Today marks twenty years since I said “I do” and 12 years since I had divorce papers served. I look at that girl, 19 and proud, round faced, wearing her grandmother’s wedding dress from 1949 and I think, “who is she?”. I also think of that 27 year old forging a new life during the separation and think how vastly different they were. Both proud, both resolute in the decisions being made, but more than hesitant in each life.
I look at these pictures and remember sitting in a Mormon church in Puyallup, surrounded by friends wondering what I was doing there. Let me pause here: I was not Mormon, nor even remotely religious. I was raised by a recovering Catholic mother and a father who studied Judaism. You can maybe see where this is going, right? I’ll come back to this, don’t worry.
I was sitting in the church thinking, Was I ready? Was he the one? Was I just doing this because it’s what’s expected? (Answer key: no, no and yes) I remember my friend Aaron offering to drive me away if I needed. I stayed put and we exchanged vows, me in my vintage satin gown, my groom in Aaron’s borrowed and over sized suit. We were young, broke, and in retrospect, a hot mess.
I’ll say it now: I was a crap wife.
I’ll let that sink in.
Who I was at 19 was not who I was at 27, and is not the person I am today at 39, just as who I am now will not be the same version of myself in another 20 years. 19 year old me was learning, yearning for adventure and finding out who I was. I had gone from being a military brat living at home, to briefly living with roommates, to getting married. Am I saying that 19 year old’s shouldn’t get married?
No, not at all. I am saying that I should not have. I wanted a life outside of my small military upbringing and I thought…no, I needed, a life bigger than that.
I wanted travel, I wanted to go back to college, I wanted to experience life and as it would turn out, my expectations of what I had planned for life were vastly different from that of my new husband. Remember that difference in religion? Well, turns out when you are from very different backgrounds, it can be super hard to marry one persons beliefs with another.
We loved each other, sure, but I think he wanted a wife that stayed home and doted, and I wanted to be a provider. I was loud, independent even then. Dear reader, you’ve met me right? We fought. We struggled, it got dark and it got bad, and eventually it ended.
Working three jobs, keeping house, and managing his band wasn’t enough. Him wanting something I couldn’t be didn’t work. So it turned into late nights arguing, and eventually me walking away, and him hating me with both of us looking back on the past annoyed instead of celebrating our happiness and our travels. But it never ends there, oh no. No matter how bad it gets though, there’s always a lesson.
So, here’s what I learned:
- Have conversations about expectations in career, family and life. If you want to continue your travels and your partner hasn’t left the area in which they were born, you may have issues.
- If you want to pursue degrees and have a career, and your partner wants you to be at home and have kids, you may have issues.
- Talk and don’t stop. At some point, we stopped talking, and we stopped trying. I stopped being curious and engaging with him. I stopped asking about his day, as did he and the divide grew.
- Make sure you’re in it for the right reasons. I wanted a change from the life I knew and thought that he could be the one to give me a life. That was a lot of pressure to have put on him.
- Communicate needs (see a trend here?). If you don’t advocate what you need and want, you’re not going to get it. People can’t give you what they don’t know you want and need. And if they do know and don’t give it to you….well, you’re better off without them.
Was it all me? Goodness no. He had his issues, as we all do, and had no business getting remarried. However, this isn’t his story. This is mine, and the story of that sweet, sweet dress. That being said, I do wish him well, wherever he is these days.
Am I a pro at this stuff now? HA…no. I still have so much to learn. For so long I looked back on those days, angrily. I wanted to grab that 19 year old, steal her super sweet 84 Pontiac Trans Am with that loud V-8 engine, drag her from that wedding, speed off into the sunset saving her a lot of heartache and frustration. But with time comes acceptance, and I now look back every year at where I was, and where I am going and focus on being grateful for the lessons learned, even if I don’t consistently follow them.
One last tip? Move on. When it doesn’t work, and you’ve tried, let it go. The day I had him served was the first day I felt like my life was my own and I was starting something just for me. Once those papers were handed out, I made an offer on a house, and a few years later started my own family.
Sometimes it takes finding what you don’t need, to get what you do. To who we were, and learned to grow from,