A lot of people who write blogs on relationships write because *something* has happened or gone wrong in their relationship. So they turn to writing to help make sense out of their world, and as an outlet for the pain they are feeling. A lot of people write about the loss of a relationship they didn’t want to lose. Others write as a way of working through their emotions while holding on (or at least trying to hold on) to a relationship that has been altered by whatever has gone wrong.
For the people who are trying to hold on and rebuild love, a common theme that I come across is both a fear and a sense of sadness that due to whatever has happened, things will never be the same. The relationship that they once had seems irrevocably altered, and accompanying this belief is a sense of loss.
I write about life and love, but although I cite examples and experiences from my life, I don’t talk much about “me”. This was never intended to be an online diary, but rather is a way of developing and expressing my philosophies about life and love. I believe in love, and long term relationships. And my goal with this blog has been to try and give hope to people who may be feeling lost, and remind them that we all go through the same struggles.
In this case however I feel my experiences are very relevant.
Like many others I came to blogging when my relationships was in crisis. Although I try to stay away from talking about my relationship any many of the topics I cover don’t really apply to me, my own personal crisis was the catalyst for my writing.
My wife and I had been together for many years, and I thought life was pretty good. Then I found out she wasn’t sure if she wanted to be married anymore. She wasn’t sure if she loved me. In my mind, she gave up on our marriage. I won’t pretend to understand what was going through her head at that time. That’s her story. But I do know how it impacted me.
It destroyed me.
See, I believed.
I believed marriage was for life. I knew she and I would always be together, and we would always support each other. I knew that no matter what challenges life presented us with, we would get through them. Together.
For years she was my one true certainty in life. My safe haven, and my shelter in the storm of life.
And suddenly she wasn’t.
She didn’t believe what I did.
I knew life came with challenges, but I never expected the challenge to come from her. I never expected her to question something that (to me at least) was the best part of my life.
I waited to wake up one day and find out it was all a bad dream. To find out that it was just some cruel joke. But weeks turned into months, and the reality of my situation hit home.
When I say it destroyed me, that isn’t drama or exaggeration. It messed me up worse than anything I had ever experienced before. The world I felt I “knew” crumbled around me, and that led me to question absolutely everything. For her to feel the way she was feeling, she obviously didn’t feel the same things I did – the things I thought she felt.
And if I was wrong about that?
Well, what else was I wrong about?
Had she ever truly loved me? If so, when had it changed? Why had it changed?
Looking at our life, what was real? Was anything real?
I had always believed in myself, and even that belief was now shaken.
I guess a lot of people have been there, but even after all this time it’s hard to articulate just how fundamentally my world was shaken by the experience.
We were on a dark path for a long time, and the only thing that allowed me to keep my head above water was belief. My belief in “us” was now shattered, and my self-confidence and belief in my self was badly damaged. But I still believed I had done my best. I still believed I had always tried (and would continue) to do the right thing – whatever that was. I just hoped my belief in the good we had and the good that could still be would be enough.
We all start innocent, and growing up you believe in different things. You believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, maybe even the tooth fairy. You believe mommy and daddy love each other, and will always be able to keep you safe. Actually you probably don’t even understand “safe”, because you don’t know threats, you don’t know fear, and you don’t know pain. You only see the light and good in the world, and not the darkness.
Over time, this innocence fades. You find out Santa is just a man in a suit, and there is no Easter Bunny (the tooth fairy IS real though, I’m pretty sure about that one). You start to find out that the world isn’t quite as safe as you thought. Bad things happen to good people sometimes. People get hurt. Tragedies happen. Relationships fail.
In early relationships we experience heartache firsthand, and we hear the rather sobering stats on divorce.
But that early heartache we experienced was simply to prepare us for the person we would be with forever. And divorce only happens to people who give up, and stop loving each other. We know that won’t ever apply to us, because we are different. We believe.
Sure, Santa wasn’t real. And yes, bad things happen in the world. Maybe the world around us had lost it’s magic and wonder.
But for me? My marriage one of the last pieces of magic left in the world.
It was my fairy tale. It was my love story.
And now that magic was broken too.
I believe for me, and many others, this is where things will never be the same again.
That belief that no matter what, you will always be there for each other. That your love is somehow special, and different.
When you experience heartache with the person you truly committed your heart and soul to, to the person you believed you would always be with; that changes you forever.
I watched a video on relationships recently where the speaker made a comment I found particularly poignant. She said (paraphrasing here):
In todays world many people will have more than one marriage in their lifetime.
And in some cases, that marriage is to the same person.
I suppose she could have been talking about splitting up and eventually remarrying. But I saw the comment as a recognition that the nature of relationships change.
If you think about it, you aren’t the same person you were at 20, or 30. You change, you mature. Your life situation changes, and your needs change. Sometimes you have a better job and more money, other times less. You go from single and on your own, where you can do things how you want when you want, to having someone in your life. And now you need to fit that other person in and they are impacted by all the little decisions you make.
And in a relationships you not only see your partner at their best, but also at their worst. And likewise them with you.
Situations change. Maybe you add kids to the mix. Or a promotion, or a loss of a job, serious illness, the loss of a close loved one. There are any number of things that can happen that affect us. Some in small ways, and some in large. Life is all about change.
One of the most common mistakes people make (and I include myself in this) is not realizing or understanding that. We meet someone, we are happy with them, so we get married. We think “great, we are married” and now we will be together forever. Time goes by, life happens, and we continue to mature and change. But we lose sight of the fact that our loved one is changing too. Their needs aren’t the same as they were, yet we continue to treat them the same way, and they do the same with us.
The changes are subtle, so we don’t even see them at first. We “think” things are fine, but over time a number of little changes add up. This causes a distance to start to develop between a couple, as they have become so caught up in day to day life that they fail to see the changes that have happened right in front of their eyes.
Sometimes we catch it in time, and we are able to accept that the person we are with is not the same one we married, but that’s alright because neither are we. Other times people fight the change, and spend their time resenting that the person isn’t the same.
I haven’t really figured this stuff out yet, but it seems imperative to me that a couple keeps the lines of communication open, continues to communicate their needs, and accepts that change is part of life and will be one of the few constants. If we want to stay together we need to keep growing and learning each other as we change both as individuals and as couple.
It’s true, things WILL never be “the same”.
But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If your relationship has been challenged, then there is something about the way “it was” got people into trouble. Even if one person was happy, obviously the other wasn’t. Relationships involve two people, so you need to find a new path, one that works better for both people. You have to find a way that you can both be happy with the path you are on.
My wife and I are still together.
I wish with all my heart our marriage never been challenged. I wish “happily ever after” meant our love was never tested or challenged.
The experience sucked. I hated it, and wish it had never happened. I wish I could turn back the hands of time and change things. Somehow fix things before they went wrong.
But I can’t. All I can do is determine how to move forward. Ask myself what can I learn, and how I can use the issues we faced to make our relationships stronger.
And I HAVE learned, a lot. I’ve learned about myself and what I want and need out of life. I’ve learned a better understanding and appreciation about love. And hopefully I’ve learned more about my wife.
I still believe in “us”, but it’s different now. Now I believe we CAN make it, not that we necessarily will.
I wish I was still that person who knew we WOULD make it, instead of just knowing we CAN make it. And that distinction saddens me. I mourn that loss of innocence.
But I was faced with a choice. I could either hold onto the image of what I believed we had, and likely end up bitter and alone. Or I could embrace the fact that life goes through phases, and people and relationships change.
I choose the latter.
Maybe the loss of innocence was actually good. I’ve said before that I don’t believe in perfection, and I don’t believe in “meant to be”. I believe life presents us with opportunities, and it’s up to us to determine what we want to do with them.
We almost squandered our opportunity, and hopefully we will never do that again.
I recognize now that love is fragile. I believe that as long as we prioritize time for each other and ensure we focus on our relationship, we will make it through. I believe we need to continue to learn each other, and hope that we both grow and change in ways that allows our love to survive.
If we don’t do that? If we take each other for granted and lose sight of being a couple?
Then our relationship will fail.
It’s that simple.
Before I “knew” we would be together forever. Now doubt is there, and I hate it. But I know we have a chance. We have an opportunity, and it’s up to us to determine what to do with it.
So yeah, maybe things will never be the same. But then again, things will always change.
And I still believe.
Now paranoia’s setting in and I’m falling from these stars again
While every part of me screams, “hold on”
Cause if you can’t learn to bend then you break
Oh my God, how long does it take?
Every lesson we learned took so long
But it made us strong
I-I-I-I’m still standing, I-I-I-I’m still climbing
Even when the rest are falling, the rest are falling
The rest are falling
From Watch Me Rise by Mikky Ekko