Jen Juneau
August 03, 2015 10:00 am

I got married this past December to the man of my dreams. So much time has passed since we became friends, then best friends, then awkward maybe-we-love-each-others, then boyfriend/girlfriend, and now husband and wife – almost 10 years, in fact. And a lot of other stuff happened during that decade.

One of those things is that I was engaged once before…to someone else. To an awesome someone else, actually, whom both my husband and I still love dearly but who wasn’t for me (and whom I wasn’t good for, either). We still remain on good terms to this day even though our breakup wasn’t the easiest, as time tends to heal most things even when it seems like nothing will in the moment.

While I don’t regret a moment of my time with him, it would’ve been good to think over some points before we got engaged – points I admit I never would’ve learned had I not gone through this experience.

Neither of you is going to magically change after you say yes

This is probably the biggest piece of advice I wish I’d known and it’s kind of common sense, but to me it wasn’t. I thought getting engaged would be the, “OK, this is it, let’s get all our ducks in a row!” moment.

Before my ex and I got engaged, I had my doubts about whether we’d last long term because our lives were headed in different directions and we had different ideas about how to achieve goals we were setting jointly – until I realized I was setting most of them and wasn’t OK with that (even though he was, which is fine). We never really figured out how to manage these differences in our personalities, which is a big reason our relationship didn’t work out. That, and I had feelings for someone else. Which sucked and was confusing, but would’ve been worse not to explore because I ended up marrying that person.

Listen to yourself. You know best, deep down, what works for you—and you don’t have to apologize for it. You just can’t expect the other person to be someone they aren’t.

Don’t ignore your gut

I found a receipt for my engagement ring while cleaning out our closet one day, which really upset me at the time because I saw he’d gotten the diamond secondhand. Which, in retrospect, doesn’t matter AT ALL and wasn’t something I’d usually be upset over—my reaction was just a symptom of the real problem. Also, I was more concerned the night we got engaged with how I didn’t look my best instead of being in the moment. He’d surprised me with an elaborate and beautiful proposal during the fireworks at Magic Kingdom, and I had the gall to tell him I wish he’d packed me a better outfit and my flat iron!

These are not normal signs of finding out you’ll be spending the rest of your life with someone. Listen to your instincts, and try to understand what they’re telling you – ideally before you squander a proposal a good dude puts a lot of thought and effort into.

You are still really, really young

I was 24 when I got engaged the first time, which, looking back, is SO young. Not too young to get married, per se, but I was very much in the mindset of, “OK we better get this show on the road if I want two kids by 30.” Yeah, no, younger self. Not a good reason to hurry marriage along! Granted, we were together over four years by this time, but I was obviously nowhere near ready. Do not fall victim to society’s expectations of what age you should be married by! There isn’t a timeline. Go at your own speed.

Being single is OK. In fact, you should probably do that at some point

Since I was 16, I’ve only been single for about a year total. A YEAR, in 14 years! And in that year total, I’d been seeing at least one guy off and on for the most part. There were only a couple of months before my now-husband and I got together permanently where I was truly single, and it was both one of the most heart-wrenching and growth-inspiring experiences of my life. I really felt a sense of being reborn by the time he came back into my life, and I’d accomplished so much, including completing my first half marathon.

You are not a bad person if this isn’t the end game, and neither is he

For the longest time, I wondered what my ex and I had done wrong, and I carried around a lot of guilt and shame about leaving him. I still do to an extent, in fact, and so does my husband. At the time, I went back and forth between blaming myself (“You expected too much,” “You didn’t appreciate him enough,” “You could’ve figured out your feelings for [now-husband] sooner”) and blaming him (“He didn’t do what he said he would,” “He should’ve gotten a better job”) when in reality both of us are flawed yet perfect people – for ourselves, AND for the people who appreciate what we each have to offer in the most complete way possible. My ex has since found an amazing woman who does this and is so happy, and I’m happy for him. Because at the end of the day, we can be ourselves – and that is good enough.

Related:

What I wish I knew when I started using birth control
What I wish I knew when I got divorced at 23

[Image via NBC]

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