One of the things I’ve realized in the past few months is how much I took for granted in the previous 32 years. Having fallen in love at such a young age meant that I was one-half of a couple before I ever truly understood (and appreciated) how unusual (and wonderful) it was.
Through the years, people have commented on how rare it is “these days” to be with a high school sweetheart. We heard more than once how people wished for a relationship such as ours. We’ve had people tell us that we were the couple they aspired to be. And people have asked how we stayed together so long and remained so… well… together.
First, let me relieve you of any notion that we had a perfect marriage. We had our fair share of trials through the years and there were times we didn’t necessarily like each other very much. I’m relatively certain that’s true of almost any relationship. Being a “normal” couple, we had no magic potion that kept us together, and I can’t give you a secret formula to ensure that you can have a long, loving marriage. What we did have was a strong desire to be with each other, a belief that marriage was a lifelong commitment, and, most importantly, we had love.
We believed it was us against the world, and that if we were ever going to make it, we would have to do it alone, but with each other. We could not bring any more people into our marriage. When we had a problem, we had to deal with it. Occasionally one of us (generally me) would talk about things with a friend just to vent, but ultimately, my husband and I would have to work things out ourselves. Because who best to decide what to do in a relationship than those in that relationship?
Too many relationships fail because at the first sign of trouble, someone runs. We knew one couple where the wife shared every intimate detail of every argument she and her husband had with her mother-in-law (who incidentally, loved being the go-between). Naturally that didn’t last because the couple didn’t speak to each other and therefore couldn’t fix the problem. We’ve known couples who have stayed together yet live separate lives, and (sadly) many more who have divorced, some of whom seem to have regretted it.
We were two of the “lucky ones”. Through it all, we remained married, and despite having gone through a rough patch or two, had a very strong marriage, especially this last decade or so. We weren’t just going through the motions and almost seemed to have come full circle and entered a second honeymoon phase. Yet, I still never truly understood how fortunate we were.
I look around now, though, and become (unjustly) jealous of happy couples around me. There was a simple 7-day Facebook “challenge” going around recently (and likely still) where individuals posted a new photo of their significant other every day for a week in an effort to celebrate love and marriage. A year ago, I would have been swept up in it and happily posted my own. This year, if truth be told, I felt only bitterness and envy.
When I see young people in love for the first time, older adults finding love again after escaping a difficult relationship, or a sweet elderly couple holding hands and clearly still smitten with one another, it is like a stab through the heart because I’m so lost myself right now. I miss my other half. Truth be told, I loved being in love, and while I know I’m surrounded by family and friends who love me, it’s not exactly the same. Who am I kidding? It’s not the same at all (and that’s precisely the point!).
As A and I used to say about many things, I don’t begrudge anyone their happiness. On many levels, it really warms my heart to see people in love; it just brings fresh pain in knowing that my love is gone. On the heels of that is guilt that I never realized just how much my being in love may have brought pain and jealousy to others, especially my dear friends who suffered through terrible marriages and even worse divorces. (Despite my belief that far too many couples simply quit without really making an effort, there are definitely relationships that are genuinely harmful and from which individuals need to escape.)
They say the first step toward change is acknowledging you have a problem, right? Well, I’m going to do my best to be genuinely happy for those in love, knowing now how difficult it is to find and hold onto. Meanwhile, I’m slowly working my way through the rainbow of emotions and have learned blue sucks, and green isn’t any picnic, either. So I’ll keep trudging along and looking for the color that fits and feels right. Please bear with me while I do…
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