When I was first married, I was a little haunted by something that happened at our wedding. We had asked some friends to share little pearls of wisdom at the ceremony. Paul, a friend of my husband's, contended that long marriages were based on shared values. He was going on his 15th year. So, he asked each of us to write down our top three values without showing the other, and then he would fashion something to say.
I knew then I might be in trouble. Jeff and I were very different. He was a musician. I was a manager with artistic leanings. He was a vegetarian. I was a carnivore about to give up meat. I was prone to being silly. He was trying to be a bit less serious. I recall that as I wrote down my values, I was conscious of trying to think of things that I thought would be in sync with what Jeff might write. That sounds absurd now, but it was in the spirit of a blended union that I wrote them.
The day of our wedding, we were all euphoric. Our families and friends were gathered together and all our focus was on sharing this wonderful day where we would embark on a new life together. But as Paul got up to say his piece, I was a little nervous.
He explained to the assembled crowd his purpose in asking Jeff and I to share our core values with him, and then proceeded to say, haltingly, that he was very concerned for us because the news was out that our favorite TV show "Twin Peaks" had been cancelled. Ha Ha. But that was all he said. Was it because our lists were so disparate, or had he just wanted to earn a laugh?
Cut to 12 years later. We'd done pretty well for having lost our favorite show. We got past the seven-year itch, and managed to unite in fertility treatments to be blessed with our second daughter.
But our marriage wasn't happy. Our lack of shared values reared up and kicked us both in the butt. I was never happier than being wrapped up in our kids schools, sports and friends. I planned vacations for us and thought I had created a happy home for the four of us. But Jeff seemed to want to be away at every opportunity. He was always heavily invested in his work as a musician, but it seemed to overwhelm his life when I was trying to build a family life for the four of us. The more I devoted myself to our family life, the more he stayed away. The more he stayed away, the more I devoted myself to what was left of our family life. Resentments built for both of us.
What became clear was that we really didn't share values at all. After 13 years of marriage, he announced he was moving out. It was devastating at first. And when I say devastating, I'm talking about can't speak, can't breathe, energy for essentials only, then collapse devastating. I couldn't believe what was happening, and tried desperately to revoke the behaviors that I thought had made him leave. I was petrified of being divorced.
But Jeff had a way -- which I was well aware of -- of being determined. Regardless of how this decision felt to me, I basically understood that it was irrevocable.
What happened next surprised me. I felt tremendous relief. I came to the realization that trying to blend our very different personalities, beliefs and visions was pointless. Who we each were had logically led to this. This was for the best.
Of course, I worried about our children. They were 9 and 3 at the time. I worried that our youngest would not remember that her Dad had ever lived in the same house with her. I worried that our oldest would internalize the distress.
But I hoped that they would have the opportunity to benefit from our circumstance. I hoped that Jeff and I would be better, more fully realized and fulfilled adults as a result of separating. I was optimistic that he and I would be more relaxed. If either of us remarried, they would get a chance to see a healthier relationship model. And in fact, that is what happened.
Within a few years of the separation, I met, fell in love with and married my current husband, Dan. He is much more my style. Our worlds blend easily. Our goals mesh. Jeff too met a woman who he feels more finely attuned to and he has married her.
In the end, I think our girls are better off. They get to see each of their parents happy with themselves, and happy with partners. I'm glad that I'm modeling a healthy, thriving, and mutually respectful relationship for them, even if it isn't with their Dad.
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