Stumbling onto past ghosts

I look stoned here, but I assure you it was just the 90s.

Oh man. I came across some tucked away my wedding photos the other day and I all I could think of was how IMPOSSIBLY young I look. How fucking naïve my face is, and how miserable I know I was that day. And then, immediately following that, how I wish I could go back and tell that Amie not to do it. To skip out before we went through with it. To leave when my mom asked me if I wanted to back out.

Anything. Everything. To stop me from taking that leap. But, I did it. I went through with the traditional vows and had my first dance and watched all my friends and family be merry and get drunk and congratulate us.

Your past is part of makes you who you are. But I think it’s REALLY important to recognize that it doesn’t need to define you for the rest of your life.

Did I make a mistake marrying that guy? Probably. Did I know it at the time? I think I recognized on the honeymoon that it probably wasn’t the brightest idea I had, and I know for sure I stayed with him wayyyy longer than I should have because I didn’t want to branded a “failure”, but honestly, on that day? I convinced myself that I thought I was doing the right thing.

On my wedding day, I had already been with my soon-to-be husband for over 6 years. I was also still recovering from past abuse—unsure of who I was, insecure with every decision I made, horribly depressed because I was working 40 hours a week, going to school full-time, and racking up a huge amount of debt, and also somehow convinced by (most of) the people around me that “getting married and having a family and living in the ‘burbs” is just what you did. Everybody hated their jobs, and hated their life, and you know, kind of hated their significant other, even. And that’s just the way life is. It sucks, but you “get through it.”

Man, if only I’d know what a complete load of bullshit that was.

Did I love him? Sure I did. But:

1) When you are together with someone from age 19-30, a lot of shit changes. YOU change a LOT. He changes A LOT. I think if you’re lucky enough to have found the right person when you’re young, than you can change together, which is awesome. But that is totally not what happened with us.

2) On top of those changes, we were bombarded by a traumatic event (someday they’ll be a blog post specifically about this, but I’m  not quite ready for that yet) which caused us to both pull apart from each other rather than bring us closer together.

When I realized that we were sinking fast and our marriage probably wasn’t going to make it, I made an effort to try to save things but it was just too damn late. I was angry. He was indifferent. And we just weren’t in love with each other anymore. There was betrayal, and there was lying. And there was nothing left to do but file for divorce.

Some family members told me I was lucky that we didn’t have kids, and they’re right. To an extent. It’s certainly easier to extract yourself from someone’s life and never talk to them again if you don’t have a shared responsibility. But it also makes it harder to resolve some things. And I honestly don’t think it affects your feelings about the ending of your marriage—I mentioned it before, but there are so many “what ifs” that happen.

It’s hard to talk about stuff like this without sounding like you’re dwelling on the past, but honestly, I think everybody thinks about their exes sometimes—whether you married them or not. They were a part of your life, and it’s human nature to analyze past relationships and try to dissect what when wrong, where, how, and when. I don’t think it means we’re crazy, or we’re dwelling on things, or that we “can’t get over it.” As long as you learn something from every relationship you have, it’s not a failure. And it’s not wrong.

Related to that, hanging on to anger over something that’s failed, placing the blame entirely on one person, and continually referring to someone as “ruining your life” is so, so, so lame. I don’t think that shit is constructive in any way, and all it really does is make you feel like crap and mire you in unhappiness. Learn from it, forgive it, make changes within yourself, and move on.

What I learned from my marriage is that I deserve to be happy—in ALL aspects of my life, all the time. Every day. Does that mean I don’t have days that suck? Not at all. Of course I do! But it does mean that I know now that it is possible to have a job a like. A future I look forward to. A relationship that is so awesome I can barely stand it. A place to live that I LOVE.

It means I can choose how to be happy, and surround myself with people who love me and want the best for me, instead of wasting time on people who don’t. And most importantly: I can continue to learn and grow and love and be loved.

It means I should be around people who love me the way I am. And accept my craziness and my faults. And forgive me for doing stupid shit. It means I deserve someone who loves me, just the way I am. And that changing to mold myself into someone’s ideal of me is ridiculous.

It means I can stand up for myself when I’m being mistreated. And not be afraid to say how I feel, or voice my opinion. It means I can cut my hair as short as I want, and dress up in whatever I feel like wearing, even when it’s baggy jeans and an oversize tee-shirt.

It means I know how to be ME now.

And if a failed marriage helped me to get here? Then it was more than worth it.

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8 responses to “Stumbling onto past ghosts

  • megan noel

    another great mutilation.
    i ❤ "Your past is part of makes you who you are. But I think it’s REALLY important to recognize that it doesn’t need to define you for the rest of your life."

  • dahliacactus

    My god, I barely recoginze rgar little girl trying so hard to look tough.Great post.

  • abbytron

    Interesting that you write this, as I woke up at 4 a.m. Saturday morning thinking about my ex — my first serious boyfriend, the first person I ever slept with, and the person I was engaged to for almost a year before breaking it off with him. I couldn’t stop thinking about him so I got up and wrote a letter to him that I don’t intend to send, and even if I did, I wouldn’t know what address to send it to. Not so much working out where we failed in our relationship, but working out where we failed after it ended, because he’s the only ex I am not still on good terms with (for reasons one should hope he’d be over by now). In fact, I thought about just blogging this letter (he doesn’t use the Internet either) just to get my feelings out there. But I probably won’t because it’s just way more personal than I think I’m comfortable sharing.

    Anyway, the point you make about changing together (we were 18 when we got engaged) is a good one. Because when I think about it, we’ve both changed a lot since then, in completely different directions. And I imagine if I had seen the engagement through to the marriage, we wouldn’t have lasted either. No question I loved him then, and never really stopped loving him, but maybe that wouldn’t have been the case if we’d stayed together. If he’d made the decision to continue in the Army as he did, instead of leaving after 3 years. If I’d begun having children in my early 20s instead of ending up back at my mom’s house looking for work and landing a job at a newspaper. The life I have now is so good, I definitely don’t feel like I missed out by making the decision I did to break up with him. It led to everything I have now, and I could not be happier I’d never had kids. He could not be happier that he’s married to another woman and has kids (well, at least one that I know of anyway). We both ended up with what we wanted.

    Everything works out somehow. It may feel shameful at the time, but it’s all just a part of growing up. I think most people make at least a few really horrible choices when they’re young, and a lot of times that does involve getting married. I can’t even tell you how many people I’ve seen get married at 20 and then divorced by 21. What counts is that you made it through all that and are able to see how great your life is now. All of your experiences matter, even the really shitty ones. 😛

  • Suzy

    Once again Amie, your writing strikes a very deep chord in me. I went through a violent and abusive relationship that, although unbearably awful at the time, helped define me as a person. If I could go back, I wouldn’t change the things I endured, because they made me who I am today. It made me capable of recognising and appreciating true love and real friendship.
    Love to you. xo

    • Amie

      Suz – I’m SO sorry you had to go through that. But so glad you emerged from it with something positive. Lots of love from across the pond, lady.

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