Marriage Realities . . .
Next month Jeff and I will be married for 14 years. We were both married before. He was married 18 years; I was married for six.
When I was married for the first time, I always had doubts about it lasting. I knew deep down that we weren’t meant to be. But I believed I could “fix” our problems or thought that when we were married they wouldn’t be problems anymore. My dad told me the weekend of my wedding, “You know you don’t have to do this.” How insightful was that? But, at 25 I didn’t have the courage to listen to my gut and back out. All these plans, all these people. Our parents were best friends. We’d been dating for years. What else was I supposed to do? Getting married was the next logical step. My older self now looks at that younger girl and says, “You should have listened to your own voice and trusted it.” But I didn’t.
I’ll never forget the day I walked out on my marriage. I was waiting to get through the holidays and my ex’s birthday before leaving—and also hoping for a miracle that somehow we might be able to work things out. But we had been "trying to work things out for four years." I was lying in bed the day after New Year’s day staring into the bathroom. My ex was upstairs on his computer when, as clear as day, I heard a voice say, “Get up and leave now. If you don’t, you never will.” So I got up, packed all my clothes in the car and walked up the stairs and said I was going to my brother’s house to stay. It was very uneventful. I don’t even remember tears. We both knew it was a long time coming, but neither one of us had mustered the guts to do it.
I called my brother to tell him what was happening and that I was coming to stay. He and his wife were out to dinner with friends, so he met me at the house and started to help me unpack the car. It was actually funny because he asked me if all the clothes in the car were ALL my clothes, and I said, “Yes, I brought everything.” I think right then he knew I would be staying for a while. Thank God for family!
In the end, our divorce was easy. It was just paperwork, and five months later it was over. Our house was sold. Everything was divided up. I took back my maiden name back and kept custody of our dog, Lucky. I was the first of my friends to get divorced, and I was pretty humiliated because, of course, I looked at it as failure. Now, I know better. But coming from a Catholic family and being one of the first in my entire extended family to get divorced, I was the black sheep.
What’s interesting is how the universe works. When I knew I was going to get divorced, I knew I needed a better paying job. My ex hooked me up with connections through his network, and I landed at a company where Jeff happened to work. So I actually have my ex to thank for introducing me to Jeff. Jeff was a nice guy, and I’d heard through the grapevine he was going through a divorce, too, but that was about it. Over time we became friends and hung out from time to time. I kept telling him I wanted to set him up with a nice church-going girl. I had it all planned out. A friend of mine at work said he liked me, but honestly I had no interest. He had three daughters and a ex-wife, and all I had was freedom and a dog named Lucky. For the first time in my life I was actually having fun. I didn’t need baggage and drama. But much to my dismay—and my families warning—our friendship grew into something more, and that made things really complicated.
To make a long story short, we decided to get married. And, to be honest, I had a lot of hesitations. But they weren’t about him. I wasn't sure I really wanted to be married again and I was worried about being a step-mother to his girls. As you can imagine, they didn’t love the idea of me coming into their life, and I get that—now more than ever since I have my own daughter. But back then, I thought, “Hey, I’m cool and relaxed, chill … we could all have a good time.” I wasn’t looking to be a “step-mother” or a “second mother.” I just wanted to be a positive woman in their life that cared about them. Sadly, that never really happened, and they never really came around to liking the idea of me. It hasn’t been until recent years that we all have finally started to actually spend time in each other’s company, developing a relationship. A lot of years were lost, but that’s in the past. Regret is a hard and the past is the past, even if it really hurts.
So almost 14 years into marriage what have I learned? Marriage is HARD WORK! Shocker, right? I think everyone will agree to that. But I can say that some of our hardest years were our best years.
Back in 2010, Jeff lost his job and was out of work for a year. We had to sell our house and pretty much lost everything—the market was in the tank. Jeff’s mom had a farm in Calhoun so we moved there while he was out of work, and I commuted to Atlanta. Oh, and did I mention, I was pregnant at the time and we were in the middle of a law suit? Yes, things couldn’t have been much worse. But looking back through all that awfulness, I see that it was some of the best times in our marriage. That’s not to say that I ever want to go back to a situation like that again to feel connected. Hell no! My point is, it’s so easy to become disconnected especially if you are going through something. And finding your way back to being connected again is a hard process and sometimes it can take a long time.
We’ve been in and out of those situations several times throughout the years and frankly it sucks. But thankfully I married my best friend, so while we weren’t feeling it in the marriage corner, we were still enjoying each other as friends. I also heard people say you should marry your best friend, and it really is true. Jeff and I crack each other up a lot. If you can’t laugh, what’s the point? I didn’t laugh much in my first marriage, now I laugh all the time.
Life is going to throw you curve balls and can take you down, but how you show up as a couple during those times in the valley is what’s important. Patience is so hard, and loving someone even when you don’t agree with them is even harder. Show each other respect and never call each other names. Be grateful for the gift of time you have with each other.
Jeff sacrificed so much and lost a lot to give me Sophie and for that I will always be grateful. He’s also truly the most optimistic person I know. This man has gone through hell and back, and through it all, he always kept an open heart, believing in the positive and his faith. We all call him “Mr. Sunshine” or “Liquid Sunshine.” It might have something to do with him working at Disney back in the day, but he is always happy and upbeat. I’m more of a glass half empty kind a girl. And, YES, while his hopeful optimism does drive me bat-shit crazy sometimes, I don’t know where I would be without it or him. And for that I am grateful for today and each day we get to share together.