Monday, April 26, 2010

50 years

That's how long my parents have been married. My siblings and I celebrated their golden anniversary this weekend by having some family over and making a special meal for them.

I had so many mixed emotions watching how my parents treat each other after spending 50 years of their life together. 5o years! That's a long, long time. One would hope that they would be celebrating love and longevity and successes and friendship and many, many things about the life they've lived together.

Instead, my mom spent at least half of the day being grumpy because she hasn't wanted to be married to my father for maybe 40 years but has never been able to figure out what she wants to do about that, except complain. She realized late in the day on their anniversary that she hadn't even bought him a card. Reluctantly, she trudged out to Hallmark and came home to tell stories of how she complained to the lady who was offering her help because she couldn't find a card that she wanted to give to him. That's probably because Hallmark doesn't have a card offering regrets for having spent 50 years of your life being mostly unhappy with somebody.

And as for me, I spent a good part of the day vacillating between tearfulness and relief.

I'm relieved because I've known for a long time that what my husband and I were living together was going to end up as a depressing replica of my parents' marriage, if we spent our entire lives together. We didn't have good companionship or friendship with each other and I was pretty miserable for the last several years of my marriage. One of my greatest fears during those past few years has been that of ending up as a bitter, resentful, unhappy old woman, like my mother. I vowed to myself that I would not let that happen, but as it turns out, that is not the reason I left my husband nearly three months ago. But that's a different story for another time. Ultimately, my relief was based on knowing that I can't possibly end up like my mother now. I have started the slow and painful process of starting over that she never thought she could manage. But I'll also never know what it's like to spend 50 years of my life with anyone, and that's where the tears started.

I know that there are some people who never get divorced, who get married once to someone who makes them blissfully happy and live a lifetime of love together. I will never know what that's like. And I shed many tears this weekened over the loss of the dream that I've held on to for most of my 38 years, of spending my life with just one person. As it turns out, the thing I learned from my parents while they raised me was that no matter how miserable you are, you just don't walk away from a marriage. That's simply not an option. I never knew, until I was in my 30s, that the only reason my mom never left was because she couldn't support herself plus four kids if she did. She had limited education and job skills, so she stayed for convenience. But I always thought that she stayed because divorce was bad, very bad, in a devastating and horrific kind of way, so I decided that when I got married it was going to be for a lifetime. And now I have to accept that I'll never have the chance to reach a 50th wedding anniversary, and I shed tears over that, too.

I never meant for my marriage to be a lifetime of forced misery, and I certainly didn't mean for it to be a lifetime of emotional manipulation and instability, with occasional episodes of fear for my safety and that of my kids. All I really wanted was a lifetime of companionship.

Now, at least I know I won't devote years of my life to a miserable marriage. But I also don't know what kind of life I will have. It will involve being a mom, of course, but other than that I really don't know much about what it will be.

My mom thinks she knows, of course. She's going to try to get me to live her dreams for her, because that's what she thinks will make me happy. And I'll be honest: Her dreams aren't that bad. Start over, and hope to find someone who makes your heart feel complete, who offers you love and friendship and someone to enjoy life with.

But she never tried to pursue that dream for herself, so she can't know how painful it is to stare at the brink of an uncertain future that's filled with both hope and despair, relief and pain, thankfulness and sorrow.

I suppose that for now, I should cling to the good stuff; relief and hope and thankfulness. I just wish that despair and pain and sorrow weren't constantly battling against all of my best efforts.


ErikaRobin said...

I'm here to comment and tell you how much I adore you! :)

used2chaos said...

You may not get your 50 years, sweets. But, you will find someone that makes your heart soar...I know it to be true. I'd pick a shorter time with a true love over 50 years of a resentment-filled marriage. I know this is hard. I know. This part of your journey sucks. One step at a time, just keep moving forward. You've already done more than your mom ever dared to do. I'm proud of you, and I know she is too. Love you!

Jfer said...

Along the same lines as what Lori said, I'd rather have 10 or 20 years of contentment, attraction and connection than to have 50 years of bitterness and resentment. Try to dwell on those positive things, honey. They'll carry you through to your true love.

yogapantz said...

I can't imagine living a life like your mom did, and I can't imagine it for you. I'm glad you took initiative to change your life to make it a life you want to live! You've given me much to think about, AM.

Jenna said...

Anne Marie, I really believe that it is better to only have a few years of marital bliss than 50 of miserable realization that you're never going to be happy with that other person. Time doesn't change that. When you do find your love, you will do it, maybe not knowing exactly what you WANT, but certainly knowing what you DON'T.

You are your own person, not your mother, and not the woman who didn't know that she could have more, have better... and not only that, deserved it. You will find love and happiness and joy in your life. I believe that, absolutely.

ethans_momma06 said...

It's not about how long you are with someone, whether it is short or long.

If you are with someone who truly makes you happy, even if it's just for 2 years- isn't that better then reaching a huge milestone (like 25 or 50 years) with someone who only made you feel o.k.? Or worse, who made you unhappy?

Sometimes we have to give up some of our percieved 'goals' to get what we really want. I am betting that what you really want is just to love and be loved, to have someone love, cherish, and value you for the rest of your life. And maybe now that things in your life have changed- you'll be able to get that.

Dest said...

The wisdom has already been shared so I'll just say I ♥ you and send you hugs.

gentle.mama said...

How sad for your parents, AM. Everyone deserves their happiness, and I believe you are on your path to finding yours. ((hugs))

Mommy, Daddy, Baby Girl, and Baby Boy said...

I am so happy that you won't have 50 years of unhappyness. I am sorry that your parents do. Know that we love you. Hugs my friend.

Kelley said...

It would be easy for me to say that there is that perfect life and love out there for you so don't be afraid to leap. But I'm certain it's not as easy as that, and I know if I were in that place, I'd be a bit (or maybe a lot) frightened, too. I do believe that a great life and love await you, and although the journey may be scary and uncertain, know that we'll be with you all the way.