In October 2013, Jeannine Ellis married the man she dreamed of spending the rest of her life with. Three years later, the couple split up.
Below, Ellis, who lives in Charlottesville, Virginia with her kids, writes a letter to the nervous young bride she was on the eve of her wedding.
What a beautiful wedding photo this is: Hydrangeas. Peace resonating in the hall. Mom and Dad, both happy. There’s loved ones from far away surrounding you. You end up getting so choked up, you don’t know what to say or how to say it.
I know you’re not quite ready to listen to your instincts. I also know you have a terrible feeling inside — that’s not what you should be feeling. What a sad burden to carry today. I wish I could surround you in a loving embrace.
There’s another photograph that comes to mind, quite different from the strained smiles of wedded bliss. It’s from years ago, a prom day photo: you as a teenager, looking at something just off camera and laughing. The sun was setting; the look on your face was magic. Untroubled. Your smile was as sincere as it was unrehearsed. It’s a hopeful photograph. You have such a limitless way to look out at the rest of your life.
In the later photo, you’re at the center of a fancy wedding, propped up with your best attempt at confidence. You’re a shadow of that girl in the sun. I can see that you’re all in. And you really are: You’ll walk down every road with this man. You’ll want to be what he needs, even if it’s contrary to the person you are. You’ll try to fix things from the inside. You’ll feel responsible. You’ll squeeze out enough hope for two. You’ll respond with love. You’ll get in the weeds, looking through his eyes. You’ll analyze. You’ll encourage, brainstorm and take more on so as to unload it from him. You’ll try not to feel hurt. You’ll want to fix things that have nothing to do with you. This is part of your greatness.
But you will fail. Fail miserably. Fail spectacularly. Not because you didn’t try hard enough but because it could not be saved.
Moving on from your marriage will be a triumph of your spirit.
Please know, standing solemnly at the altar, afraid of what may come and restless with what already has occurred, that hope wins. The girl in the sun always knew that — trust her more than you trust your fears.
The path ahead is beautiful, one you’ll never see coming. It’s paved with gratitude, humility and storms you weather.
Your instincts, you’ll give them flight. Forgiveness will find you. Enthusiasm will sustain you. What a blessing this heartbreak turns out to be. You gain perfection through mistakes. You recall who you are. You’ll start your own love story, from within.
So, younger version of me, take away the best parts of your wedding day. Remember the love you felt, from all corners of the earth. Remember the determination you had to make something amazing. Keep that, use it always. And in my memory, I’ll reach back to hug you as often as I can.
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