A while back, during a difficult time between my current husband and me, when we had decided to call it quits, and then maybe not. . . our Stake President and Bishop came by for a visit. They sat in our living room, the two of them on one couch, and Adam and I on the other, smaller one. They wanted to know how we were doing. Somehow, I became the spokesperson for Us.
I told them that we had decided to keep going, to keep trying. I said something about Fiddler on the Roof, and how Tevye asks after 25 years if his wife loves him, and in response she lists scores and scores of ways that she has served him over all these many years, and how if that isn't love, than what is? I said something about my pioneer ancestry, who pulled handcarts--handcarts!--and how I had that same "put your shoulder to the wheel" kind of dedication. And then, and I thought I was speaking for both of us, I said something about the pain that we'd both experienced at the loss of our first marriages, how deep the pain is when someone you love leaves you, and how that wound adds to the already difficult dynamic we have in building this second marriage and blended family. In saying those words out loud, my eyes teared up and I got emotional.
Those seemed like all the right things to say, to believe. To will myself to believe. Commitment and service, rather than what we think of as "love". Determination. Perseverance. Forgive, have hope, have faith, keep going. I think, ideally, they are, but maybe not realistically in every situation. As Dr. Phil would say, I was going to "behave my way to success." My heart was in it. Again.
But one day, several weeks later, we got into a fight. And in that fight, he blurted out something about how I was still in love with my first husband, and how even the Stake President thought so. What??? He said that when the two of them had been talking after that home visit, that the Stake President had mentioned how odd it seemed to him that I would be so emotional (teary) in talking about the first, failed marriage. Besides that being inappropriate on so many levels, I felt very, very misunderstood. I still do.
I thought to myself, "How dare a man who has been married to the same woman for 30 years even think that he can understand and diagnose my pain?" I wonder how quickly his tears would dry up if everything that he had invested in suddenly walked out the door? Doesn't anyone get it?
It's not the man I miss. It's the dream. The dream of the marriage and family intact, building a life together.
It's not the man I can't get over. It's the rejection. The failure.
It's not the man I long for. It's the chance to do it over, do it right.
Is that so difficult to understand? Well, maybe it is, if your whole life has never gone up in smoke.
My first marriage was not perfect. My first husband was not always kind to me. We did not always get along, or see eye to eye. Things during the almost eleven years we were married were not always happy or ideal. But that marriage was the investment I had made with my life. It was the work of my days and the refinement of my soul. And then one day, he just decided he was done. He just left. And what he chose instead of me, instead of us, left many to wonder. It was rejection at its finest, and it has really screwed me up. I don't know how to get over that rejection. That sense of failure.
Over the years, I have watched the marriages of my close friends each go through trials, sometimes devastating ones--potentially marriage-breaking ones even. And yet, none of theirs broke. Now, they are forged together even stronger than before, reaping the rewards of that commitment. None of my close friends have been divorced. Not that I wish it upon anyone, but it does leave me feeling a loneliness inside of me that is very much my own. It's like I'm branded. Surely I'm not more flawed than everyone else, and yet, I'm the one who got dumped, so sometimes life doesn't add up.
I have watched the pain my children have suffered. Pain that at the time I used as a bargaining chip with my husband as I begged him to consider them and not leave. To which he'd respond, "They'll be fine. Kids are resilient." To which I respond, "Kids are resilient, but they deserve to be more than fine." It has been hard on them. It has been hard on me. It has been harder on them because it's been hard on me.
I suppose it's hard to understand. I am not in love with my first husband. But today would have been my 19th anniversary.