Losing the relationship of my first marriage didn't scare me. We were finished. What should have scared me is the seemingly everlasting trail of heartache that follows behind a divorce. I've been remarried for 8 years now - almost 3 times the cumulative amount of time I was in my first marriage - something that often feels more like it was a figment of my imagination than a real thing that happened.
Tonight my heart is aching because I feel so responsible for so much heartache. The issues my oldest daughter deals with from the divorce seem to resurface over and over. It doesn't seem to matter that she was 3 when we split or that we may have one of the most amicable post-divorce situations ever. She has scars and it feels like I gave them to her.
Then there is my husband. It occurs to me tonight as I lay here trying not to wake him with my tears that while he is everything I could have ever wanted, I couldn't possibly be everything he ever wanted. Who ever really wants someone with baggage? With 2 kids already in tow and an ex-husband who will always be around? He loves us. He chose us despite it all. But, it's that "despite it all" part that feels like a knife in my heart. I never wanted to be someone who needed rescuing - I just wanted to be loved and cherished. And he does that well. I wonder if he'd known the real struggles of it all 8 years ago, would he have passed on this whole thing? That insecure girl that lives deep inside me is screaming at me tonight - reminding me that he could have had the life he always dreamed of, if not for me. Telling me that I wasn't something he couldn't live without, but someone he thought he could help. That's not a truth. It's a lie, but it's a lie that creeps in my consciousness from time to time.
Tomorrow I'll feel better, I know. Things won't seem so dismal. But, right now, I feel alone and isolated as if no one else in the world can understand exactly what I'm feeling. Of course, that's not true. But, no one really close to me can truly relate. I feel like I'll forever be paying for choices I made in my very early 20's. And, with the beautiful life I have now, I think the price I pay is worth it. I hope my husband feels the same way. But, some days it wears on you. Like tonight... even 12 years later.
And, that's why I'm writing this. Why I'm divulging very deep private feelings online. It seems easy to walk away sometimes. Sometimes it's necessary. In my case, I truly believe it was beneficial to all parties involved. But, if you're thinking of walking away from a marriage and family, give it some long, hard thought. Because it's as much a "forever" choice as marriage itself is. With long lasting and far reaching effects. No one walks away unscathed, including extended families. It's going to hurt the kids; I don't care how old they are or how well the mom and dad get along. I don't care how "fine" they seem at first. There is a price to be paid and it isn't cheap.
Love isn't always a feeling. Sometimes it's a choice. Sometimes you have to stay and choose to love someone through a tough time. Sometimes you have to walk away - but you don't get to quit choosing love at that point. That's when the choice to let love seep in to all the cracks and breaks that remain in your family can be excruciating. Trying to love your children and respect their identity that lies halfway within this other person that you, on occasion, feel extreme disdain for (it happens in a divorce. Trust me. Even if you're lucky and it's only a temporary feeling! ) is hard. It's hard! It's painful! Loving your angry 4 year old while she screams at you hurts! Telling your ex-wife it's okay for your 2 year old son to not come with you on your every other weekend visitation because he's crying and wants his mom isn't fair - but it's love. The hard part of love you choose to do. Watching someone other than yourself parent your child on a daily basis or hearing your only daughter call another woman mom and reacting with a calm smile isn't a choice that comes easy. Pouring your heart and soul in to someone else's children and watching those children run to that someone else and idolize him is a choice someone makes, in love. Watching your teenage children of divorce implode and self destruct from feelings they don't know what to do with will rip your heart right out.
You see, we talk about "falling out of love" a lot. We walk away from things thinking we'll cut our losses and start over. But, what I've come to realize in the last decade is this: it's taken far more love to cover my divorce than it ever did my first marriage. Would I do it differently? No. I, personally, wouldn't. But, I definitely would've gone in to it understanding the stakes and knowing the real cost of it all. And, I wonder how many people would go back and do things differently if they'd only known!