Janay Palmer married NFL running back Ray Rice on Friday, March 28, 2014, ONE DAY after he was indicted on assault charges for knocking her unconscious in an elevator. There’s no doubt about what happened because it was all captured on video by the casino hotel where it happened. Unfortunately, the NFL pretended not to notice the significance of the video properly until just last week. But that’s not what I’m writing about.
Janay Palmer married the same man who viciously attacked her in this video exactly 41 days after the incident occurred, despite the fact they’d actually planned a wedding for summer. In the media, the couple cited success with the court-ordered counseling as the reason for the shotgun wedding. I call bullshit. Was it a publicity stunt? An effort to curry favor with the fans? To make him look better in court? An attempt to show the NFL and the Ravens that everything is A-Okay in the Rice household? We can speculate but we’ll never know.
In the famous of words of Dr. Phil, “What the hell was she thinking?”
At the time the Raven’s running back beat her up, they weren’t married. Yes, they had a child in common, but that’s not a reason to get married. Especially when your fiancé is physically abusing you. And he’s got plenty of money the court would be happy to order him to pay to support that child. Remember, he hadn’t been fired by the Ravens at this point so she didn’t have to worry about finances.
It’s sad and it’s frightening. Not only has Janay Palmer Rice set herself up for an abusive marriage that we’ll undoubtedly watch unfold in the media, she has set a really bad example for other young women out there who are engaged to abusive men. I’m not playing a blame game – she has no obligation to be a role model. But she had a clear out – a safe getaway. And she didn’t take it.
Beverly Gooden wrote an amazing article about the situation which inspired the wildly-popular hashtag #WhyIStayed. Women used the hashtag to share all kinds of stories explaining why they were trapped in their abusive relationships. It was sad and it was inspiring. But Janay Palmer could have simply called off the wedding after her baby’s daddy clocked her and got locked up. She was not a trapped woman. Yet.
I’m sure that being married to an NFL player is super fun (oh wait, he’s not going to be playing anymore is he?), but not at the expense of having him knock your teeth out when he’s in a bad mood. And now that all this has come back around and is causing half the world to demand the NFL commissioner’s resignation for not taking a stand months ago when he actually received the video of the Baltimore Ravens player beating the crap out of his fiancé, I doubt they’re going to be on any more exciting invitation lists. Just a guess. Even his high school in New Rochelle took his jersey down off display, and his alma mater Rutgers has removed him from their All-Americans list. May God help the new Mrs. Rice right now – can you even imagine how her new husband is reacting to the latest backlash? We know he has a temper.
All of this comes back to my original question of what was Janay Palmer thinking when she married Ray Rice? And why didn’t she put the kybosh on the wedding plans after he beat her up? Too many people are afraid to cancel wedding plans because of the embarrassment of telling all of their invited friends and family that the big ta-do is off. They don’t want to have to explain to those tacky enough to ask for details. Janay Palmer didn’t have that problem. Everybody saw that video. Every woman I know would have given her a big high five for telling his ass to get out of the house and not come back. But Janay decided to move up the wedding date and marry him faster. Say what?
A friend who is in a seriously struggling marriage recently confided to me that she knew she shouldn’t get married two weeks before she did the deed. But she went through with it anyway because there were more than 100 guests coming to a big estate they’d rented, and her parents had already invested a non-refundable fortune in her wedding plans.
The underlying problem in their relationship is alcohol. Thing is, she knew that he liked his liquor when they were dating and engaged. The stress of the wedding (and some concurrent family medical issues) made him – or gave him the excuse to – dive into a bottle in the last few weeks prior to their wedding. The problem is that, 18 months later, he’s still in the bottle. He never climbed back out.
My friend has come to the conclusion that this situation might not be fixable. And she’s withered in that time. She’s not the bouncy chick she used to be – she’s trying to hold her head up day by day and just move forward. She’s joined Al-Anon, and her husband knows it. Yet he’s still drinking.
There are side effects from the drinking that affect their marriage. He’s lying and hiding things and being defensive about absolutely everything. There are money problems. When he finally agreed to marriage counseling, he refused to give her his work schedule (which changes regularly) so that she could make an appointment for them. Totally passive-aggressive behavior, and it’s killing her.
The saddest part of this whole story is the beginning – she told me she KNEW they shouldn’t get married before she said “I do.” And yet she did it anyway. In the process, she’s tied herself into a miserable life that it’s going to cost her a ton (emotionally and financially) to recover from. She told me that her parents took her aside a couple of days before the wedding to tell her it was okay if she wanted to call it off but she didn’t have the guts to cancel at the time.
“They saw the drinking. They knew I was upset. They were willing to support whatever decision I made. I made the wrong one.” Listening to this story almost broke my heart.
You do not have to get married to anyone, any time, right up to the moment when you walk down the aisle. Sure, it’s better to give more notice than less, but end of day, nobody who loves you both and is there to support you wants you to ruin your lives. Sure, they’ll gossip a little because that’s natural. But then somebody else will do something more interesting and your cancelled festivities will become old news.
Janay Palmer had plenty of time (months actually) to cancel her wedding plans. I doubt the invitations had even gone out. Instead, she did the reverse and married Ray Rice a little more than a month after he tried to drag her unconscious body out of an elevator in Atlantic City.
I think there are more engaged couples in abusive relationships out there than most people realize. Generally, that behavior doesn’t suddenly pop up for the first time after you’ve been married awhile. There are big red flags in most relationships prior to marriage that it just isn’t safe to ignore, no matter how much you love your significant other.
For my purposes, I’m going to refer to the fiancé as “he” but everything I’m saying next applies to both genders for both straight and gay couples. There are many abusive women out there too – it’s not a one way street. If you answer “YES” to any of the following questions, you should not be getting married:
- Does your fiancé have an alcohol or drug problem?
- Has your fiancé ever lied to you about money, alcohol or drugs?
- Has your fiancé ever hit you?
- Has your fiancé ever tried to hit you?
- Has your fiancé ever threatened to hit you or do any other physical abuse to you?
- Does your fiancé get angry or aggressive when he drinks?
- Even when he’s sober, does he take out his anger at other people or events on you?
- After a bad day at work, does your fiancé come home and verbally or physically abuse you?
- Has more than one friend or family member expressed concern about either verbal or physical abuse from your fiancé towards you?
- Do you ever feel less than 100 percent safe in your fiancé’s company?
Just one single “YES” to those questions means it’s time to cancel the wedding. Maybe it’s just a postponement if you’re dealing with a drug or alcohol issue, but you don’t know that yet. So just call it off and worry about that later. If your situation changes down the road, everyone who knows and loves you will be in the loop and nobody will be surprised when they get an invitation later. Or you can always elope.
Do not go through with a wedding to somebody who is abusive or has an active addiction. It’s a very dangerous thing to do. He cannot make you marry him. It is your last chance to get away from ending up like so many of those women using the hashtag #WhyIStayed.
I am not a trained or licensed therapist, nor do I claim to be a relationship expert. But I am a wedding planner and reading about people like Janay Palmer Rice scares the bejesus out of me. I don’t want to be the one responsible for executing the wedding of a couple in an abusive relationship. It makes me want to reach out to brides I haven’t heard from in years and make sure everybody is still okay. As a wedding professional, seeing someone like Janay Palmer marry Ray Rice after that elevator incident is an abomination to the institution of marriage and the industry I represent.
You should never say “I do” to someone who hit you.