Tuesday, April 5, 2011
I've been married for seventeen years and in all that time, I can't ever remember feeling like I was enough for my husband. The circumstances under which we got together were not ideal. We were both coming out of relationships; his was serious and long-term, mine was melodramatic and not-so-long term. But then, all my relationships were like that.
We were each other's rebound partner. I just recently realized that and I must admit it hurts me to acknowledge it.
As a teenager and young woman I was consumed by melodrama. Everything was a tragedy; it was me against the world. My relationships, if I can even call them that, were tumultuous at best and all of them were the great loves of my life. I longed to marry these men one day and I daydreamed about how our children would look. And I didn't even want kids. Enter the theatrics.
The last "relationship" I had before I met my husband was with an older man; I was nineteen, he was twenty-seven. I was fascinated by his wisdom and worldliness. He was both the daddy I wish I'd had and the experienced lover who intimidated and excited me all at once. His only attachment to me, however, was that he loved bragging to his friends that he was banging a hot nineteen-year-old. He told me that we were not boyfriend/girlfriend, that we were just friends who had sex. "Friends with benefits" before the phrase was coined. This was my first experience with something of that nature. I had had friends that would sleep with men without the benefit of the "girlfriend" label, but I had never done it myself. I had only recently discovered the pleasures of sex with a man and I didn't know how to separate my body from my emotions. When he continued to date other women, it hurt me to my core, but I didn't want to seem like a baby. I pretended, not very well, that it didn't bother me. I had cried and screamed and had all sorts of emotional breakdowns. By the end, I was just numb. I just didn't care what he did to me anymore.
In my husband's case he had been dating his high school sweetheart since tenth grade. She was a year older than him, so when she left home for college, he counted the days until he would graduate and join her. They still would see each other on holidays and some weekends. They talked on the phone a lot and wrote long love letters. A year later when he joined her at school, it didn't take him long to notice that something was different. They weren't as close as they used to be. She was drifting away from him, but he didn't want to admit it to himself. Even then, he didn't like change. He fought for her until it was clear that he had lost the battle. By the end of his sophomore year in college, it was very clearly over for them.
That summer is when he met me. His relationship had recently ended and I was still ensconced in my non-relationship. I didn't like him at first. He annoyed the hell out of me. But he made me laugh...that was all it took for him to turn my attention away from the guy who was everyday breaking my heart. He made me feel like I deserved to be respected, that I deserved better. I will always love him for that.
Recently, we've been trying to provide some gentle guidance to our teenage son about his current relationship. It seems to me that my son's relationship is going in the same direction as did my husband's teenage romance. I was thinking that my husband should share that with him: how he loved her throughout high school, how he followed her to college, and how they had grown apart. Thinking about those times so many years ago made me recall things that had happened in our marriage over the years with regard to this woman he had once loved so passionately. Like how curious he was about 'what she's doing now' for years after they broke up. Like how he always knew where she was working or what was going on in her life. Like how he was secretly calling her when I was pregnant with my first son. Like how he would get his car repaired at the place where her father was a mechanic.
I thought about these things and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew the answer to the question I'd been asking for almost nineteen years (including the 17 years we've been married).
I never felt like I was enough for him because I wasn't his first choice.
God, that hurts. You can imagine, I'm sure, the pain that I'm feeling right now. But if I'm honest with myself, somewhere way in the back of my head, behind my thin layer of self-esteem, I always knew. I didn't care because I never thought I deserved better. No, that's not true. He taught me that I did deserve better. I guess I thought that his love, divided or not, was better than no love at all.
This week's lesson, then, is not to settle for being second best. You deserve someone who loves you above any other person, besides himself, of course. You deserve that great love that comes only once in a lifetime, twice if you're lucky. You deserve to look in the mirror everyday and say to yourself, "I am enough." Because you are.
You are good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, sexy enough, skinny enough, rich enough, tall enough, short enough. Your lips are thin enough, thick enough, pouty enough. Your eyes are round enough, big enough, brown enough, blue enough. Your hips are round enough, thin enough, wide enough. YOU are enough. You are exactly who you are supposed to be at exactly the time you're supposed to be it. "There's always room for improvement," some might say. So improve if that's what you want. I just want you (and me) to know that if you don't do one more thing, if you don't improve upon who you are one iota, it doesn't even matter. Because right now, in this time and place, you are enough.
I love my husband, I really do, and I have no doubt that he loves me. But if I had to do it all over again, I hope that I would choose not to be his consolation prize.
Until next week,
Feed on love, subsist on peace.