The day we took our engagement pictures was the day I knew with certainty that I did not want to marry
my fiancé. You probably re-read that statement, because it’s counter intuitive to everything you’re
supposed to think, but that was in fact, the day that I had emotionally given up on my relationship. Well,
to be more accurate, it wasn’t until that night that I’d come to this revelation. Earlier that day I was
actually making a conscientious effort to make that the greatest day ever. Let me tell you why…

It was March 8, 2014. 7 days before Lance was moving to his new duty station in Texas and 9 days
before his birthday. We’d decided to take our engagement photos before he moved, for obvious
reasons. It would be easier to do it while we were both in the same state, knew the photographer, and I
could get to my hair stylist and makeup artist. Plus, it was going to be one less thing for me to have to
worry about. I was already dealing with the anxiety of my man moving 2,000 miles away, planning a
wedding, looking for a job in Texas, and trying to decide whether to sell or rent my house. Most of all, I
was concerned about how he would adjust being so far away from his family, his children, and me, and if
I’d be able to take care of him the right way from that distance.

We had been arguing a lot for a couple weeks because he wanted me to move to Texas with him, but I
wanted to wait until after the wedding which was only 7 months away. The decision to take the Texas
duty station was one we made together because it seemed very promising for his career progression,
and he felt that since I encouraged it, I should’ve been prepared to leave with him when he was ready to
go. For some reason he couldn’t understand that I also had some preparations I needed to make, plus I
didn’t want to go down there without a job. We had grown accustomed to living on a two salary income
and honestly, I wasn’t confident we could afford the cut in pay. We had his two children to consider and
we both enjoyed shopping, traveling, and fine dining, which obviously requires money. However, the
financial aspect wasn’t the only reason why I wanted to be employed before I moved. I was terrified of
going out to Texas and having nothing there but him. That probably sounds awful, but I’m a woman with
many close relationships, hobbies, community involvement, and I get satisfaction from my work
accomplishments. If I would’ve moved there unemployed, what would I have done? Sit at home
waiting on him to return from work? Become friends with the other army wives? Become a gym rat or
obsess over daytime television shows? Even now, that sounds like a fate worse than death; I would’ve
lost my mind, or become so dependent on him that it would have driven him crazy. That’s not how I
wanted to start our marriage.

So back to March 8th…

Since we’d been fighting so much I wanted to make that day perfect. It was the
last weekend we would spend together for a while and with his birthday approaching it had to be
special. I had been planning a surprise party for him, with the help of his best friend, for weeks. I really
wanted this birthday to be special because the year prior he was deployed and spent his birthday
without his loved ones and it seemed like this year would be a repeat of that.

I woke up that morning excited to surprise him, excited to take pictures and anxious about what the day
had to offer. I remember praying and asking God to keep him from getting upset and keep me from
doing anything that would instigate an argument. We both got up early, he went to get his hair cut,
which gave me time to tie up some loose ends for his party that night, and he went with me to get my
hair curled and my makeup done. He was obviously annoyed with having to wait for me to get finished,
which was evident by his lack of conversation and over indulgence in his phone. Which are two things I
would typically complain to him about, but that day I refused to do any complaining. This was going to
be a good day. After I was done, I felt beautiful, I looked to him hoping he’d comment on my
appearance, but I got nothing more than “are you ready?” to which I replied that I was and we headed
downtown to meet the photographer. The ride downtown was pretty quiet, so I started playing music
(I’m sure some song we equally liked) and started singing to him and dancing around in an effort to
lighten the mood and get him to smile. He slightly indulged my efforts, but for the most part made me
feel like I was a nuisance so I chilled out and made small talk with him for the rest of the ride.
After several minutes looking for a parking space and a few calls to the photographer to find his exact
location, we finally made it. Outside of this huge old church that took up an entire city block and had
perfect landscaping, we started taking our pictures. Luckily, our photographer had this great energy and
in combination with my being overly affectionate, the photo shoot turned out to be amazing. I was
enjoying every moment of our “candid” shots which required him to hold me, kiss me and pull me into
his arms repeatedly so that the photographer could capture the perfect moment from multiple angles.
Lance, who was naturally a very physically affectionate person, was really playing into the romanticism
of the occasion and for most of the 2 hour session, he made me feel like we were the only two people in
the world. He was so good at that. He had this uncanny ability to command my attention and skew my
focus so that he was all I saw. When you couple that with the strength and warmth of his embrace, he
could usually get whatever he wanted from me, and he did.

At the end of the shoot, the photographer told us we were one of the most fun couples he’d shot with and he
could actually feel how much we loved each other by our interactions in the pictures. That wasn’t an
unlikely statement; we often heard that from people who didn’t really know us. We had created this
perception of perfection in our relationship and we both did a great job of keeping the façade going. In
hindsight, we probably put more effort into keeping up the appearance of a functional relationship, than
actually working towards having one.

Lance continued to shower me with affection after the photoshoot, through our brunch and all the way
until we got home. I was enamored with him and started to relish in the thought of being his wife.
Despite the countless fights we’d had in the weeks prior, this was the man I had fallen in love with and
these were the moments that he reminded me of all the reasons I’d said “yes” to his proposal. When we
got home we cuddled on the couch for a while until I realized I needed to get up and start getting things
in order for his party. I had secretly been texting his friend all day, and although most of the
arrangements were complete, I still had to drive about 40 minutes to pick up his specialty birthday cake,
which I specifically ordered from a friend of his.

When I finally told Lance that I had to go, he tried to change my mind and convince me to lay around a
bit longer. I thought it was sweet that he wanted to spend the extra time with me, but knowing the
plans I had in the works, I declined his request and let him know that it was very important that I leave,
but would be back as soon as possible. Like normal, Lance not getting his way made him visibly irritated
and immediately cold towards me. I tried to be playful with him to keep the mood light, but he was
obviously frustrated that our couch cuddling session was over and resumed his passive aggressive
behaviors from earlier that morning; he buried his head into his phone and all but gave me the cold
shoulder until I left. Before I hit the door I told him to be dressed and ready to leave by 6PM; the cover
story was that we were double dating with his best friend and his wife to celebrate his new job.
I actually left the house laughing to myself thinking, “He’s going to feel like such a jerk when he realizes
why I had to leave him.” Excited about the thought of seeing him surprised, I hit I-20 to meet the baker
and then headed to the restaurant to ensure all of the plans were in order and ready for the birthday
boy. Everything was set. The food, the drinks, the ambiance…now all we needed was Lance.
I got to the house a little before 6, he wasn’t there. I didn’t mind though, that gave me just enough time
to bump my hair, freshen-up my makeup from that morning, and throw on my party dress. At a quarter
past 6 I called him to see where he was, but I didn’t get an answer. I sent him a text, still no response.
About a half hour later he calls me back saying that he’s on the way to the house, of course I asked him
where he’d been and he said getting his car washed. I could feel myself getting irritated and I think I
physically covered my mouth in order to stop the yelling that was about to flow from my lips. In my head
I’m thinking about the people that are at the restaurant waiting for our arrival, the reservation time-slot
we were allotted, and the fact that I specifically told him to be ready by 6. But I reminded myself that
this was his day and I wasn’t going to spoil it, I was just going to go with the flow.

When he got to the house, I kissed him, asked if he was ready to go and we headed to the restaurant.
When we walked inside, he was very surprised, or at least acted that way, and he made his rounds to
speak to everyone in the room. Most of the attendees were my friends and family; I had invited all of his
family and the friends I knew, I let his best friend handle the rest of the guest list, but for some reason
only a handful showed up. However, he seemed to be having a good time, which made me happy and
was honestly my only concern. We spent most of the night laughing, taking pictures, and drinking and I
had started to pat myself on the back for a job well-done.

We had come to the point in the night where I was going to reveal his cake to him, the manager brought
it out to me and as I was walking out to give it to him, I overhead Lance telling one of his friends that he
knew about the party beforehand and he’d shown up late on purpose. Interrupting them, I asked him
why he would do that. His response, “I just felt like it.” He looked so stoic, unaffected by the effort I had
put into the day and completely disregarding my feelings. He had just admitted to me that he
intentionally sabotaged the party I was throwing for him, and was totally unbothered. I wasn’t even
angry, what I really wanted to do was cry, but I knew that wasn’t the time or the place to unleash tears,
so I did what I always would do when he put me in those situations. I played my role. I handed him his
cake, lit the candles, and got the crowd singing a round of “Happy Birthday” to the birthday boy. For the remainder of the night I continued to laugh, talk, and take pictures. Nobody knew that I actually wanted
to be at home under the covers, I had gotten so good at these performances…

To Be Continued

For more continue to follow and purchase She is Unbroken: Memoir of a

Formerly Broken-Hearted Girl when it is released in 2018!