Photography by Brittany Reynosa of Brooks + Co.
THIS IS JEN'S STORY
I was a teen mom. When I found out I was pregnant my junior year of high school, my (rural, conservative) mom and stepdad made it very clear that if I was going to have a baby, that I wasn’t going to be able to live with them. My stepdad’s words were, “Well, I guess you’re getting married.”
Without another option, I did get married. I was 16 and he was 20. We had three kids together. I left after ten years of what became a highly abusive relationship, as his mental health deteriorated due to an undiagnosed and very serious mental illness. I was suddenly a 26-year-old single mom with three kids under the age of 10. Through it all, I followed my dream of opening a catering company. I made it work (somehow, miraculously) even though I had two other jobs and was in a new town and often felt really alone.
By 2013, I had the idea of “marrying myself.” I thought of having a backyard “self-wedding” with my incredible friend, hairdresser, and drag performer, Daryl, as the officiant, having musician friends play all the music, and eating good food together in a celebration to honor the parts of myself that never gave up, that kept hanging on, and that built a good life and successful catering business despite having all of the odds stacked against me.
Right around that time, however, I reconnected with a friend from college (because college is something I somehow fit into raising three kids), who I started dating. I felt I really knew this person since we had been friends for about four years and shared lots of personal stories and had a really good connection, so I jumped in head-first, so excited about the idea that just maybe I didn’t have to build a life all by myself. I dreamed of having a partner by my side who loved me and my kids. He said all the right things and was so incredibly affectionate that I believed I had found my person. We got married in October of 2013.
Unfortunately, he didn’t turn out to be the person I thought he was. He overwhelmingly relied on me to provide financially for the family (by this time, I had traded in my apron for a desk job at a food-tech startup in San Francisco) while he spent days collecting unemployment and playing video games. He was incredibly emotionally abusive, and by the time I found out about a secret out-of-town meetup with another woman, I knew I had to get out as fast as possible. After a gnarly 2.5-year divorce where the paid-for-by-his-parents attorney fought for $60k in equity in a house he lived in and only paid half the mortgage on for three months (among many other ridiculous and heart-wrenching things), I was exhausted, overwhelmed, so lonely, and so heartbroken.
The next few years were all about me understanding how and why I kept attracting the type of people who both mistreated and took advantage of me. How could I end up here again? Why would anybody do this to me? How could someone who was a dear friend see all that I had been through in my first marriage and then do the things he did? And could I heal? Could I ever find love? Could I ever find myself again? Could I feel whole and safe and secure?
I didn’t know the answers to this for sure, but I really wanted to feel whole and safe and secure. I really wanted to build a life for myself where I could feel satisfied, safe, creatively expressed, loved, and supported. Of course, I had a lot to learn about undoing patterns from my childhood, recognizing where I needed much stronger boundaries and growing into someone who was no longer available to narcissistic abuse.
By the end of 2019, I decided to sell my house in the Bay Area and move to San Antonio, Texas for a slower pace, lower cost of living and a gentler, easier life. By January 2020, I had sold almost all of my belongings, moved my 19-year-old to Oregon where she had wanted to move for a year, and drove the rest of my family (myself, two teenagers, six cats, and our remaining belongings) across half the country to San Antonio in order to have the gentler life I had been craving.
One day, I was taking an epsom salt bath, thinking and praying and dreaming about what might be next, and suddenly I could just see and feel a gorgeous emerald green ring on my wedding ring finger. It felt totally and completely magical, and I simultaneously knew two things:
- I needed to follow through and marry myself like I had planned all those years prior.
- I wanted the ring I envisioned. And here we are!
Thank YOU so much, Jen, for sharing your journey with us. Next time on the blog...We’ll talk more with Jen about bringing her vision to life through the custom design process.
Have questions? I’m just a click away, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.