Becoming Us: On Marriage And Losing Everything

March 6, 2013

Please welcome Allison to the EO today, friends. She’s a gifted writer that I had the pleasure to meet in person this past weekend. I’m so honored to have her here.

When I got married, I lost everything.

It sounds strange to say that, and I’ve hesitated using those words for a long time. I wanted to protect my husband, who has bent over backwards to love me and invite me into his life and give me the things I’ve always wanted. And there’s already so much fear of marriage for my generation — I didn’t have the heart to add to it.

wanted to be one of those girls who, when you run into her at church weeks after her wedding, says, “Marriage is so awesome!” She’s practically floating, blissful, a little flushed from her love of it all. I wanted to melt in and around those words, like she did, the look on my face and the sound of my voice single-handedly keeping hope alive for singles.

So I tried. I really did. When people would ask me how marriage was, after the first few weeks and months, I would get a little flushed, too, and say —

“It’s awesome.”

And it was awesome, in many ways, and I did sink into my words, but I was also having a hard time swimming.

The whole truth, the part I didn’t say out loud, was that I wasn’t her, our story wasn’t their story. We were different.

We got married in four months. Yes, from the day we met each other in person to the day of our wedding was exactly four months and one day. It was a whirlwind romance that you read about in novels and was exactly as whimsical and terrifying as you would imagine. Multiple factors contributed to our decision to move so quickly. First, we were in our late twenties, and had both dated enough to know what we wanted and what we were about. Second, we met online, so our relationship was long distance, until, after a few weeks of Skype dates and four-hour-long phone calls my husband bought my plane ticket to come meet him.

We spent six weeks together — traveling to conferences, events, to meet his family and then mine, always parting ways at the end of the night to go to our separate rooms. At the end of the six weeks we felt like we had spent six years together, and when we added it up, we wondered if we had — fifteen hours each day, working together, writing together, talking together, eating together. We had seen the best and the worst, and we were all in.

We were already sharing toothpaste for heaven’s sake.

Why not make it official?

To make the timeline even more complicated, my husband was about to move from his home in Minneapolis to be a part of a church plant in south Florida. He made the commitment before he met me, and was supposed to be there in a matter of months, so if I wanted to go with him, we had to get married quickly.

So we made the leap, with equal caution and blessing from both of our families, and the people in our lives who loved us. We got married on New Years Eve 2011 and, nine days later, moved our whole lives across the country.

I’ve written about it a little bit before, about preparing for the wedding, knowing I was going to have to say goodbye to everything. I wrote about how I sold all of my furniture, and most everything else, and packed what I could fit into nine boxes. I also wrote about how, a week before the wedding, I found out I had to turn those nine boxes into six boxes, and how, of those six boxes, only five of them showed up to our new home in Florida. I wrote about how I cried over stuff like pillows and blenders and books that sat on shelves and clothes I hadn’t worn in months.

Many of you who who followed me through that story know I shut down my blog ( a month before my wedding.

My family. My friends. My work. My city. My name.

Everything gone, in one fell swoop. There was so much grief in that for me.

But new brides aren’t supposed to be grieving. They’re supposed to be blissful. And it was so hard because I love my husband deeply and wanted more than anything to build a life with him, but pretending to be blissful when I was grieving was like a volcano rumbling and grumbling and threatening to erupt all over me and everyone around me.

It never occurred to me that, if I spoke up about what I was feeling, he would have understood.

So I grieved silently, for the most part, scared to admit that giving up my name — the name that had become descriptive of me over my 28 years, the one printed on jerseys and the backs of t-shirts, the one people would scream across lawns at youth retreats to catch my attention, the one that connected me to so many people I loved — would just disappear.

I was scared to say, when my new social security card arrived (Allison F. Vesterfelt) I didn’t even recognize that person.

I wanted to be a Vesterfelt, told him that from the very beginning, saw all the symbolism there was in starting a new family, a new legacy, together. But I was also fairly sure he couldn’t comprehend what it was like to give up his name. He would never have to do it, after all. I didn’t want to tell him it scared me, felt like losing something valuable.

I hated myself for feeling so sad.

I hated that he watched me cry over pillows and over our new apartment because it didn’t look anything like my last one, and could see him wondering why on earth I cared more about those pillows than I did about him. I didn’t, of course, but I knew that’s how he would see it, so I tried to hide my sadness, staying up at night, or waking up early to sit quietly with my grief. It’s really hard to hide tears from someone who lives in your house, who sleeps in your bed

But here’s the thing with grief. It has to run it’s course. For some it’s long, and for others it’s short. I don’t think we get to decide it’s length.  All we can do is follow its trail, the breadcrumbs it leaves for us, the faint trail in the dark that helps us find our way from what we’ve lost to what we’ve gained.

Anytime we move from one season, to another, there is grief.

We can’t grab onto something new without letting go.

And when it comes to marriage, it is our grief that propels us forward, I think — from being me and you, to becoming us.

It’s scary, especially because there is no rule book, no play book. Every story is different. For some grief comes in their third year of dating, for others it comes in the seventh year of marriage, and for others still it comes in the weeks and months before and after the wedding. I’m new to marriage, but I actually imagine it comes more than once….

But either way, it comes, and we must choose to speak it out loud, to let erupts all over us, spilling down the mountain, burning and clearing the way for something new to grow.

Allison_Vesterfelt-blog Allison is a writer, managing editor of Prodigal Magazine and
author of Packing Light:Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage (Moody, 2013).
She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband Darrell.
You can follow her daily on Twitter or Facebook

(I shared some words at Allison’s place today as well. They’re about marriage counseling and yes, as per usual, I tell you the truth as it is.) 


Mia March 6, 2013 at 8:21 am

Hi Allison
You have totally captured my heart with your story. Oh, how we succumb to the temptation to live up to the picture of perfection the world has taught us!! Life is life and it gets messy. Along the way we need to survive and it is not easy. I can only thank our Pappa God for His grace to sustain us through everything. Thank you for sharing.
Much love XX
Mia recently posted..Wisdom: Sanctified Common Sense

Ally Vesterfelt March 6, 2013 at 10:20 am

Mia — yes, life does get messy, doesn’t it? But that’s part of the beauty of it. I’m learning to stay engaged in the middle of the mess, not assuming the mess means I did something wrong or took a wrong turn, but that the mess IS life.

Thank you for reading, and for your comment. Much love back to you.

Hayley March 6, 2013 at 9:55 am

I wish I had found you while I was getting married. I have a totally different story (we met when I was 19, lived together for 6 years, were engaged for two, and got married this past sept.) but such similar feelings. My name. All of the “supposed to’s”. Especially right after getting engaged, I was TERRIFIED. Everyone in my family was divorced. THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THE HAPPIEST TIME OF MY LIFE.

And you are right, it passes. I think we all just need a reminder that there are no “supposed to’s” in life. We just need to do what feels right for us, and to be OK with whatever we are feeling.

Hayley recently posted..heureux de la vie

Ally Vesterfelt March 6, 2013 at 10:23 am

Ooh, yes. I love that Haley. I always say the most dangerous word in the English language is “should” because when you start telling people how they “should” do things, or when we start believing we “should” do something one way or another, we lose the beauty of our diversity, and the kind of authentic love that flourishes in that diversity.

Appreciate your comment. Thank you for reading.
Ally Vesterfelt recently posted..Our Not-Christian-Enough Marriage

Jennifer March 6, 2013 at 11:57 am

I remember feeling sad and scared on our honeymoon. The wedding went by so fast, and I was nervous about the big change. My grief was only temporary though, and nothing like your story, but I still could relate a little bit. Thank you for opening up so much. Your honesty is very refreshing and I enjoyed reading this glimpse into your life.
Jennifer recently posted..Kicking bipolar’s ass

Ally Vesterfelt March 6, 2013 at 7:17 pm

Jennifer — I’m glad I could be candid in a way that is helpful for people! It lets us know that we’re not alone. Thanks for sharing part of your story here too.
Ally Vesterfelt recently posted..Our Not-Christian-Enough Marriage

Sherry Carr-Smith March 6, 2013 at 12:15 pm


Names are so fraught with emotion, aren’t they? When I married my first husband, at 20, I kept my name and added his because I was the last one with my Grandfather’s last name. So I never gave up my name, just created a new one. And that new one quickly became a pain because our culture isn’t so great with hyphenated last names. Hyphens are confusing. When I married the second time, at 34, I just wanted to take my husband’s name and be done with confusing punctuation. But two things stopped me: (1) I had a career and people knew my name, and (2) my husband’s last name is Smith and I didn’t want to be lost in a sea of Smiths. So, I hyphenated again, keeping my name and adding my husband’s. So, work was covered because at least two of my three names stayed the same, and I wasn’t just Smith. And then, just to make our U.S. Mail Carrier even more crazy, my husband adopted my older son and we hyphenated his name. Our mailbox includes two “just” Smiths (my husband and our younger son), a Carr-Smith, and a Deer-Smith. Hyphens FTW! But names mean a lot. I have my Grandfather’s name and my husband’s name. Our sons have their father’s name. And our oldest son has his biological father and his Daddy’s names. It’s confusing, but worth it.
Sherry Carr-Smith recently posted..Scrapping the Sad Stuff

Ally Vesterfelt March 6, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Oh wow! Haha, I’m laughing thinking of your crowded mailbox :) Yes, you’re so right. Names have meaning and it’s so symbolic to take on a new name or leave an old one behind. I love that there is freedom and flexibility now for people to choose a variety of different paths when it comes to names. Different strategies are good for different couples. Thanks for sharing with us!
Ally Vesterfelt recently posted..Our Not-Christian-Enough Marriage

Morgan March 6, 2013 at 12:35 pm

I’m really enjoying reading your posts on your experiences in your marriage. It’s raw, it’s beautiful.

I’m engaged to be married in July and even though my fiancé and I have been best friends for nearly 5 years now, I fear that my marriage isn’t going to meet all of the expectations we have for the best-marriage-ever we have been promised because we waited and have been patient for God’s timing. I have no doubts about our decision to marry, just fears. I fear that I’m not going to be cut out for marriage. I fear that I am not going to have enough space. I fear that I am going to be smothered and expected to share every waking moment in my home giving my attention to my new husband. I’m an introvert. I’m a homebody. I like being alone. I like reading and meditating and writing through the silence. I am most productive when I am alone. I have this hunch that I will struggle with transitioning from me to us. I like my me time—I like it a lot.

Thank you, though, for opening up and being honest about married life.

Ally Vesterfelt March 6, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Morgan — I can identify with so much of what you said, and all of your fears are normal and valid. That doesn’t mean they will come true, it’s just part of the process as you walk into the unknown. My number one piece of advice to you, as an introvert (I’m assuming, maybe wrongly, that you’re a little on the quiet side too) is to talk openly and often about what you need. If you need space, ask for it. If you need time alone, ask for it. Your soon-to-be husband loves you and wants nothing more than to give you what you need.

Also, I am STILL terrified I don’t have what it takes to be married, but I’m learning that’s because I don’t. There’s something really holy and miraculous about the whole thing. You only gain the strength by surrendering.

Best of luck to you and many blessings in your new marriage! It’s as full of joy and wonder as it is anything else.
Ally Vesterfelt recently posted..Our Not-Christian-Enough Marriage

Julia March 6, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Thank you so much for your honesty in this raw and beautiful post. I can very much relate to this.
I wanted to get married so badly but the idea of marriage that was floating in my mind was not at all how our marriage progressed.
Sparing you the details I will tell you that divorce was pending for us after only 15 months. It took a lot of counseling and a surprise pregnancy with our son to bring us back together. We had to re-evaluate and re-discover what marriage would mean for us.
I too struggled with the loss of my name, and actually didn’t take my husband’s last name until our one year anniversary. I struggled with the loss of myself in the midst of the joining with my husband.
Everything is not perfect now. You will never see me post one of those annoying “I have the best husband in the world!” Facebook status updates. But it is beautiful.
I very much agree with your sentiments about grief. I have experienced grief over many things in many ways. I can see how there is grief in the midst of happy after marriage.
Thank you for such a lovely and thought provoking post. So nice to have discovered you and your writing here!
Julia recently posted..The Balance

Ally Vesterfelt March 6, 2013 at 7:34 pm

Wow, Julia, what a beautiful story! I love how God can do this, and I love what you said about how it isn’t perfect now, but it’s beautiful. That’s my marriage too. Blessings to you and your husband. Thank you for sharing your story with us.
Ally Vesterfelt recently posted..Our Not-Christian-Enough Marriage

LIsa/MommyMo March 6, 2013 at 5:52 pm

My husband graduated from college, a few weeks later we got married, we took a honeymoon, and when we got back, he immediately moved to another city for his job while I finished out my job, then I moved to be with him…..AND, I took his last name. I was 27 yrs old and had just experienced a wedding, a move, a new job and a name change. I was a freaking mess the first year and so was my husband. We were a mess together and to each other. OH wait, we also bought a HOUSE during that first year. CRAZY.

It was NOT a fun time for me and I absolutely had no idea how much I would miss my maiden name. I knew who that girl was- I did not know who the new married girl was. OH it sucked in so many ways. We have since worked through all those things and went on to have three kids, move several more times, make several career changes and now we flow with the punches. It will be 15 yrs in January and we are a constant work in progress : ).

Ally Vesterfelt March 6, 2013 at 7:40 pm

Lisa — Oh my goodness! Your year sounds as crazy as our first year. And yes, we felt crazy at times too (I think we probably WERE crazy at times, haha). Anyway, what a beautiful story of 15 years and so much transition. I bet you get stronger as a couple every year. Thank you for sharing with us.
Ally Vesterfelt recently posted..Our Not-Christian-Enough Marriage

Lydia March 7, 2013 at 7:06 am

Thanks for this interesting and thought-provoking post. I didn’t struggle with the name thing, but the choice to stop being two individuals and become one is so alien to our Western society which is all about the individual. ‘I did it my way’ is one of the most popular funeral songs I believe.. so it is very understandable that during the process both halves have to work out how to become a whole – without leaving a hole in the self that they were. I don’t think it’s a one-and-done process either, every decision requires sacrifice and compromise. Working out the battles that are worth fighting/discussing is really important, where can you compromise, where can’t you (for us, it was 9 years in, when he realised that the ‘2 kids and we’re done’ and my ‘I couldn’t abort if we had an accident’ were both non-negotiable, and led to a vascectomy!! but was a difficult few weeks of readjusting on the person we thought we knew). Sorry this is becoming an essay, lots to unpack in it I think!


Stephanie May March 7, 2013 at 9:13 am

Ally this is so beautiful. Thank you for telling your truth the way it was written in your life. We need that– we need to know that if you don’t feel like you’re floating in a constant state of bliss, that you’re normal. That beauty in relationships doesn’t require perfection or a total lack of pain. It’s so freeing to be able to embrace grief as something that’s normal – not a sign that things are broken. And to be able to move forward, being gracious with that grief and being honest with the person who’s walking with you through it. Learning similar lessons these days. :-)

Brooke March 8, 2013 at 12:33 am

thank you for posting what so many people feel deep down but are afraid to talk about. I am getting married in June, have been with my fiance for 6 years this month. I will be graduating college the month before the wedding! I cant imagine my life without my fiance, however I also am a little scared of life after marriage, the name change is scary when you think about it, however I also just am not sure how I feel about what my new name will be “Brooke Dunn just does not sound right! I have seriously thought about hyphenating. I am very touched that you are able to share how tough things can get and still help show all of us that even when there are tough times, there are happy times ahead you just have to work through them. I am just starting the book the 5 love languages, and I am really hoping that will also help me in my relationship not only with my fiance but in relationships with friends and families as well.

Amber C. March 10, 2013 at 3:28 am

Ally, you are the first person (let alone newly-married) I’ve read in my 10 months of marriage to write or even speak of marriage and grief. This has been my experience, the entire way thus far – and though my story is quite different, can I just say a very deep and heartfelt thank you? This post speaks to me in a way I needed to hear tonight. I’m keeping these words of yours: “But here’s the thing with grief. It has to run it’s course. For some it’s long, and for others it’s short. I don’t think we get to decide it’s length. All we can do is follow its trail, the breadcrumbs it leaves for us, the faint trail in the dark that helps us find our way from what we’ve lost to what we’ve gained.”
Amber C. recently posted..Home: where I work out the hard things

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