Jennifer Ball was 26 when she married. Thirteen years later, she and her husband divorced. Below, Ball, who blogs at Happy Hausfrau, writes a letter to the woman she was on her wedding day.
Oh hey there, 26-year-old pregnant bride: I see you there, in your black velvet dress from Banana Republic, with the tag tucked into the back so you can return it later. I remember the flutters you felt that day: some were caused by the baby but most were the result of nerves.
I know all you want is a happy ending. Up until now life has been an unsure, scary ride with plenty of party pitstops along the way. When you and that handsome young man standing next to you found out the hard way that birth control pills are only 99 percent effective, both of you did what most people would do: you freaked out.
But together, you came up with a plan: You’d both grown up with divorced parents and had seen the good, the bad and the ugly that came with it. You had seen the outcome when a bad stepparent enters the picture, your betrothed had experienced being schlepped from school to school by his divorced parents.
That baby you're carrying? This marriage? It was a fresh start. A new beginning. A crisp, clean new chapter.
Oh, young me. I hate to break it to you, but despite the best intentions...there is no happy ending to this wedding tale. Don’t get me wrong! You do give that baby, and his three siblings-to-be, a really good life for a really good stretch of time.
You get to be a stay-at-home mom for a dozen years. Driving the minivan to Target and picnics at the park? That’s you (although your former party-girl self will struggle to believe it).
The busy days blend together and become years. You and your husband lose touch. You find out how long and deep the crevasse between two people can be, despite the fact that they’re sleeping right next to each other. Both of you may have had nothing but high hopes for this marriage, wanting so badly to create a life neither of you were able to experience, but it doesn’t happen.
You know what happens? Like Led Zeppelin said, communication breakdown happens. You focus on the kids and your husband focuses on work. Resentment builds up while your relationship falls apart. You’re exhausted at the end of the day. He’s frustrated. It almost seems comical, how stereotypical it is when he ends up falling for someone else.
Younger me, I’m not going to scare you with all of the gory details. But I will tell you this: It sucks, going through a divorce. You’re going to hurt more than you’ve ever hurt before. The sting of betrayal, the slashes of guilt and blame, the deep cuts of fear. You’re going to travel to hell and back and repeat that journey a few times before you’re done.
The key word in that last sentence is this: Done.
Everyone survives. Your kids not only survive, they grow up to be stable, well-adjusted, kind, happy people. There are scars, sure. But doesn’t everyone accumulate a few of those along the way?
What about you? Oh, girl. You do more than survive. You learn things about yourself and marriage and men and relationships. You discover unbelievable strength in yourself and those around you. You realize, a little late in the game, that we are all responsible for our own happy endings.
And guess what, 26-year-old me?
I don’t know for sure at this point if we get that picture-perfect happy ending, but I can tell you this: We’ve had an incredible start.
Now, go enjoy that cake.
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