Here's hoping we'll offer each other encouragement and support instead of fear and snark.

  1. Thank you for posting this, Ariel. : )
    I got a lot of, "Oh, you'll see, everything will change once you're married" comments before the wedding, and since I had to come up slowly on the idea of getting married in the first place, it kind of freaked me out. I didn't want our relationship to change! It was awesome as is. Well, turned out, getting married for us only means we have better jewelry, new nice stuff, and use "husband" or "wife" when talking to a third party. That's it. We are still us, and our relationship is still awesome.

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  2. Great post! I've been reading OBT posts and wondering when my parents are going to tell me I "have" to do something, or when my BMs will turn into nightmares, or when FH will be a closed-up-useless jerk, but it really just hasn't happened, which made me confused but very happy that it really is fear mongering, not universal experience. My parents remain as offbeat as I am, my BMs(and brothers) are bad ass and supportive, and FH is a crafty, supportive, opinionated man. This New Year's I was re-reading 'Dharma Bums' and realized that people spend way too much time complaining and letting life (or asking it to) pile on crap, when it really isn't like that at all. You've got to get happiness out of everything and when shit happens you say "too bad" and fix it or move on, anything but put it in your pocket and carry around forever like a bit of lint.

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  3. So happy you posted this! I was mad today because one of my mother's friend tweeted at me "Remember Megen, you are preparing not just for a wedding, but a marriage." I wanted to scream back at her "No shit Sherlock," but I held my tongue. This post makes me feel better :)

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  4. I love this post. I agree 10,000 per cent! While I was odd enough to keep folks from suggesting my weddings to death when I was young, I did have bad experiences of people trying to tell me their labor horror stories while I was pregnant. I have two pieces of advice for expectant moms: #! – Don't listen to anybody's horror stories. Tell them to stop and if they won't, walk away! #2 – Best pregnancy tip I ever got – if you are working at a counter (kitchen, craft room, etc.), put one foot on a low step/big book. That will alleviate back pain.

    I'm older and wiser now, and it appears I am heading toward a worthwhile union! I've been single again for 11 years. I will not let anyone deprive me of the joy and pleasure our wedding day will bring for the both of us.

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  5. This might be your best post ever. Seriously, I'm seek of these doom-harbinging know-it-alls. Since I got engaged, suddenly, everyone else just 'knows' everything about me and my life. Um, nope.

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  6. I think you just posted the one thing that's missing from wedding blogs! And it's so true. I love my fiance! I don't expect to stop loving him less or to be snarky about our relationship after we say "I Do." Thank you!

    Along this same note as your Bridezilla quote. Most of my friends are floored that I actually enjoy planning my wedding. Choosing things that are us, and not just throwing down plastic to get a part of it over with. The "How's it going with the planning? You're not using The Knot?!?" with downward inflection…Like I'm supposed to dread it and follow the leader…um, hello?!?! I'm me, an individual marrying someone that is just as weird and individualistic as me. Since when is negative reinforcement for life's big changes ever a good idea? If not participating in the future, "You'll see's" of the world make me an OBB, than I'm totally fine with that.

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  7. I love this post. I agree 10,000 per cent! While I was odd enough to keep folks from suggesting my weddings to death when I was young, I did have bad experiences of people trying to tell me their labor horror stories while I was pregnant. I have two pieces of advice for expectant moms: #! – Don't listen to anybody's horror stories. Tell them to stop and if they won't, walk away! #2 – Best pregnancy tip I ever got – if you are working at a counter (kitchen, craft room, etc.), put one foot on a low step/big book. That will alleviate back pain.

    1 agrees
  8. Thank you for this – having just started my wedding planning and already running into a few bumps in the road, including my fiancee jokingly calling me a "bridezilla," I really appreciate this perspective…and I'm going to make him read your article!

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  9. YES! I think it's all about having the right mentality. You can't help outside forces, but you can help how you are going to deal with it, and that will make a happy life!

    If I get told one more time that I'm not gonna have sex anymore because I'm pregnant, I'm gonna punch someone! It's like, just because your sex life sucks, doesn't mean mine will! : P

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  10. Thank you so much for verbalizing (well, textualizing…) the exact thoughts that have been running through my head for the past 4 months I've been engaged, and the past 2+ years I've been dating the man I always knew I was going to marry! Even my non-married friends look down on my decision to get married "so young." They think I'm going to hate my life afterwards. Not the case! I love my fiance dearly, and absolutely can not wait to become his wife!

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    • Melissa-I don't know how "young" you are…but I was 22 when I got married and my hubby was just turning 24…and sooooooooooo many people (it was always people who didn't know us or our relationship) told us we were "too young". Who are they to judge!? Our families were happy, we were happy; it shouldn't matter to anyone else.

      Anyways-I saw your post, and had to respond-my hubby have been together 2 years now (and enjoying every minute of it). Sometimes you just want to tell people to f*ck off!!! Good luck with dealing with them! ๐Ÿ˜›

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  11. Thank you for this article! I couldn't possibly agree more! First, it annoys me a bit that people always have to give their 2 cents when nobody freakin' asked them, but its even worse when their "2 cents" is negativity. One of the first things co-workers have said to me after I got engaged was "Don't do it!" ….EXCUSE ME?! Ugh.

    Anyways, I agree that we should all perpetuate positivity and support rather than negativity and pissyness.

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  12. I love this post!

    My wedding was not dramatic. It was very chill.

    My daughter's birth was pretty bad, but I don't discuss it with pregnant women because it's unlikely that it'll happen to them (really, statistically unlikely) and they don't need to hear all that negativity.

    And you know what? My daughter is delightful. She's almost always happy and she rarely cries.

    Those people with dramatic weddings, lame marriages, and ridiculously difficult children and tell you to trust them, you'll experience that too, just suck at life. I don't mean that people with high-needs babies are bad parents, but there are plenty of parents who create little monsters and then think everyone else will surely do the same.

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  13. *le sigh* I don't want to seeeeeeee either. I will not take my life lying down. I will not live unhappy because I'm to lazy/ scared/ apathetic to try something else. While I might stay/ have stayed in a job/ relationship/ city because of security (and not always love), I will not pretend that I don't have other choices or that is how my life should be. I am marrying my sweet D because he is the same. He runs head first into challenges in our relationship and embraces the fear. Sometimes it turns out awesome, other times it is a disaster – but such is life, no? There is no adventure if you don't run straight into the dragon's mouth. Maybe I will make the same mistakes as the people who tell me "you'll seeeeeee," but be damned if I'll share in their common misery or allow myself to pretend my experience was exactly like theirs. And be damned if I allow myself to walk blindly into the same mistakes because I chose not to be aware. I will be a new-type of wife and mother. One defined by me and not ridiculous expectations of society. I am me. Me. Just me. Down with negativity, up with the positive.

    2 agree
  14. Well said! I think this is my favourite thing I've ever read on this blog. Funny thing is, I've noticed many brides who thing in these terms take it to an extreme of it's own, one in which it's not ok to freak out over supposedly minute details. As my friends and I prepare for WeddingPalooza2010 (5 us us getting married within 6 months of each other), we've really tried to support each other and share stories of the good and bad, and remind each other that at the end of the day, we'll be married to our partners and that's what this is all about.

    1 agrees
  15. This is one of the best blog posts I've read in a LONG time, wedding related or otherwise.

    We make our own happiness, and also our own trouble and drama. These things are about 95% attitude, and only around 5% depends on the actual situation. If everyone would apply this truth just a little more to their own lives, I think the world would be a much happier place. :)

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  16. I read an article once that speculated that our desire to "fear-monger" is actually a result of natural selection. The article was actually refering to superstitions and why people will hold onto them despite evidence to the contrary but the premise is the same:

    Let's say that a high number of people who drank from a particular watering hole get sick and die. And somebody starts a "story": the watering hole is haunted! In actuality maybe an animal had fallen into the hole and it's rotting carcass poisoned the water. But the people who believed lived on, passing on the "superstitious" gene. And if more people died, maybe that reinforced the desire to make sure the audience was indeed receptive to the warning: "You'll seeeeee! The watering hole is haunted! I'm tellin you! Don't go there!"

    The article of course was more humorous than scientific. But I think there's a real case to be made that thousands of years of oral tradition probably made an indelible mark on humankind.

    It's biology, man! You can't fight the snark… ๐Ÿ˜‰

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    • Reminds me of the people where my sister lives–"we can't grow stuff! the copper mines poisoned everything!" Not even thinking that the copper industry has been near dead since the 40s….

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  17. Fabulous post, Ariel. I'd love to see more reflections on the act of getting married, and life afterward, in the coming months.

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  18. Oh lovely. Also, I didn't realize till I read this how much I've missed this really really long form writing of yours. (Not that you haven't been writing, but this felt a little bit like coming home). And apropos of nothing, I love the photo.

    Nothing else to say, as you said what I said, and so well.

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    • Thanks for the inspiration and encouragement, Meg! I spend so much time working on the back-end and biz size of Offbeat Bride that it's easy to forget that ultimately I'm a writer (DUH!) and I miss (DER!) writing. :)

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  19. Hear, hear! I thoroughly approve. (And enjoyed almost all of my wedding planning, too.)

    I still wonder what all of those "I seeee…." people expect me to *do* with the contradictory supposed horrors of children and lack thereof. Rent one?

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  20. Great post! Love the positivity entwined throughout. Keep it up.

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  21. Thank you for this awesome post. I really needed to hear this. :)

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  22. SO AWESOME. Thank you for verbalizing what amounts to a huge percentage of my new year's resolution to be a more positive person.

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  23. I realize now how truly blessed I am with my friends. They are all delighted that I'm getting married and not a single one has given me that load of crap. There have been times I've thought "How on earth can she put up with ______? I'd be out the freakin door!" Eventually I realized that every relationship is different and they are truly doing what makes them happy. They've passed on stories of strength, humility, and unconditional love for their families. Without that, I would not be where I am today and I could not be more grateful.

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  24. Nicely said Ariel! I completely agree and I'm glad that my love and I are not of the 'one size fits all' mentality with regard to life. People who 'seeeeee' are not living in their own lives and being fully present. I feel sorry for those who can't wait to jump down your throat with snarky, know it all rants. They have not come around to compassion or wisdom in their own lives and sadly, maybe never will.

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  25. Perfect Post. My fiance and I announced our engagement long after it had happened and we were blown away by how negative people around us were. It was a constant stream of "you'll see". When did being cynical become the it thing. I don;t like feeling punished because society has the wrong idea of what marriage should be or what it turn into. Bleck!

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  26. Good to read this right now – I try to honestly listen to the other sides of arguments but sometimes I listen too well and I forget my positive rebuttals. I spent last night reaffirming that (a) marriage isn't going to "change" anything about how I live with my significant other unless we decide so, and (b) just because the job market sucks doesn't mean I should stop pursuing the career of my dreams (librarian).

    I remember I had one friend that when I told her we were engaged, she actually said "oh no! I mean, congratulations but oh gosh it's going to suck getting married because XYZ things will be a huge mess!" But her family is totally different from mine, and her problems were obscure and unique and literally impossible to happen to us. I guess the troubles she went through was so stressful that it's her permanent association with the wedding process, and that sucks. I know mine will be better.

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  27. I've had some quite depressing things from some of my female friends (some single, some in long-term relationships) that they say off-hand things like "i don't think marriages ever work out" or "i'd never think of getting married- can you imagine?" or even 'marriage is so outdated, there's no point to it anymore" then turn around "oh, i don't mean it won't work out for you!" then continue their bitching. one girl that i barely know had the audacity to say "oh, i heard you're engaged. enjoy it while you can, these things never work out." you can imagine how that one went down.
    FH's friends have all been fantastic tho, mostly from big Italian families, they all love weddings and marriage to them is a big part of their lives.

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  28. Thanks for that, Ariel. I've lurked here for a long time (and now Offbeatmama too) and love having a look at your flickr stream from time to time, I'm not a bride or a mother to be. Your writing is always so inspiring and a pleasure to read. This reminded me of Chimamanda Adichie's TED talk (http://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_d… Be well!

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  29. Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this. As an engaged, new mother I completely understand all of what you said. When my daughter was 3 months old, my mom wanted me to spank her for crying! I told her that we weren't going to spank or slap our child(ren). She just got a smug look on her face and said "you'll seeeee" Grrrrr. She also says that about my political beliefs. She says that once I grow up, I will "become republican".

    I've been stalling on planning our wedding because of what everyone else says about how hard it is. I just have to keep reminding myself that we just need to plan a fun party that's completely us! I feel all encouraged and rebelious! OK! At my wedding there will be Arrested Development centerpieces…..no really, I had already started planning them out!

    1 agrees
    • Ooh, I can't wait to see your AD centerpieces! =D I hope you post them on OBT!

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    • How on earth do you spank a three month old, and how will that possibly get a child that young to calm down? o.O

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  30. Wonderful post! Everytime I've heard anyone say that to me or anyone else even, I've thought "I guess I'm just atypical since I don't really see any of that happening to me". I'm guessing people only seeeee if they buy into it.

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  31. Thank you for taking time to share your brilliance with us. Ariel. I don't mean to gush, but, honestly, your insight into life is so articulate and helpful. Thank you!

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  32. AMEN, AMEN, AMEN! (And I'm not even religious). Amazing post! I am SO tired of the "you'll seeeeee" and "just you waiiiitttt". I planned my own 200 person + wedding, down to the tablecloths, and I did it with truly no stress or "drama". I didn't have any bridezilla moments, and everything went perfectly on the day. I'm so glad I didn't listen to the "you'll seeeeeee" and just enjoyed the day.

    And my hubby and I have been married for 2 years now, and I've never felt he's my ball and chain; in fact he's my biggest rock. I can't stand how some women stand around and bitch about their husbands. If you are so unhappy, go DO something about it!! Argh! I am ranting! I know it will continue when we have kids….but at least we're prepared to ignore. :)

    Thanks again for a great article

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  33. Oh Ariel, thank you for posting on this subject! My boyfriend and I are thinking about getting married, and all I ever hear from the older ladies at work is, "oh, you'll see when you get there." And then they all laugh and snark on their husbands.

    I love reading Offbeat Bride, because it is always a positive breath of fresh air. Thank you for being supportive, caring, and pure awesome!

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  34. Oh lady, I want to print this out in business card form and hand it out to everyone who starts up with wedding horror stories! Thank you for writing this.

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  35. I immediatly went and posted it to Facebook, because I wanted everyone that's ever told me "You'll seeeeeee" to read it!

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  36. I don't wonder if a lot of the 'you'll see' is seeking validation of their experiences. In that bonding over shared misery means that I'm right to be miserable, I made the right miserable choice, and my misery is correct. Especially with the new mom thing but definitely with the wedding stuff as well, I feel like there's a lot of guilt/self doubt wrapped up in it all and knowing that someone else is having a hard time with the same thing alliviates that somewhat. I think a definite connect to the "I didn't love my wedding" stuff could be made also.

    • Alison, I think that validation-seeking and doubt-alleviation is absolutely a part of "you'll seeeee." Nicely said.

    • I think you're right, Alison – but I'd take it a step further. It's not that they want to know that they made the *right* choice, it's that they want it to be reaffirmed that they *had no choice.* Like we're all on this inevitable path to misery, and there's nothing we can do about it – and no one else better break off the damn path, because that would mean that everyone is accountable for her/his own happiness!

      Sorry, was that snarky? ;o) Seriously though, I even say this with empathy for those on the path: people are just looking for a way to justify their own satisfaction and excuse their lack of proactive-ness to make themselves happier. Sad…but not sad enough that I want to join them to make them feel better!

      • *Oops – obviously I meant "justify their own DISsatisfaction…"!

  37. This is wonderful and to it I add only one more thing…AMEN!

  38. This is absolutely my favorite thing I've ever read of yours. I identify so much with this line of thinking, as I'm sure a lot of OBBs do, but it seems so rare to hear other people professing it — especially so eloquently — and it's always awesome. THIS is what I like to bond over, thanks. Not how much unnecessary drama we put ourselves through for no good reason!

    I have pretty much spent my whole life trying to do the things that made sense to me, while people tried to tell me, "Oh no, you have to do it this way, because this is How It's Done." Then they complain about the way Things Are Done and how much stress it's causing them, apparently never considering that they had an option to do it another way.

    I didn't get this TOO much during my wedding planning, mostly because I just didn't really interact that heavily with that many people who didn't already know me really well (like my parents), but we did have some people making comments at the rehearsal dinner like "It's your last night of freedom!" We pretty much found this hilarious, although also kind of sad, since a lot of people (especially guys, supposedly) do see marriages this way — or are expected to.

    We've only been married two months (today, actually!), but so far, as we expected, nothing has changed. Seriously, not a single thing. Exactly as we predicted, and as we hoped.

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  39. Great post. I was sick of everyone being so negative about getting married and marriage itself, and its nice to know I'm not the only one.

  40. Great post. I was sick of everyone being so negative about getting married and marriage itself, and its nice to know I'm not the only one.

  41. The best post written on any wedding blog ever. Excellently written and wonderfully correct. Thanks Ariel!

  42. Thank you for this! Now I don't have to respond to the smug parents…I can just email them a link to this post. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  43. To echo the thoughts of everyone else, this was an amazing post. And so applicable to so many things in a woman's life…perhaps applicable to men's lives as well, but I can't speak for them ;o)

    Like many others, I'm sure, I've been dealing with this pre-destined unhappiness assumption for years and years. Whether it's that I'll grow up to be a hostage of my depression like my father, or that some day my fast metabolism will come screeching to a halt and I'll gain weight (good lord, do fat old ladies love to tell me that!), or that being a dedicated student/employee will eventually lead me on a punishing career path that I hate, and on and on and on….nothing feels better than to rise above it and prove people wrong!

    However, it certainly has all gotten worse/more frequent since we got engaged. Everyone is *so* eager to tell me how miserable I'll be just like they were/are. So – if anyone makes it this far in the comment list! – my question is how people deal with these comments in the moment. I mean I'm fine to shake it off later, but somehow I end up feeling shamed or shutdown when people say this and I don't have anything to say back (because if you say "Oh no, it will be different for me because…." then people just respond with an even more smug smile and another, "Oh, you'll seeeeee…").

    So what do people say? Has anyone ever found a worthy comeback? Do you just put on your own smug smile and say "Maybe." I don't want to hit back at people (thus perpetuating the snark), but I also would like to let people know that their comments are hurtful, immature, and unwelcome…anyone?

    1 agrees
  44. Thank you! What a great article. I'm lucky enough not to have too many family or friends that have the typical "you'll seeee" attitude. And like you, I'm a rebel to society's norms, so I don't tend to go with what's expected of me. And I've been lucky and blessed with a fabulous man who thinks the same way….so we're going to get married, and I don't expect anything to change except our already incredible bond to grow stronger. We'll face the Baby We'll Seee's another time!

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