This past week, had I stayed married to my first husband, I would’ve celebrated my silver wedding anniversary – 25 years. Twenty five years ago I was a young, confused woman who desperately wanted to love someone and have someone love me. I was coming out of a major depression that required two hospitalizations in the space of four years. I was dealing with the sources of my depression but only scratching the surface. I was living on my own, and while I was overjoyed to be out of my parents’ house and independent, I was lonely.
I got involved quickly and deeply with a man who treated me well and who made me laugh. I won’t go into the details of our relationship, except to say that within a year we were engaged, and after a short engagement we got married. It was probably a bad sign that as our friends and families were leaving the wedding reception and I was faced with going on my honeymoon, I broke down in tears. At the time I chalked it up to nerves, not about the wedding night, but to the release of all the energy and stress of the planning of that monumental day. Looking back I also think the tears came from realizing “forever” was in front of me with this man, and knowing on some unconscious level that I had made a terrible mistake.
Our relationship disintegrated VERY quickly. Again, I won’t go into details. I could play the blame game and point fingers at him for certain behaviors and hurts – but I could also point the finger at myself for rushing into the marriage, thinking it would be magical and salvific, for wanting so badly to be in love, that I mistook that want for love itself.
But wanting to be in love, and really being in love are NOT the same thing.
As quickly as we came together we fell apart. Feelings of failure and shame consumed me. As a person of faith I didn’t believe that I should be able to throw away a covenant I had made as casually as I could a dress out of fashion. I had made a commitment, “till death do us part,” but I could not keep it without killing myself in the process. I did not love this man. He wasn’t a bad person, we were just completely incompatible and I was miserable. All the progress I had made on my emotional well-being was at stake.
Divorce. It grieved me. Divorce is a death. It is the death of a relationship and it deserves a time of grief. Luckily I had a very good relationship with my pastor, and his support was vital. He spoke serious words that pushed me to profound reflection on my shortcomings, kind words of God’s grace that lifted me up from despair, and encouraging words that gave me hope for the future. And there was a future.
When I had come to the point in my personal growth that I was content to live my life alone, I met the man I would marry, the man I have now been with for nineteen years, with whom I have three beautiful amazing children. There is always hope for the future.