Before I was able to take the steps to move our marriage in the right direction, I needed to right myself to ensure a sound foundation. I needed to learn that feelings aren't facts, that I have to go through to get out, and who I am and what I am made of before I could find my way back to my marriage and really understand what it means to be a partner. A partner does not keep tabs; a partner does not force others to read their minds; a partner knows what they need and how to communicate, and to set safe and healthy boundaries. A partner knows how to compromise and how to not always have to win; when to give and when to take; and how to be vulnerable. A partner does not act maliciously or assume malicious intent. I did not know how to do any of these things, and my inability to be a good wife reflected this truth.
Sometimes I felt that our journey together continued out of sheer stubbornness. We did what we could with what we were given. But, still, we didn’t fold. I look back at all the ground I have traversed, and I think that part of me wants to diminish the accomplishment. I believed that anyone would have done what I have done in my situation. This was not merely me being humble, this was me really believing that what I have been through, and how I have prevailed, is not extraordinary. But I am starting to give myself some credit, because the truth is, the ground I have covered and the resilience I have displayed is much greater than ordinary. People get through things every day. But there is no need for any of us to reduce our accomplishments, goals, and dreams. I scaled a mountain. I fought a mountain lion. I escaped a natural disaster. I did more than survive, I thrived. I did so with humility, humanity, and grace.
The truth of the matter is that now I can recognize that when things got tough, I got tough, too. But this new strength is not the same as how I got “tough” in the past. Past tense tough for me meant building a wall, being indifferent, being emotionally unavailable, and using external validation to drum up even the smallest inkling of a real feeling since I had spent all of my time numbing those. I now know that toughness is being able to turn even the most difficult situations into opportunities for learning and growth. I know that toughness can be about vulnerability and releasing shame, rather than pretending everything is okay and refusing to ask for help. Though at times it wasn’t always easy, beautiful, and pretty, there is a reason that we made it through.
I have no idea what our future holds and if our paths will continue to diverge or once again, lead us back. But I have never felt more strongly that whatever the outcome, this life is not random. There is a purpose, and a meaning, if you take the time to look for it. I finally believe we are at the point as individuals where was can start rebuilding the partnership. I use rebuild loosely, because what we had before is unrecognizable in the most positive and powerful way. We were incapable of living full lives as individuals and if possible, even more incapable of doing it together. We were two broken people who used each other as life vests in the shipwreck of our lives. Now, we are learning how to sail on our own, yet take our individual journeys, together. We don’t have to sacrifice ourselves for our partnership, but rather, can learn to be the wind in each other’s sails.