It’s official: My parents have achieved a huge milestone, being married for 50 years! We celebrated on Saturday night with a party. The food was delicious, the house decorated beautifully, the kids all behaved and nothing got broken. And as I watched my parents together, I was emotional. The entire evening, I choked back tears as I watched them together. Their union has produced three children and five grandchildren, a few homes (all paid off), and, overall, quite a nice life. They travel extensively– in a few weeks, they are leaving for Antarctica.
They hit the gym almost every day to walk the track. They go to the symphony and for rides up the canyon. They go to church and worship God. When one is sick, the other drives to the doctor, picks up meds, and ensures recovery. My parents are surrounded by family and friends. They certainly aren’t lonely and, in fact, usually their home is a revolving door of people coming in and out. While they aren’t wealthy, they are by no means lacking for anything. It’s not a bad life. How many of us are that lucky?
Well, now that I think about it, luck has nothing to do with it. They have worked hard, planned well, lived conservatively, and they are (overall) on the same page– working towards the same goals. If only I had chosen my husband better because divorce is traumatic and expensive. Divorce for me meant pitching the house, suffering emotionally, getting cancer, hurting the children, and taking a financial bath. Only if things are really super horrible at home is divorce worth it (and in my case, it was necessary—you can’t fix substance abuse and sticking around is horror for everyone involved).
I can’t imagine having made a wise choice in my pick of husbands. Think about it. Together, we could have purchased a home and perhaps paid it off in 15 or 30 years. We would have children living in an intact home. Maybe we could retire early. Christmas, summer breaks, Thanksgivings, graduations, and birthday parties– all of them celebrated together. No fighting over assets and paying enormous sums to attorneys. And going into the Golden Years as a couple, picking vacations and meals together. Watching grandchildren coming into the world without having to plan visits around when the other parent might be showing up. Divorce and split families leaves complications and victims in its wake. It’s not pretty. Then again, neither is the journey towards getting a divorce.
Bad marriages are the true personification of Evil. Divorces are, too. I know a few friends who have had amicable splits but they are few and far between. For the most part, it’s amazing how awful adults can be towards each other. It is tragic how two people who at one point, liked each other enough to make children, can become enemies.
To the extreme of murder; to the lesser extreme of destroying reputations, lives, and compromising our own standards of decency. I am no different. My marriage and ensuing divorce brought out some of my worse traits. I learned what rage and blind hatred feel like and it is terrible. Learning to heal and find peace and comfort took time. I can honestly say that instead of wishing terrible things for my ex-husband, I’ve come to the point where I pray for him, for his recovery, and for his wellbeing. But it took over two years to get there.
As I look ahead to the future, I hope I’ve learned from my past mistakes and from the example of my parents. I am working hard to ensure that my next mate is an amazing man, and my next marriage is a happy one. Here’s what I’m doing differently:
1. I’m taking time
Two years minimum of dating. I’m going to know this guy, inside and out. No rushing.
2. I’m putting my needs at the top
This may seem selfish but it’s not. If I put my husband’s needs ahead of my own, I won’t be good for anyone. And, cancer survivor that I am, if I don’t take care of my physical and emotional health, I could very well die. It really is that serious. So taking care of me means setting aside time for things like doctor appointments, going to the grocery store to buy healthy foods, refraining from eating junk, going to yoga, getting massages, and doing all kinds of alternative health treatments that I feel are beneficial. It can be time consuming. Is he supportive?
3. I’m ensuring my children are happy
In ten years, my children will both be out of the house but until then, I’ve got a decade of being a fulltime parent ahead of me. If my children are being ignored in favor of my new boyfriend, that’s just wrong. Somehow I am striving to ensure we’re all cohesively blending. Does my new guy like my children and does he like them being around? Do they like him? If not, well, the relationship ends right there.
4. I’m becoming emotionally strong
I am honest on who I am, learning to love completely and wholly, and not putting up with any kind of emotional or mental abuse. If there are any signs of it in my relationship, it’s time to hit the road permanently. I’ve come to trust my instincts and always be on high alert for signs that something is amiss. No more excuses or ignoring the obvious. I am looking for a guy to compliment me, not complete me because I’ve come to like me.
5. I’m looking for compatibility
My guy and I have to want the same things and live somewhat similarly. My ex and I were radically different people. I was clean and neat and strived for order; he didn’t care what the house looked like and pursued fun at all costs. I liked sobriety and valued hard work and achievement; he didn’t. This time around, time will tell if we are working towards the same goals. (That word again, “time.”)
6. I’m looking for commitment
Marriage and relationships ought to be fun– lots of fun. But when things aren’t great, when life gets tough, do we have each other’s backs? With my ex, I felt like we were each other’s nemesis. Only in times of “fun”, like when we were on vacation, were we truly a couple.
At home, with the rigors of parenting and running homes and managing jobs, I felt like he (we) were undermining each other. This time around, I’m looking for a guy who, at the end of the day, is my advocate. Which brings me to an experience I had early on in my cancer treatments. I was at clinic getting high dose chemotherapy.
There I was with my mom and dad and I looked over at an older couple. He was in the chair getting chemo, and she was next to him, knitting, getting up to get him water, and holding his hand at times. It was so sweet and beautiful. I wanted that more than anything. Can I picture my new guy in that chair next to me, patting my hand, in the midst of chemo? I certainly hope so!
One positive aspect about divorce is being able to start from scratch—to find a guy I am absolutely nuts about. I’m embracing this opportunity and working hard to ensure my next pick is a great one. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for showing me what is possible.