I wasn’t an awesome wife. Maybe my intentions were good, but I wasn’t actually very good at it.
I wanted things from him, but I didn’t actually believe in him. How shitty is that?
We had a baby after nine years together, got married when he was one, and divorced four years after that. I deeply appreciate the time we spent together, as tricky as it was. June is the anniversary of our marriage ceremony, and we separated on July 4th - “Independence Day,” he joked.
Every summer, late June, I go to the farmer’s market and buy a big bouquet from the farmer who provided the flowers for our wedding - sunflowers and poppies and amaranth. I bought this bouquet this week, and then tonight, I was reminded that I hadn’t been the best wife. We do a lot right as co-parents, and sometimes, we still find ourselves in a stand-off. Old patterns die hard.
With these flowers, I honor it all.
What he doesn’t know, what he may never know, is what a different woman I am now. I walked into therapy (who am I kidding - I collapsed into therapy while the adrenal fatigue took hold and the dam of emotions broke) that first October. What I said to her was, “I never want to be that kind of woman again.”
I knew that I had been wrong in so many ways, but what was playing out in my marriage was my own belief in my own inadequacy. My need for safety went so deep, from so much untreated trauma, that I was grasping and bossing and forcing, trying to make it so. Trying to make safety and completeness happen. It doesn’t work that way.
I was emasculating. I had seen generations of women do the same thing and I didn’t yet know another way. I wanted him to go out and earn more, but I was the primary income earner, and I resented him for it. When he asked me why I was never satisfied, I never considered that I could be satisfied with the resources we had - I always wanted more. As a teacher and avid researcher, I told him how to parent. He stayed home two days a week with our child and loved it, but I wanted him to go out and provide for us differently. I didn’t appreciate him enough. I didn’t stop what I was doing when he got home from work at 9:30 and go greet him. I didn’t ask him to bed.
I had been striving for “enoughness” since forever, and since my first child was born and placed into adoption when I was nineteen. At that point I took up striving as a way of life, and that poor man, I just drug him along. I was really serious about getting things done. And I wanted him to be too.
My mother in law, a few years ago, said this gift of a thing to me when I was feeling terrible about how I hadn’t loved him right. She said, “Don’t ever forget that you both said yes. Your souls both said yes.”
I can’t think of what I was trying to do in that marriage other than get it right, and forever getting it wrong.
We had grown up together, from middle school on. We were hippie friends in high school, he drove me to Warren Wilson College during our last year of high school and we both fell in love with it - I went but he didn’t. He held my hand when I was a pregnant-too-early teenager (who’d left WWC) and we went to see the Allman Brothers, even though this was not his baby. We had fun when we were younger. At one point during the divorce he said, “I knew who you were on the inside. I always thought you’d remember, and I was waiting all this time for her to come back.” But after my daughter was born, I just spent my life living as though every action had to prove I was enough - enough to be a mother again, enough to prove my worthiness. And so, that was the pressure I held over him too. I had stopped having fun by the time I was 20 years old.
I did remember, who I had been. Ironically, (or not, as life works this way), it was in the backyard of Warren Wilson College where we lived the years our son was a toddler that I began to come back to myself. It took walking out of that old life to remember it, though. I started to change and remember, and I suppose our marriage couldn’t survive it. Or that’s just one side of the story. One day I’d like to hear the other version.
I celebrate June 26th, for what we tried to do, for all we tried to do, by buying these flowers and honoring the journey. I also bake a pie on his birthday, like his grandmother taught me, though I mostly eat them myself.
I’m grateful, and I’m sorry, and I’m completely satisfied with life as it is, all at the same time. The past four years have changed me in a way that only this exact path could have. I have arrived, over and over again, to deeper understandings of love. Each man on the path the next soul to help ignite the next-layer-deep of me. Re-dedicating myself, a thousand times and more, to honoring my soul’s journey. Trusting that what I am living is the exact right thing to be living, and that there’s always some learning left to do.
I am no longer the woman I was in my marriage, even if he remembers me that way. And then I stare over at the flowers, fresh and not the exact flowers of my wedding day.
New. Vibrant. Here. Now.