Tuesday, October 12, 2010

October 12

Today would have been my 19th wedding anniversary. I have something to say in defense of my remembering that fact, and I'll tell you why.

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.


Cynthia said...

That makes absolute sense to me. I am my husband's second wife. His first wife walked out on him. Luckily, they did not have children together so they were able to cut all ties and I've never had to deal with her (though I recently discovered we have a mutual acquaintance and that sort of threw me into a tailspin).

As much as I know he loves me and that I've been able to give him the life he deserves, it's hard knowing she ever existed too. Being Wife 2.0- even if you are an upgrade- has challenges too, which I know you are experiencing as well on top of everything else and that makes it even harder.

I get what you mean when you say you are grieve the loss of how your life SHOULD have been.

At the same time, everyone has that in some way or another- yours is just more 'public' than someone else's sacrifice but it's there. It's the wife who has been married for 20 years to a man with a porn problem that eats away at her self worth or the guy who won't work an support his family so the wife pretends she is happy to do her job and his. Or the man who craves intimacy with a wife who wants no part of it. So many possible scenarios and all of them dealing with the loss of what 'was' or should have been. They may be able to conceal their pain from others but it's still there, eating away at them. The upside of yours is that you CAN deal with it openly. What a relief!

My comment may make no sense whatsoever but I do want you to know that I 'get' it.

Wonder Woman said...

I get it. I really do. And I think you articulated it well. 19 years would have been quite an accomplishment, and I understand that you're mourning that loss.

Piper of Love said...

I hope you know you make perfectly reasonable sense. You in no way deserved the hand you were dealt.

God is doing something in this, just hold on to your faith. Everything will make sense someday, and you will be given beauty for all of your ashes. I stoically believe that. (for you and me)

I'm proud of you for letting your truth out, you have NOTHING to be ashamed of. This post is beautiful and profound.


Andrea said...

I LOVE what you said, and I love Cynthia's comment. So true that life rarely works out how we thought it was going to be. It's hard. And sad. Especially when it impacts others and children.
I would totally cry too. I don't think that means you are still in love with him. That's crazy for him to even assume that and then to say that to your dh.
I get it. And I love how you wrote it.

Abby said...

I said that to Orion this morning. I said "today would have been Jenna and Adam S's 19th wedding anniversary" I remember the date because it was exactly a month before my birthday.

I think what you wrote is completely understandable. To put in so much and to build so many dreams only to have it crumble and have you questioning why. Fairly traumatic. It came as a total shock to all of us, I think.

You might not miss *him*..but I know I do. And I'm fairly sure a few of the other younger kids do as well. I can't speak on how he was as a spouse..but he was a pretty dang good brother in law. Gotta give him props on that.

I'm sorry for all of the hurt you've felt for all of these years. <3

Hannah said...

I seriously am in shock that that man said that to your husband. How could anyone not understand that? Geesh. Your feelings are completely normal.

By the way, I too remembered.

I love you sister.

Anonymous said...

Jenna, a friend sent me the link to this post. I've never read your blog before, but I've been blogging for more than five years- and we are so in the same boat. Sept 18 would have been my 11 th anniversary. I just crossed the one-year mark for my divorce on Oct 3, which also happens to be my birthday. Awesome, huh?

Your words are so poignant and beautiful in their sincerity and honesty. Unless your life has been utterly destroyed by the choices of another, I don't thing most people can understand what it means, how it feels. The grief and loss are like death. Only not.

Thank you for pouring your heart out. I see you, and I feel you. And I thank you.