I unzipped the Bergdorf Goodman garment bag I’d been avoiding since the day I moved out. The sleek white silk wedding dress hung lifelessly. It didn’t take up as much room as the traditional ruffled gowns most girls dream of for their wedding days.
The dress had been with me longer than the man I married in it. It was hard to let go, but it was harder to be broke. $65 afforded the thorough clean, steam and press needed for the gown’s debut on eBay — well worth the investment if it sold.
Selling my gown was the final act of purging my failed three-year marriage.
It was harder than moving out, signing the divorce papers, even pawning my engagement ring. But how do you sell, let alone describe, the wedding gown of your dreams?
I created the ad on my laptop, but the words didn’t flow like usual.
“Second time’s a charm.”
Second time’s a charm? Who was I kidding? I couldn’t predict the death of my own marriage, let alone anyone else’s.
“Really pretty dress with bad juju.”
More accurate, but I did need to sell it. I needed the money. My bank account didn’t look much different after my divorce than it did four years earlier when I met a handsome, gentle, and generous man named Adam. As a Southern-raised Presbyterian where you say everything with a smile, I was drawn to the warm, welcoming, “come as you are” feeling I got from him.
He valued my intellect and encouraged my professional aspirations. “Work comes first,” he said whenever I worried about bringing dinner home in a cardboard box. He was the most thoughtful gift giver I’ve ever met. He was a builder — from the businesses he invested in, to the camp in the Berkshires we would live. His wedding band was a rose gold Cartier nail that symbolized our union.
“You’re my wife,” he told me each night; he liked saying the word. He was proud to be my husband.
We met online, had a quick six-month courtship, and decided to get engaged. I was 35, and he was 41. It felt like the right time.
Whether I would marry someone successful was never a question. I had always gravitated towards the alpha male, provider, daddy-types. Always. In a room of 500, I would unwittingly end up chatting with the CEOs, the wheelers and dealers, the men who were established.
I was drawn to the power, success, and stability that money offered.
It was safe and familiar. It was how my father took care of me.
My relationship with money was flippant and casual. I wasn’t intimate with my bank balances, taxes, or spending. As long as I had enough to sustain my lifestyle, I was content. However, having excess cash made me want to spend it, and the more I spent, the more I wanted. And when I had less money, I felt needy and small.
With Adam, I felt safe. He had it all planned out. I just had to show up. He told me that I was worth the wait. We were a dynamic couple, and our future was bright. We shared a private Pinterest board where we traded design inspiration for a house he’d been restoring. We wanted three children, whose names started with the letter ‘A.’
Our wedding was held at the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City. The terrace was naturally lit. The tables were adorned with seasonal white and blush peonies, pastel snapdragons, and cherry blossoms.
From the moment I stepped into the J. Mendel masterpiece, I was transformed into an ivory pillar of gossamer silk. My hair was pulled into a high ponytail that cascaded down and tickled the gold beading framing a deep V-neckline. I felt magnificent. All eyes were on me and that gown.
Everything revolved around that dress. Until it didn’t.
Three months into our marriage, my husband was the victim of identity theft. An assistant manager from his bank sold his personal information across the globe. Adam’s credit took a massive hit. Banks demanded the repayment of the loans that were fueling our entrepreneurial ventures and new life together. We began to burn through savings and sold our apartment to buy time. We were in over our heads. The incident rocked his confidence.
“Adam, we’re wealthy because we have each other,” I tried, but the encouraging words only patronized.
“No, we can’t live like this.”
“We will be taken care of,” I said.
I was sure of this but also mostly ignorant of our financial reality. I was unaware of how much it took to sustain our life. Frankly, I was uninterested. I was the bleeding heart who would make our house a home. It wasn’t my job to worry about finances. It was his.
And Adam did worry. He wanted to take care of me, and this is the way he knew how.
To stop the financial hemorrhaging, Adam began selling his personal property on eBay, which hit him hard. He valued his things and desired more, but hawking his watches, art, and ties became the norm.
“It’s real money,” he would tell me when I questioned his plan.
I thought he should spend his time looking for work. But day after day, it continued.
Although the money was eventually recovered, and Adam’s credit was repaired, our relationship suffered. We coped differently. We didn’t like the same music, food or weather. We didn’t keep the same hours. Adam watched late night sci-fi. I went on long morning runs. We were newlyweds who barely knew each other after two years, and we’d already been through a lot.
I couldn’t tell you how I felt during the breakup because shock protected me. I was determined to start fresh and left all the memory-laden furniture behind. I moved into a studio apartment that was bare bones, but all mine — my new lease on life. A mattress, Ikea bookshelf, writing table, and mini-trampoline — I was my own startup.
A year later, I was still grinding to make ends meet, but I was healing.
I knew I made the right decision because I blossomed, becoming the woman I always longed to be: confident, responsible, an active participant in my own life.
I recognized that although my divorce wasn’t just about money, it was a lot about money. Money guided our approach to the world. It framed our relationship. And I avoided thinking about it because I didn’t want to acknowledge its power.
I had wanted a partner for life but couldn’t deliver on that vow. It felt good to accept this.
The sleek white silk dress hung lifelessly. I typed, “For Your Happily Ever After.”
That should do.
The next day, the dress was still there. And the next. And the next.
It never sold, but my willingness to let it go freed me of my lifelong belief that I was entitled to a man’s money.
As a result, I was ushered to a new life as a self-sufficient woman with more drive than ever. I was single, starting over, and truly fulfilled, even with no man in sight.
But if anyone wants to buy a really amazing dress; DM me.
Republished at the permission from the author, Aubree Nichols. @aubreenichols