My first marriage ended two and a bit years after it started. It didn't fail, it ended..
With the end of that marriage came a waterfall of emotion, upheaval, new beginnings, sore endings, heightened feelings, angry words, resentment and the "what ifs". But the strongest feeling? Devastation and crippling disappointment in myself, coming from a large family on both my mum and dad's side it was a strange feeling. I was the first and the only one (so far) to get divorced. Why had this happened to me? Why did I have to be different, cause a stir? Buck convention?
Despite what we read in the media about the divorce rates and 'failed' marriages, I truly don't believe for a moment that it's as shallow as it sounds. For me it's because times are changing, our generation have been raised to believe in equality, to be emotionally intelligent enough to know that it's not simply a case of 'getting by'. We are allowed to enjoy what we have, be it materially or emotionally or all of it!! Most importantly women have a voice and freedom. Men are being raised to know that women have their own strengths. If a situation is bad it can be changed.
And that was the problem in my first marriage. We couldn't change. Neither of us. He was strong-willed and believed women had a place. I was strong-willed and believed I could be independent and a wife and a mother. We were both right. Just not together.
We had met for a reason, there were millions of them, but the single most important was our daughter. I can only speak for myself when I say I had completely underestimated how much harder having a child would make a separation and then divorce. A lot of time has passed now and the waters are a lot calmer, but it hasn't been easy. Not one bit.
I learnt hard cold lessons about myself, the kind of thoughts and feelings that you think you'll never have. Huge highs - the feeling of 'I Can', 'I will' and 'Wow' but the lows were like nothing I have experienced. All out failure, my heart ached even though I was the one that asked for the divorce. The judgment from people around me, the 'do you not think you could have tried counseling/tried harder/tried changing?'
I had tried, I'd tried so hard that I had disappeared and turned into a human I didn't recognize, spark gone. Lights out.
In the dark times I would think of my grandparents, married in the late 1940's, my grandmother a wildly independent and spirited soul who met the love of her life Michai, a ridiculously handsome and impeccably dressed Romanian who had ended up in the UK after being captured in World War 2. They were married when my gran was 19 and quickly my mum was born. Their life was tough, really tough. Discriminated against from the wider community and cut off from (some but not all) of my gran's family and friends.
Was it that their relationship backed by the soundtrack fit for a Hollywood Movie? Or was it sheer grit and determination? What was it that led them to be together until the day my grandad died?
I watched my own parents, my sister and her husband, my cousins, aunts and uncles and a theme started to emerge.
There was no magic wand, there was no formula but there was something that they all had. Themselves. In each relationship, whilst a couple they were also individuals. Yes, they may have slowly over years adapted their behaviours or opened their minds to different ways of doing things but they were still fundamentally the same person. In fact in some cases, they had become stronger versions of themselves as a result of the support, love and loyalty within the marriage.
All of the relationships were perfectly imperfect. They had grown and changed but stayed together. Why? Because when it came to things like money, working, raising their children their baseline was the same.
At times my gran was hateful to grandad, and at times he was a selfish bastard, so it wasn't all about romance, but it was real. As real as the relationships I am surrounded by today.
I can remember really taking notice of if all, and thinking that if I was lucky enough to meet someone to be with, to build a family with, a home, a life. A second chance. I needed to strengthen up and learn what my "base line" was, without it the same old relationship pattern would start again.
The day my divorce came through, it was an unusually sunny early spring day. I walked to the chip shop and randomly sat on a bench with Esme eating chips, completely baffled by the fact that with a date stamp on a piece of paper it was done. Divorced. Single.
When I met Chris, all the 'things' I had listed in my mind as a priority in my 20's no longer existed. My mum had said to me just weeks before we met "What you need Bec is soft and gentle, strong, but gentle." I remember almost laughing out loud, but she was right.
Chris is gentle and quiet, but driven, strong, loyal, protective and the most intelligent man I know. We are complete opposites. I love people, spontaneity, loud music, entertaining. He is naturally quite shy and prefers to be in the background. He is a listener and I am a talker. He drives me bonkers. I drive him crazy with my over reactions and passionate opinions. I am crap with money, whilst he should be Martin Lewis's right hand man.
Marriage is not 'one size fits all' kind of club. What works for us wouldn't work for others, Chris works A LOT, and I am on my own A LOT, however, we feel the same about our kids and family, and generally most decisions are shared ones plus we hate Sci-fi and walking boots.
We have the same base line.