With Valentine'e Day approaching, the commercial mayhem around romance has begun. Some of these commercials and ads leave me wanting that Cinderella feeling, if only for a brief second.  Then I am reminded of the humble and actually humiliating back story of how this beautiful young girl came up from "cinders" or ashes -  and then, "Prince Charming" took notice of her and made her his bride. Then she was "something". Ugh.

When I first met my ex-husband, he was a kind of "Charming": a debonair entrepreneur, with Latin roots and Latin looks, who rolled out the red carpet upon meeting me. He swept me off my feet and flew me from my home in Canada to California to be with him.... "forever"!  I'll never forget arriving in La Jolla and finding a BMW waiting there for me, with my favorite CD ready in its player.  He'd shower me with fancy dinners, ski trips, wine country visits, while constantly "educating" me about the ways of the world, his world. Of course it wasn't all bad: his generosity is still legendary. And we shared a lot of fun in all of our initial exciting adventures together. I was so caught up in it all I completely lost track of who I had been until that moment: a successful up and coming attorney in downtown Toronto,  well-rounded and fun, multi-lingual, with great friends and family to boot.  Somehow my brain cells managed to be temporarily melted by his charm - and maybe the California sun too, so I rolled with it.

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My traditional Polish upbringing probably didn't help: I was the good, subordinate female, in the shadow of a macho male.

Fast forward two years, to the actual marriage proposal. In retrospect now, you'd think "Charming" would have tried harder to again sweep his wife-to-be off of her feet. But the moment had passed, two years prior! He had already "bought me" hook, line and sinker when I moved for him to California, no questions or conditions. This felt like just a kind of formality.  The proposal was enchanting enough, under the Christmas tree. But from the moment I saw the ring, something in my heart said, "ha, not what I had envisioned, maybe..?" Maybe, at that moment, my doubts about the future of the entire marriage started to take tiny roots.

The engagement ring was vintage. This was some other bride's original ring and it dated to the 1940's. I felt like her memories were attached. It was worn out at the shank, and the platinum looked dulled with time.  And the smallish diamonds had barely any sparkle left in them.

But, I was 32, had moved clear across the continent to a new and "exciting" life, we said we loved each other, and I was ENGAGED! "Cinderella" scored "Charming"!

Fast forward about eight years into our marriage and about seven years into our daughter's life.  By this point, my ex and I had become very successful in our business. There were seven Ferraris of different vintages stored over our warehouses. There was real estate, country club memberships and a custom house being built on a golf course less than a mile from the beach.

But I was still wearing my discreet wedding rings, nothing more. I decided to treat myself and have my engagement and wedding rings re-set into one. The jeweler and I came up with a modern and clean design for the existing diamonds.  When I was called to pick the new ring, the jeweler called me personally to ask, "you know that the center stone was broken in half, right?"  Huh?  No, I did not know that, ever!  Now I just felt sad, while also reaffirmed of my feelings about the rings, their meaning, our marriage and how I was actually valued. This news had come at a time when I was already starting to feel the earth under my feet move - and my marriage crumble.

With more success, came more distance between us, more distractions, stress - and arrogance.  My ex was no longer "Charming", he was a despot, and "Cinderella" was emotionally excommunicated.  Plus, there was a new, young girl in town.

I continued to wear my rings, out of old fashioned belief and respect that I was still bound to this man. We still shared a life, a child, a home - and a vow.

So by now, you may be wondering why I chose to share this essentially un-romantic story around Valentine's Day. Actually, for a some very important reasons: since my marriage crumbled and the broken ring came off, I've learned that real love was missing in my marriage. I'm not signing up for unrealistic romance again. Real love is based in mutual respect, support and genuine mutual likability, a natural desire to just be with someone.  I've also come to realize, yes, I would get married, in a heartbeat, as I believe in marriage more than ever, surprisingly.  I've learnt that marriage is not two incomplete people coming together to complete or rescue each other. It's two whole, complete and happy people coming together to create a union that has double the strength, double the experience, double the patience - double the everything, and is perfect in its tolerable imperfections, not unrealistic perfectionism and insecure projections.

And about that wedding ring: does it even matter the next time around? Honestly, I'd probably be good with a thin piece of gold wire around my finger. However, would I also turn down a trip to Harry Winston's?  Probably not! But as long as the ring is not broken - or formerly somebody else's, and as long as it's real love, not just some romantic make belief, yes, I would do "I do" all over again.  For real.

Enjoy your Valentine's Day - but don't let that chubby Cupid and his arrows fool you! (He's also kind of not real, just saying!)


Meet Anna

Anna Danes is an advocate for passion-pursuing and an unstoppable dream-chaser. A former lawyer and stay-at-home mom who at the age of 43 reinvented herself when she turned to singing as a way to find her voice and to change her life when the love in her life was no more, Anna is soon to be renowned as one of the most effective transformational leaders in the world. Read More


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