“Tis Better to Have Loved and Lost”


Growing up, I wasn’t one of those girls. You know the ones. They dream of their wedding day and play dress up. Not sure what I’m talking about, watch the movie Bride Wars or Revenge of the Bridesmaids. Really, if anything, I wasn't going to get married.

Growing up in the Air Force, my family moved quite a bit. There weren’t many kids that looked like me. For those who don’t know me, I like to say I am Heinz 57; mostly Korean with an assortment of European and other Asian countries. Though it was never easy, at some point I got used to being teased about how I looked. I often felt like an ugly duckling and would stay quiet, just taking the insults. Only once did I fight back and it didn’t go well. It was a split reaction. My hands thrust into the boy's hair trying to pull him to the ground. In return, he grabbed my hair. Luckily the fight was broken up. I don't think I would have won. Unfortunately, all the teasing created a belief. If you are white and have blond hair you don't get picked on so they must be better, prettier. Though I don't believe white and blonde is prettier. I still see a society of beauty based on these norms.

Besides my cultural identification with what was beautiful and feminine, I believed that there wasn’t someone who would be my match. Who would ever love me, all of me- truly, madly, deeply? Thank you, Savage Garden for planting that one in my head! Of course, I also had “the list”. Really, how possible was it that someone would meet all the criteria on my list. Yet, there was a small part of me that secretly hoped and fantasized about wedding dresses. The part of me that wanted to be a princess for a day.

Here Comes the Bride

In December 2012, following the advice of a friend, I signed up for a workshop he recommended on self-love and sexuality. On the first night, we participated in an activity that taught us to set boundaries and ask for permission. Walking around the room, I saw him. Something about his energy steered me away. Yet, as the weekend progressed I became curious about him. By the end, I counted him a friend. The months after gave us time to get to know each other and develop a friendship. Then came the day that the relationship he was in ended, and to my surprise, he asked me out. We had our ups and downs. Yet something kept pulling us together. On July 4th, 2015 he proposed and six months later during an intimate ceremony we were married.

Many talk about the beauty of their wedding day, but few have shared the transformation that happens. Looking back, I realize now that a wedding ceremony can be one of the most life changing events a person participates in. There is a power to standing in front of your closest friends, declaring love, untethering from yourself to surrender into the mystery of life with another. At the same time, not much is shared of what marriage demands, of you, of them, and of we.

Our marriage wasn't until death do you part. What we wanted in life and marriage were different. For either one of us to stay would have required us to be out of integrity with ourselves. With a mixture of sadness, anger, joy, and freedom we decided to part ways. I have been blessed that my friends and family provided a safe place for me to grieve and to start the next chapter of my life.

Soon after we separated, I talked to a girl friend who herself is contemplating marriage. She was curious about my experience and wanted to know what I learned.

The Foundation Stones of Marriage

When I created my list of qualities I wanted in a partner, I was advised to be very clear on what the must haves are. A must have being something you can't live without or you'd rather be single. I realize now, highlighting the qualities of a person and their values are only half the picture. What’s as important is what I’ve come to call the foundation stones of relationship. It’s the must haves, of not the person, but the relationship. Below are some of mine. What must you have in a relationship, or you'd rather be single?

  • Intimate and vulnerable communication. Loving communication is a skill and practice. It builds trust, mutuality, and the ability to navigating the ups and downs of relationship. However; communication without intimacy, vulnerability, and full disclosure can cripple a relationship. If you aren’t willing to tell the whole truth, something is missed.
  • A common vision. Today, marriage has taken on different forms and purposes. For long term success, both partners need to agree on the purpose of their marriage. Is the purpose raising children and creating a family, companionship, support, personal growth, romance, financial comfort, or something else?
  • Commitment to growth. Life in it’s purest form is evolution, learning, and growth. I’m committed to always evolving, healing and wholing. It's important to me that my partner do the same and that we can support each other in this adventure.
  • Mutual responsibility. One of the common problems I see in others and even myself is that we don’t always take responsibility for ourselves, our feelings and wants. Needs and requests come out in passive, passive aggressive, and aggressive ways. A healthy relationship is one where each person takes responsibility for themselves- emotionally, physically, and financially.
  • Desire, Faith, Hope, and Aloha. These permeate my life and guide me each day. Even with the stories of sadness and stories of madness; I come back to hope and Aloha. I believe that we are evolving towards our highest good even if it doesn't look like it. In an increasingly negative world, I choose to lead my life from the positive and want a partner that believes the same.

Before You Get Engaged

Before committing to a life together, it's important to talk about all aspects of marriage. Revealing expectations, hopes and fears in the beginning can help to builder a stronger foundations. Before you read on, I'd like to share a piece of wisdom that my aunt shared with me. You can do your best to think through all the possibilities, and in the end, know you can’t plan for everything. You can only do your best with what you know today.

  • Discuss what marriage means and the purpose of marriage.
  • Discuss your fears. This is often where your doubts are lurking. Naming your fears and welcoming them can make them less scary. If you don’t feel safe doing this with your partner, do this with a good friend or by yourself.
  • Play the what if game. Think through scenarios that could come up and talk about how you might handle them. Here are some scenarios to get you started: someone gets sick or is an accident and needs to be cared for, someone looses their job, there is an unexpected pregnancy, someone has an opportunity for a new job that would require a move to another state or country, your sex life dwindles, financial management or someone’s parents become ill and need support.
  • Understand each others living habits. If it works for you, live together before getting engaged. If you plan on living together, sharing space day to day uncovers a lot about a person. A marriage is a beautiful partnership and there is the reality of managing a home and living your lives together on a daily basis.
  • Observe yourself and ask trusted friends and family for their observations. First, pay close attention to how comfortable your friends are with your partner and how comfortable are you. Second, ask friends for their observations, not opinions. Ask them if you show up differently when you are with your partner. Last, before you start dating ask friends now if they would share honest observations about your relationship, if/when you ask.
  • Accept the reality of marriage. There is no fairy dust and a happily ever after. Marriage is an investment. For many, the first year(s) of marriage is the most challenging. Have compassion for the changes you, your partner, and your relationship are going through.

The Reality of Marriage

Here’s the deal. A marriage will require all you have: your joy, your heart, your shame, your tears, your hard truths, your boundaries, your honesty and more. It's a process of becoming we and not losing yourself. There is power in this process and knowing someone always has your back. There is an ease that enters life, knowing that your needs for partnership and companionship are met. Take time before your engagement to look at your purpose for marriage and what you want. Share that with your beloved. And know that people change. You can’t plan for everything that life will throw your way. Know that divorce is possible. Know that you would survive. And remember Alfred Lord Tennyson’s quote, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never have loved at all.”


About the Author

Kim-Elisha Proctor is an Executive Coach, teacher, and writer. For over 15 years, she has worked with companies at all stages of growth and understands the complexity of organizations and leadership that is needed for success. Whether one-on-one coaching, with groups or delivering leadership development programs, her passion is the same: to support leaders to enhance their performance, impact, purpose & well-being to create communities they long to belong to.

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