Once you have found your way out of the murky waters of disillusionment, depression, and disdain, you begin to heal. And, by healing, I mean you begin to identify the reason or reasons that your marriage ended.
The initial tendency in the first few months is to place blame on your spouse.
I was no different; of course, my ex-husband was to blame.
My ex-husband, although I would say was honest in the general sense, was not honest with himself. He struggled with anxiety; he struggled with insecurity; he struggled with communicating about his struggles. Ultimately, despite our love for one another, he chose to find comfort and understanding with another woman. Needless to say, honesty and trust were the qualities I immediately decided I had to have.
What I didn’t know was how important it was to see my own role in what went wrong. I was so busy beating myself up for marrying “the wrong man” that I didn’t acknowledge that my own issues needed to be examined. Self-reflection takes time and effort none of which I felt I had.
But, I did have an expert who was willing to share- my ex-husband. If I had asked, I am sure he would have readily handed over an alphabetized laundry list of my shortcomings. I never did this exactly, but I did try and truly listen- not just hear- what he had said to me during the rough times. Whether I would like to admit it or not, he knew me better than almost any other. The answer came from a three-part process in which I analyzed: when we hurt one another, when communication failed, and when it all fell apart.
The answer wasn’t what I expected. It was my love of words. I grew up with a mother who spoke in deeply meaning aphorisms of her own making and a father who wrote political commentary. Both were readers and so I grew up with books; I grew up seeing love through language. It was no surprise that I wanted to spend a lifetime with words, as they were my first love.
My second love occurred studying English literature in London. I fell for an Englishman almost immediately and in hindsight, I believe it had nothing to do with his likeness to Hugh Grant, but in his diction-his words. Even to this day, when I hear an Englishman speak, my knees grow weak. “Hey,” can make the most mundane sentence sound meaningful- and most often I find they do this with the simple use of an adverb.
But, adverbs are dangerous, very dangerous. We all really do know this; we just forget. My recent break up from an incredible man who told me “I never really loved you” forced me to think again about the power words have over us. I often go back to the promise my husband made to me ten years ago. I solemnly swear to always love you, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health….until death do us part.
That isn’t what happened. Perhaps I should have known that many times people swear to forever, but that only fifty percent of the time do they really mean it. In fact, I was one of those people. I married at twenty-one to someone I felt would make a good husband: be loving, be kind, be faithful, but most importantly never be one to hurt me. I knew when saying those vows that I wasn’t completely certain I meant them—but I was up for the challenge.
The challenge proved to be too much. I didn’t feel the way I was supposed to. I didn’t understand how difficult the “richer or poorer” or “sickness and health” would be if you didn’t really love your mate. We divorced and I swore to never, ever allow myself to believe in words, my own or others, because how we feel one moment cannot possibly indicate how we will feel in the future.
I failed again. After a five-year hiatus from believing in the gushy sentimentality of phrases that pervaded every one of Nicholas Sparks’ books and movies, that is exactly what I fell for. My ex-husband found me on the Internet and when I moved to the computer to the “You’ve Got Mail” notification, I found the following, simple note.
“I think I have always loved you.” Even though he caused me devastating pain in college when he cheated, I secretly always longed to hear this. My response wasn’t what it should have been. Instead, I waited and he followed up with: “In the infamous words of Jerry Maguire: You complete me.” Then I really lost all willpower and said: “You had me at hello.” And, he did. We married the next April and had three amazing sons and a decade together.
Why you might ask was I tempted to believe again in these overly sentimental, even cliché words that pervade our culture? I had forgotten the pain that those adverbs: always and forever, completely and faithfully, could mean when your loved one no longer means them sincerely.
Adverbs, like love, can be apathetic. They both can lure us with their song, but can also leave us with longing. What we need to remember is that adverbs, love, words, pain are all momentarily meaningful.
We will return to them again and again because of our own love affair with words: we long to hear “I love you” or “you are the only one for me” not because we are naïve enough to believe that the speaker of such is being honest, but because we want to maintain our own self-love. We want to overcome all of the doubts and insecurities we carry around. This suspension of disbelief allows us to deal with our frailties, our failures. We may know all of our faults and how truly “unlovable” we are, but if someone whom we admire thinks we are loveable— even for a short time—well then it must be true.
The alternative is that actions speak louder than words. After this recent break-up, I have learned that even actions can be really deceiving.
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