Today I woke up grieving.
It’s our 30th wedding anniversary, and our married life has been extremely difficult. I know anyone who’s been married more than a few months agrees that marriage is hard.
Most people are talking about the usual:
~Men are different than women-Mars and Venus stuff
~Life happens-you go through hard times, job changes, struggles with kids, etc.
It’s one thing to go through these things together. It’s another thing entirely, when you go through these things either together, but in isolation from each other, or opposing one another.
The greeting cards and Facebook posts don’t seem to fit my reality.
The month leading up to today, I paid attention to cards and posts. I know it’s not always an accurate representation of reality, but most of them said something like:
“I wouldn’t change a thing about our lives together.”
“It’s been tough, but we’ve been there for each other through it all.”
I want to gag. Not because I think they’re lying, or I’m not happy for them. It’s just not my reality.
I’ve never been someone who could casually say something if I don’t wholeheartedly believe it to be true.
My husband invited me out for a nice dinner to celebrate tonight. I am excited. I want to celebrate. And yet, I needed to grieve all the hopes and dreams I had for our life that turned out way harder, way more painful, and totally other than what I ever imagined I would have to endure, before I could celebrate. You know what? There are lots of things I would change! I know they made me (and us) who we are, but I would have liked who I was without them too!
So here’s what I did. I invited my husband to have lunch with me to talk about the hard and crazy times. Through this traumatic life, I’ve learned a lot about grief, and I didn’t realize it this morning, but I needed to grieve before I could celebrate. Maybe you do too. If so, here’s how:
- Remember the hard times. They are as much a part of your marriage as the good times. They made you who you are. Don’t just pretend they didn’t happen. I found that by talking about them at lunch, it honored all we had been through. It gave weight to what had happened. It’s real. It’s part of our marriage. We’ve grown and healed and we’re out of the worst of it now. We can’t just gloss over the horrible and jump to the celebration. Maybe some year we can, but not this year.
- Grieve the marriage you hoped for, but didn’t have. I remember 30 years ago. I had so many hopes and dreams. Not of specific things or events, but of how our relationship would feel and how we would treat each other. I never imagined having to deal with trauma on so many levels. As I look back, I wish we had been able to deal with our own stuff earlier. Then we could have truly been there for each other, instead of adding another layer of pain to already difficult situations.
- Look to the future. Once you grieve the marriage you hoped to have, you can begin to look forward to the marriage you can have. Obviously, if there is abuse going on, get immediate help. There is no future until this is addressed and stopped completely. Look back to your wedding and see what you hoped and dreamed your life would be like. You’re not dead yet, so there’s still time to create the life you always wanted. We’ve worked so hard over the last couple of decades to heal and grow. The pain has to be worth it. We are just beginning to be able to respond in the ways we always wanted to, and to have the marriage we hoped for. The future is very bright.
The card I gave my husband said, “We’re still married, High-five!”
It’s not the most romantic, but it’s real.
p.s. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank God Almighty for the healing He has done in our marriage. He provided healing from trauma that no amount of therapy has accomplished.