Today would have been my anniversary. It is the first year since my ex and I separated that I completely forgot about it. In fact, Facebook told me. Good ole Facebook, always there for us!
If you are newly separated or divorced and feeling down, I want you to think about what this means for your future - at some point, and maybe not in the too-distant-future, the life that seems like it was your EVERYTHING will take a back seat to the life you get to live NOW. I'm not saying there won't be bittersweet moments or memories that pop up every once in awhile; just that the pain or guilt or shame you may feel surrounding the end of your marriage will fade in time. It will be replaced by the full and complete life you get to live in this second act. And I promise, when this happens you won't regret a single moment. I wish this for you, just as it has happened for me. But, I digress...here's what I really want to say!
When Facebook reminded me of this important day from my life, I immediately went to look at my old wedding photos. Instead of making me sad, they made me laugh with joy. Just look at us! We were babies! We had no idea what was in store for us! But the thing I see the most of in the photos is love. Yep. Love. Which wasn't what I expected.
It's a funny thing when you end a marriage or long relationship. Often, by the time we get to the end we have been dragged through so much mud and heartache, we forget the beginning. We forget that the person we interact with on a daily basis once made our heart sing. And that we were willing to go all in for them, and for us, together. Instead, we grumble and complain about who they are now and how they have failed us. And that is a shame. Because there is SO MUCH MORE. And when we get caught up in the crap, we lose sight of the important things. (***One of the reasons why in the immediate aftermath of separation it is good to allow yourself space to heal and not burn bridges that you may regret in time when you first divorce/coparent***).
In the beginning of my split, there is no way I would have found the love in these photos. I would have seen betrayal and crushing moments, the moments we abandoned one another or couldn't meet in the middle. I would have seen the years of pain and frustration, the cold and lonely times. But, time has passed. And now I can re-witness the love. And here is what I want to say to me/us back then...and to you if you are beginning again or going through something in your relationship...and to me, for the next time around.
1. HOLD ON TO THE LOVE. Honor it. Feed it. Help it grow. Acknowledge its distinct rarity. Celebrate all the things - Fridays, anniversaries, dumb Hallmark holidays, whatever. Sometimes a random Monday afternoon is the best day of the year if you give it enough attention!
2. When life gets bumpy or messy, turn TOWARDS one another instead of AWAY from one another. The more you turn away, the further apart you grow. Check your ego or insecurities at the door and just show up raw and vulnerable and ready to be held when things go haywire. And let your partner know that they can do the same.
3. TALK. About everything! Even if it is hard. Even if it feels uncomfortable. Talk about it. With each other and not with others. Communication is key. Intimate communication, the stuff we don't share with others. KEY.
4. ACCEPT each other as different people, both with strengths. Neither better or worse, just different. Find ways to use your strengths as a team. Boost one another so you both shine instead of berating each other for not being more alike or not doing everything the same way. Divvy up responsibilities based on these strengths.
5. Life doesn't have to be 50/50 all the time. Take turns leading and guiding. When things are hard for one, lean in and do more to support them. When things are hard for the other, switch roles. And don't keep track!
Today, I am proud of the relationship I am able to have with my ex. Sure, it's not perfect. But neither are we. We both love and adore the child we produced enough to try to pass on the love between us and the good memories with one another, as well as the lessons from the mistakes that we have made. It is obvious that the people we are today don't fit together the way those baby-faced bright eyed ones in the photos did. But that's okay. We are forging a new path. And it's my hope that we both find love with others who suit who we are now, and that with those new partners we both remember these bullet points 1-5. :)
In the end - while life has bumps and cracks and sadness in it - love is too sweet to not let it rule. So try not to get caught in the hard stuff, the pain and heartache and perhaps bitterness when things go sour. Instead, look for the love and let it grow. Because even if it is not where you left it, it is somewhere in your life, no matter what.