More Women Are Saying 'I Do' When They Mean 'I Don't,' Say Authors

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'I Knew I Shouldn't Have Married Him'

Christine Zika said she knowingly married the wrong man in 2002. At the time, Zika said she was 31, going on 32, and felt the pressure to tie the knot as soon as possible, so she ignored the signs and took the vows of marriage.

"I loved him because he was there and because he was going to be able to give me the things I wanted at the time," she said. "If you look at the photographs, yeah there are some where we are smiling, but more of them look really odd, like, 'yeah we're getting through this.'"

Christine Zika at her first wedding in 2002. Credit: Courtesy Christine Zika

Within seven months, Zika said she and her husband were separated and within two years, they were divorced.

"It was bad. It was all the reasons why I knew I shouldn't have married him in the first place, all of those things that I knew, that I had ignored," she said. "I had allowed myself this idea that I had to be married, that I had to have a family, and it has to be done in such a period of time, that I allowed myself to marry someone that was completely wrong for me."

Zika's advice to other women now -- "run away!"

"The truth of the matter is that I knew," she said. "I covered it up, I went along because I had an expectation of what my life was supposed to be."

For other women, it's not so much the fear of not being married so much as it is the allure of the glamorous event. The wedding industry rakes in more than $40 billion annually when the whole fairy tale is factored in: elaborate proposals, over-the-top flower arrangements, the invitations. Of course, reality TV shows such as "The Bachelorette" and "Say Yes to the Dress" and televised royal weddings add to the wedding fantasy.

For 31-year-old Christine Bereitschaft, it was almost all of those things.

"I was blinded by the cake, by the limo, by the white dress, by everything that came with the wedding and I wasn't seeing the big picture," she said. "We weren't connected. We didn't have a lot of similarities. We were very different."

By the time she realized her relationship had gone sour, Bereitschaft said she felt that canceling the wedding would be too overwhelming and disappointing to others. She said she hoped the relationship would improve after they were married, but within 4½ months, she filed for divorce.

"I realized this wasn't what I wanted, this wasn't the husband that I had pictured in my fairy tale," Bereitschaft said.

But it's not just women who haven't trusted their gut feelings. Milford and Gauvain say its men too.

"'I don't want to disappoint this woman, I don't want to disappoint her family,'" Gauvain said of men who marry Ms. Wrong. "It is equally as hard for them as it is for women to back down."

The authors say their best advice for brides and grooms who are starting to get cold feet is to listen to their inner voices, and even consult with a close friend or family member they trust. Milford eventually found Mr. Right, and the couple have been married for 18 years now. Bereitschaft and Zika also remarried and both said they were very happy in their second marriages.

"You might as well save yourself a lot of headache and heartache and trouble and money and call it off beforehand," Milford said. "Don't say 'I do,' when what you want to say is 'I don't.'"

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