Memoirs of a Naijamerican Bride III: A Doubt Stained Love Story (Or: How I Dealt With Premarital Anxiety)
We live in a world where love stories are wrapped so beautifully. Many of the love stories I’ve heard began with love at first sight, were sustained with a “God told me” or a “just knowing,” and sailed on to life long commitment. Of course, sentences like “we’ve had our shares of ups and downs” are squeezed into the narrative, but details are often avoided. Thus, we’re left with contours of complications, but not much else.
What if we shined light on the cracks more often? What if our descriptions of our journeys are the maps that those behind us desperately need? And no, I am not suggesting that we gather all our dirty laundry and air them in the market place. But as discretion guides us, can we at least put our clean laundry out in the sun? Can we acknowledge that the clean clothing we dress our tales in, once had dirt that came out in a rinse?
Here, let me start: I wasn’t always sure my husband was ‘the one.’ I’m not talking about jitters the week of the wedding, but an anxiety that unnerved me for months. In the American culture where we are told doubt means don’t, it’s easy to translate doubt as automatically meaning a mistake is at hand. Moreover, as a Nigerian woman approaching my late twenties, daring to doubt seemed stupid. There were the well-meaning aunts that warned me: “My dear- this is the time your market is hot. If you say no to him, he will be married in a year, and you will be crying hot tears!” [Sidebar: I wonder how many women pushed aside doubts that should have been examined because of the fear of being alone? How many women’s souls have been bankrupted because news flashes of their impending expiry dates drove them into high-risk emotional investments?]
On its face- there was no major red flags to give me pause. My fiancé had never given me any reason to doubt his faithfulness. He comes from a great family that I got along well with. He was a hard worker with a good job. He was generous with me, and kind to my family. We share the same faith and have similar values. There were no mixed signals: he made it clear from day one that he was in this for the long haul. He was in love with me, and I with him. So what then was the problem?
When it came down to it, I was scared. Doubt is the turf of the over-analytical mind, and this mind of mine is a very busy space. My minute and grand decisions alike often involve painstaking deliberations. And this was no small matter: everyone from my mother to Sheryl Sandberg has preached that one of the most important decisions a woman can make is who they choose to marry. As my father once said: “Love may be blind, but please keep one eye open.” Indeed, thanks to growing up in a home where both parents were pastors and my mother was a trained family counselor, I have seen many a marriage dissolve- no matter the presence of love for each other, no matter the fear of God. As such, I put the honeymoon phase of our relationship to bed pretty early on, and began to process facts alongside feelings. Many nights, I lay awake balancing the different elements we brought to the table like a math equation. The possibility of messing up this monumental life-altering decision mortified me.
So what did I do with these doubts? Everything. I faced them head on. I examined them sideways, upside down, all the way around. I put them in the refining fire that is time. I had honest conversations with my fiancé about the things that worried me [Sidebar: There is something to be said about the kind of man that will lay ego aside to fight these type of fears with you]. We had months of premarital counseling. I googled and googled and googled- I’ve probably read every article and blog out there on pre-wedding anxiety. I read tons of books on marriage and relationships. I made countless pro-con lists. I had conversations with people I trusted. I sat in silence and tried to discern the voice within. I prayed and prayed and prayed. And then- I took the plunge. The thing is, I want to live life fully. I want a journey on the spectrum of emotions that my experiences present. For me, this meant feeling fear and facing it. But it also meant knowing faith and love, and choosing them.
In the weeks leading up to my wedding, people kept asking: “Are you freaking out?” My answer remained No. It was the truth. “It will happen, just wait and see!” They assured me. My entire wedding week, I kept waiting for a wave of nervousness to wash over me. It never came. The thing is, I had done enough doubting to last a lifetime several months prior. There was nothing left to fear. I was convinced beyond reasonable doubt.
Since I got married, I have experienced moments of pure undiluted anger. Moments when I was grateful that I do not own a gun. I am sure there will be plenty more. But there has also been this: moments of pure undiluted joy. Moments of an overwhelming knowing.
I am so glad it was him.
I am so glad it is him.
And this much I know is true: God blessed the broken road that led me straight to him.