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A Life’s Goal Achieved:  To Love without Fear.

January 2017
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My wife and I have worked really hard on our marriage over the last 20 years.  We did the “should we divorce” tap-dance for a bit but when it came down to it we both decided we would not only stay married, we’d put everything we had into the union.

To say it worked is a bit of an understatement.  The trick is, we both had issues to work on and we both had to fix our own issues.  Trying to fix the other’s never works out, and for those who have tried, well let’s just say divorce lawyers have to eat too.

Some of my baggage involved never really fully getting into the marriage on an emotional level in the first place, and that was entirely fear-based.  My fear, specifically, was selfish and revolved around “what happens if I get hurt”, or more to the point, “what happens if my wife cheats and I’m too devoted.  I don’t think I could take that”.  Put simply, if I went all in to the marriage and she did something like that, I’d be devastated.  The end result was that I always held back a little, thinking I’d just keep it under wraps.  What ended up happening was I stayed just a little separated from the marriage, emotionally.  That led to my wife and I living single lives, together.  We were never able to act as though we were fully married.  It was a kind of “partial marriage” if you will.

Now, where this gets fun is that I expected my wife to be all in, so when she withheld her little bit (though in a vastly different way) we ran into huge problems…  We were both withholding a little bit of ourselves from the relationship.

Now, the pain in the butt is that I can only do something about my part in this.  I’d be better off attempting to fly by jumping off a building without a parachute than try to change my wife.  I can only change myself, and that’s where the fear comes in because what happens if I change but my wife refuses to work on her crap?

This is a hard fear to shake, but it was flawed thinking that led me there in the first place.  The following two notions decimated that fear:

If I’m willing to change and work on the relationship in a positive way, including, but not limited to, holding back from the relationship, how could the entire dynamic of the marriage not change?

If I’m not willing to change, or if I wait for my wife to change first, how can I expect anything different?

My fear, as is so often the case, centered around my habit of trying to solve problems with the same thinking that created them in the first place.  Now pay attention carefully to the words I’m about to write because this matters in terms of overall life happiness:  My fear that my wife would not change if I was willing to put in the effort and change myself was based on a flawed premise to begin with – it was centered on “me”, not “we”.  The reality is, if I change “me”, I change “we”.  My wife and I cannot have the same relationship if I change and keep my side of the street clean.  It’s impossible.

Now, the reality of it worked out like this:  I changed, my wife changed, and “we” absolutely changed and it was all for the better.  My wife and I love each other so deeply it’s hard to put into words, really.  Our relationship just feels good.

I read a post that “called bullshit” on the old adage, “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”.  Every messed up relationship I was ever in before my marriage got me to a place where I could enjoy this.  Every heartbreak, every gut punch…  It all made me who I am today.  And today I can understand the true meaning behind that statement that it’s better to have loved and lost.  I actually think about it every time my wife and I are in synch and loving each other in the same wavelength…  I look at her, she looks at me, and that’s all it takes.  Feeling that good as a “we” is worth the risk, because without leaving my heart on the table, without fully committing to the marriage, I’d never get to feel that.  I’ve tried.  It just doesn’t work when I hold a little bit back.

Today, rather than sweep problems under the rug, hoping they’ll just go away, we deal with them head-on and resolve them.  We are protecting what we worked so hard to build, because now that we’ve spent some time in the sunlight of real love, we’ve come to the conclusion that the experience is too good to allow petty things to get in the way.  We’ve created a union where there was once two separate people cohabitating.

But what about lost?

This is undoubtedly a tough concept to grasp, especially in the middle of the loss.  If my wife were to pass early or leave me for another man (or cheat, same thing) it would be absolutely devastating but only from an obtuse point of view.  One might think the latter would be harder to handle because there would have to be forgiveness and coming to grips with whether or not “I was good enough”.  

In the end, if my wife isn’t into the marriage wholeheartedly, I’d rather know sooner than later so I could move on.  I can see how someone could get caught up in the loss for a while though, especially while in “end of the world as I know it” mode.  On the other hand, God as my witness, I’m still siding with better to have loved and lost.  To love my wife enough to have my heart still skip a beat when she gives me her little smirk, after all of these years, is worth the risk of losing it later.  As I wrote earlier, I’ve tried marriage hedging my emotions just in case.  With that little wall between us, the relationship could never be as good as it gets.  

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10 Comments

  1. mmpalepale says:

    Love this! It’s hard for a person to look into themselves and take responsibility. The fact that you realized you were a factor from the beginning is something some people fail to ever understand. And your “no regrets” attitude is commendable.

  2. rebecak says:

    Oh man… I’m not sure where to begin, how to begin, or what words to use…

    I think the key is that I am in the throes of loss like you said while you are not. While I was in the midst of the relationship, I was willing to give all of me because it was soooo worth the risk. Every single thing I did from the moment we met to the decision to continue the relationship as long distance when he moved to Colorado was because it was completely worth the risk.

    As I said in response to you yesterday, we just worked… there was something so easy about the way we did things and the way we existed. He was totally different than any person I’d met before… he listened and when problems arose, we did the same thing that you said you guys do… we faced them head on. We never let problems fester because we both knew that’s how things break and fall apart.

    THAT is what makes all this so unbearable… I NEVER saw it coming, we were seemingly doing everything right. The last 2 relationships I was in where I was cheated on, I could’ve told you it was coming and I fully accept responsibility for staying in those bad relationships when I should’ve ran for the hills. But this one… this one… this one fooled me good. Trust and believe that I have analyzed and analyzed and picked it apart since it ended to figure out what went wrong but I have yet to figure it out.

    Maybe it was the distance, maybe it was that he was younger than me with no kids and less life experience, maybe I was foolish… who knows. But, in the end, he didn’t realize what he had with me and decided that chasing tail was the better option. One day, he’ll realize what he lost but it will be too late for us both because once trust is lost it never comes back quite the same. Once you become guarded, it’s hard to drop the walls.

    I know you clearly don’t agree with me but I still would rather never have loved him no matter where it takes me. Maybe that is just the space I’m in now because my wound is wide open, maybe I’ll always feel this way, I don’t know but I’ll let you know if it changes.

    I was looking at pictures on my Instagram last night and there are still pictures of him there (I’m a big believer in leaving things be because you can’t erase the past simply by deleting it and, yes, those moments created the person I am today). But, it’s not the pictures of him that hurt the most… it’s the pictures of me BEFORE him that hurt the most. I look into that woman’s eyes and I see a happiness that is untouched by the pain I currently feel. That woman had no idea that her world would be ripped apart. I miss that “happy, carefree girl” that I once was. Those, by the way, are the words he used to describe the woman I was when he first encountered me. Funny (but not so much) how his choices are what destroyed the very thing he loved most about me.

    The universe and I are not friends and I have come to understand that our relationship will always be like that so I keep moving, I keep rolling with the punches, I keep ‘faking it till I make it.’ I got up and I ran 22 miles yesterday because I will NOT let a man steal what I have worked so hard for. I will toe that start line in 3 weeks and I will get the job done but I won’t sit here and lie to you now and say that I am thankful to have loved him because, at this moment, I am not.

    • bgddyjim says:

      I have a funny feeling you’ll get back to being that awesome woman again. You’ve been dealt a horrible blow and your reaction is completely natural. And there’s no way I’d expect you to heal up from this quickly! I know I wouldn’t either. On the plus side, you’re beautiful and you ride a Venge… you have an instant head start over much of civilization! Coming to realize that it’s better to have loved is a goal, not a requirement when we’re laid open and hurting.

      Now, were I in your position right now, my short term goals would be to fully marinate in that pain. I would want to embrace it, let it roll through every pore in my body (most suggest to magically “get over it” but that’s BS). This leads to one growing bored with feeling that way. Maybe “tired” of feeling that way would be better. Either way, that’s the path to regaining that woman who is in the “before” photos. She’s in there, you just have to find her.

      Now, there is one flaw with my thinking and way of handling these emotions and that had to do with gender. Men and women do emotions differently and that can cause difficulties in translation and how we “work” with those emotions. As far as I’m aware though, the method described above is gender non-specific.

      Oh, and one more thing I like to keep in mind with a gut punch like the one you’re recovering from: All things in life prepare me for what’s next.

      This relationship, for you, was getting you ready for something much better and from the sounds of it, that’s going to be a very good thing. I hope it comes quickly for you and I wish you peace of mind.

  3. Sheree says:

    I’ve been married for nearly 40 years and my beloved still makes my heart miss a beat and I can’t imagine life without him. Though I still kid him that I haven’t yet met the man I’d swap him for.

  4. Christina says:

    Great perspective. I was married, put my all in, ended up in a divorce after 5 years. I was young.

    Then I met my current husband immediately after the separation, and we were both guarded for different reasons. It took years of patience and learning good communication, but we love each other now openly and fully then ever, and have never looked back. Sure we almost broke up a couple of times, maybe once was really serious, but I was in grad school and working full time and that was stressful. Communication is the main thing, as you clearly are good at doing! After 8 years together we finally got married last year in November. It took the same realization for us, basking in the sunlight of real love, as you put it which made it pretty hard to go back to being so guarded. And you realize how unnecessary it was the whole time. I thinks it’s about just being brave enough to take the risk, but that is probably one of the hardest things to do after you’ve been burned in the past. I love your story though and am happy for you 😊. Sadly they don’t all turn out that way but it’s always worth a try if you believe in that person enough. And I totally believe that risk makes you a better person in the end no matter the outcome. You can only control your own actions, and if you know you have it your best shot then there’s nothing to regret.

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