By Ashley McIlwain
I was talking to a friend the other day who recently got engaged. She looked at me and said, “I just feel so emotional about getting married. It’s like an identity crisis because who I’ve been and known myself to be is changing forever. Am I crazy?” My reply was, “Of course you’re not crazy! In fact, it’s a good thing you feel that way.” I then proceeded to tell her about my journey through my own pre-marital identity crisis.
It reminded me of something that most people don’t talk about when you get married. This concept of lost identity. Especially for women this is true. Because literally the person you’ve been known as your entire life will no longer exist when you take the name of your husband. There was one day during my own wedding planning process where I just sat down and cried my eyes out realizing that Ashley Poleck would no longer exist. There was something very sad about that.
At the time I, too, thought I was losing it. I mean, why get all emotional about a name, right? What I came to understand is that it’s more than that. While I had been taking care of myself for years outside of my parents’ roof, I was still their little girl. I was still their daughter, and I had a fallback plan. You see, my identity wasn’t just a name; it was what was behind that name … the daughter of Rick and Melinda Poleck … independent woman working hard to accomplish my own set of goals and dreams.
But that was all about to change, and I didn’t know what to do with that reality at times.
What we often overlook is that the transition from one person with a certain role to another brought about by marriage is emotional. To go from daughter to wife, friend to lover, independent to dependent, single to married is a big deal. And when we begin to truly ponder the seriousness of the union and commitment we are about to enter into, it is sobering.
Again, there was one day where this reality all kind of just landed on me like a ton of bricks. Thoughts started swirling around in my head …
Will I be a great wife?
Do I know what it means to be a wife?
Will I live up to my husband’s expectations?
What happens to the girl I’ve always been known as? And how does that all change when I take on my new name and identity?
This cyclone of thoughts was wreaking havoc in my mind, and with it came a surplus of emotions. It was a lot to take in, but I’m glad that I had that moment. I’m glad that I asked those questions. Because it’s important. It means you are thinking about what you are entering into, which is something too many people often neglect to do before getting married.
By asking myself those questions, I allowed myself to answer them. Of course I didn’t really know what it meant to be a wife (you don’t until you become one), but I started thinking about the kind of wife I knew I wanted to be. Those inner dialogues led me to a preparedness for my marriage that I needed. They also led to the necessary mourning process of leaving the “little girl” behind.
That may sound dramatic, but I do believe there is a certain grieving process that comes with getting married. It’s a huge step that requires a completely different mindset. You are no longer two but one (Matthew 19:6), which is a pretty significant change. And that’s why my encouragement to you, especially all of the ladies out there that are feeling like they are having an identity crisis, is to allow yourself the time to process that adjustment. Don’t hold back the emotions that come with this transition, but rather, let them out. They are going to come out one way or another, so it’s best to deal with them now before you get married than to keep them bottled up until they explode out on their own uncontrolled.
It’s ok to feel like you are losing part of yourself when you get married. The truth is, you are. But at the same time, you are about to gain a whole new, wonderful part when you become one with your spouse. It’s a beautiful, incredible, life-changing decision and union that is an enduring blessing!
You, as you’ve known yourself for all these years, are going to change. That’s a momentous thing, which is why it’s ok to feel a little overwhelmed at times. But as you give yourself the grace and opportunity to deal with that, remember that on the other side is a brand new identity and you that gets to be a spouse to someone! You have the amazing privilege of caring for and being cared for, loving and being loved for the rest of your life with the love of your life. It’s a beautiful and exciting thing that will change your life forever in the best of ways.