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Samantha Stallard survived what would have been her wedding day
We celebrated together anyways
Samantha Stallard was supposed to get married on October 12th, and I was supposed to stand by her side as her maid of honor. But we were at a Long Island winery instead, because she called off her wedding in May, two weeks before my own breakup. Since spring, we’ve been bound by aching hearts, nursing each other back to health. One day when I think of these hard months, long after I don’t think of them much at all, I will think of how Samantha loved me. Below, she shares a new essay about mourning not just a fiancé, but a whole life, and we talk about hindsight, and looking forward. Ours is a love story.
There is still an indent on my left ring finger from my engagement ring. The ring I wore for almost a year until I took it off for the last time one day at the end of May.
The faint red line bothers me every time I look down at it—a painful reminder that I used to be engaged and now I’m not. Sometimes I still panic that I’ve left the ring somewhere only to remember, no babe, you left your fiancé somewhere.
I’ve tried not to put timelines on myself as I grieve not only my relationship, but my entire life. Grief is not linear. It comes and goes as it sees fit, with no regard to whether I have the mental capacity to focus on my actual job while my mind flashes back to two Fourth of Julys ago when Simon* casually stated, in the middle of a family party, that he didn’t think we would “work longterm.”
Initially, I was ecstatic to be out of a toxic relationship. I planned for a gorgeous studio in Brooklyn overlooking the park with my dog, hosting dinner parties and dating grown men with 401(k)s and hobbies that don’t require an Xbox. I was trying to create the life I hoped to build with my partner—just killing him off like a Sims character and returning to business as usual.
But that’s not the way it works. I learned that you can’t go through one life-shattering change and keep everything else in perfect balance. I learned that I am still not okay. I learned that crying is therapeutic and I always feel relieved after a nice, strong sob. I’ve cried on planes, in shavasana, on walks, in the shower, and throughout The Lion King, because why do the lions get a happy ending and I don’t???
My most recent breakdown was at a casual dinner with my parents. Walking into the restaurant, I saw the familiar blue-and-white jerseys of his favorite football team flash across the TV. In an instant, my body went hot and I felt like I had just jumped out of a plane. For the first time in months, I knew exactly where Simon was. He was on our couch in our apartment, watching the same grown men chasing a ball that I was. The NFL season was a trigger I didn’t see coming. I cried for hours, completely tackled by memories I didn’t want to revisit (football pun absolutely intended).
More than anything, I learned that I am still in the middle of a radical change and I need time and self-compassion to build a new future, one about me and not us. I can’t shame myself for sad days or self-pity. As long as I’m not self-destructive, everything I go through is just part of this long, awful process. There is no magic date coming when I will wake up healed.
Surviving Saturday, October 12, what would have been my wedding day, was an important milestone. Instead of walking down the aisle in a white dress, I skipped through the tangled vines of a Long Island winery in a white sweater. (I absolutely wore white to be morbid.)
I didn’t feel sad, just...icky. I pictured the terrible mistake my wedding would have been: the emotionless faces of my friends and family as they silently watched me become legally bound to the wrong person; the cliched, forced speeches at the reception; and the pain of my inevitable divorce. Had I gone through with it, I would probably be eating dinner alone on my honeymoon in Australia right now, just as I did in Greece the night I got engaged.
Instead, I reclaimed the day and made new memories. Eventually, my pain will subside and I will live through an entire 12th of October without thinking of this trauma at all. I’ll be too busy planning a funny yet topical Halloween costume and curating my “Fall Soups and Stews” Pinterest board.
And though it won’t heal me, I also look forward to the day I glance down at my left hand and don’t see a reminder of him embedded in my skin. Until then, I am practicing looking up instead of down.
*Name has been changed to protect the sort-of innocent.
Just between us girls
Jillian Anthony: How are you feeling after last weekend?
Samantha Stallard: I feel good about last weekend. I wasn’t sad at all. It was just this feeling of, oof, that could have been real bad. A girl who works at Man Repeller, Harling Ross, is engaged and she’s been documenting all of these engagement activities. Her apartment’s filled with flowers and gifts and all these congratulations cards and her parents are throwing her an engagement party, and I don’t mean it to make it sound selfish or like I’m putting anyone else down, but I didn’t get any of those things. I never got a card or flowers. It just seemed like the vibe around the engagement was very like, We’re going to ignore this. And I noticed it at the time and I just thought that it was the vibe that I was putting off.
Which you did.
Totally, I did. But then it goes back to, why are you putting off that vibe? Why are you so anti being engaged? Why are you so unwilling to celebrate that? Why do you want to downplay it? You remember when I was like, I’m not posting about this.
Yeah and I was like, not even one thing?
Looking back I’m like, Oh, you were very, very, very unhappy planning all the details of a wedding. Your heart was not in it. I could never really picture it happening. I was going through the motions and paying all the deposits because that was my way of trying to have some forward momentum, but even picking the linens with the wedding planner and trying the cakes, I was just like, I cannot envision any of this. It was very poignant when I got my trial wedding hair and makeup done, and I hated it. I thought I looked insane.
I remember you sent me the picture and I said, “You look absolutely beautiful.” And you said, “I cried and took it all off.” You said you didn’t look like yourself and I was like, Okay, if you want straight hair you can have straight hair!
That’s right. I lost my mind about my curly hair. It was the first time in my whole life I’ve ever gotten my hair and makeup done. I thought I looked like a drag queen. I guess I was just rebelling against all these small details. I texted you last night that I was listening to The Dixie Chicks and sobbing. They have all these songs about, there was a life predestined for all three of us and we didn’t take it and everyone thinks we’re insane because of it, and I just feel very connected to that. There’s one line of a song where Natalie Maines sings, “I can’t go back and change the past, and I probably wouldn’t if I could.” I feel that. Because if someone told me, “You can have Simon back and you can get married and everything will work out,” at this point in my life I’d say, “No, absolutely not.”
Is that a new feeling?
It is a new feeling because for the first couple months at least I was still in the bargaining phase—if he had only worked on his anger and jealousy, if I could just fix these few parts of him, everything would have been perfect. And now, even if I had all those things fixed, I don’t want it anymore. Last year around this time, when Simon was working through his emotional issues, I said to you, “Thank god this is going to be over soon,” and you said, “At least for awhile, it’s going to be worse.” And it was completely worse. I thought he would just be better.
You were being hopeful and trying your best, but he never was, so it was never going to work out like that.
I was going back through my journal and it’s all like, You need to work on your anxiety, you need to not put your dark thoughts on him, you need to not use him as a resource for your troubles at work, you need to keep quiet, you need to not react.
You weren’t a person. You weren’t present.
It’s so dark. It’s all about how I needed to shut down emotionally for his well-being.
And you lived like that for two years.
Needless to say I was not sad last Saturday.
I know you were in pain and I’m glad that we were all there and everybody just let you talk about it. That was the most important thing for me—let her talk about it, because I know that’s already stopped for you. Nobody asks you about it.
Oh yeah, my grieving grace period is done. As is yours.
Right, and it’s not over. Yeah, you guys are done. I’m not. Are you relieved that the weekend is over?
I am relieved because there’s nothing else coming that has anything to do with him ever again. I have absolutely nothing left to say to him. A family member of his reached out, and I don’t think I’m going to respond. I’m ghosting her, which is not the nicest thing to do, but I don’t want to exchange pleasantries.
I think that you inherently know better than many, many people what’s best for you and how to take care of yourself. When you end a relationship, you end it. You shut it down.
The ice queen.
In the longterm that will be better for you. You will heal faster, you’re not holding on to things you know you don’t need. And I don’t think that’s cruel or ruthless—that’s what you need and you’re taking care of yourself.
Absolutely, and it’s because I learned it the hard way. I have tried to keep people around and their voice, their presence is a painful reminder of what you had that you no longer have. For four years when Simon and I were together, every couple of months he’d do this weird check-in with me and say, “Promise me if we ever break up you’ll still be my friend,” and I always said no. It’s not because I don’t care about you, it’s because we’ve never been friends so we can’t go back to a friendship. Even if I’m completely apathetic to you, I’m never going to be around to, what, give you advice on your new relationship? Absolutely not. That’s not my job in this world. It’s too hard. I have to kill you. Like Miranda said on Sex and the City, “We didn’t work out, now you’re dead.”
Show me the ex-boyfriend who deserves my friendship. I’m a fucking great friend. Show me who.
I left pretty much everything he ever gave me in that apartment. These are small reminders that I truly don’t want. When I walked out that door for the last time, I told myself, “Lock the door and don’t turn around.” I deleted every voicemail from him. I want to get to the place one day where I cannot remember the sound of his voice.
And that’s the harsh truth of these things. One day you won’t feel the good or the bad, but in the meantime you can’t keep the good. You gotta go. There is no alternative. And the people who are trying are hindering their healing. And I think that’s really important for you to recognize: You’re strong. You’re a self-assured person. You know what’s best for you. You learned. Good for you.
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