A funny thing happens when you fall in love at a young age…you think you know it all. At least I did.
I met my first husband when I was 18 and he was 24 years old. He was going through a hard time in his life when we met, as was I, so the two of us instantly relied on one another for support. He was so different than anyone else I had ever met in my life (ahem, I was 18), which fascinated me. Everything from his “tell it like it is” attitude to the unique foods he ate, just pulled me in. Everyday we lived to just have a good time. He was the funnest boyfriend!
Keyword here: boyfriend. He was a terrific boyfriend.
We were young, we had so much fun partying all the time, living it up with friends, blowing money like we had it, living carefree…then we went and got married. Ughhhh, what happened?!
Ohhhhhh, it’s called growing up!!
Yes, we had to grow up. After almost 4 years of dating, we decided to get married. I figured when you got married all the dumb choices you made started to taper off, you know, as you mature. I waited for Cameron to stop doing that but he was the horse that could not be broken. He bucked at everything. He couldn’t be tamed.
I would spend the next 20 years of my life standing by his side, bad decision after bad decision. Together we went through his need for treatment centers, counseling, figuring out financial crisis after crisis, working through his compulsive behaviors, mental imbalances, every addiction you can have, etc. You name it, we went through it. I can’t think of much we didn’t go through, because he covered it all.
And on top of all that we also went through what every other young couple deals with in getting started in life: cars, house, figuring out how to live with someone, starting a family…
Growing up isn’t easy but being married to someone unstable makes it all that more difficult. So let’s just say my marriage wasn’t easy.
Now, I don’t regret the decision I made to marry Cameron at such a young age because I don’t think I knew any better. But would I have chosen the same type of man at age 38?
So, when you have the opportunity to get married a second time you really start to take everything into consideration:
What personality traits do I like and which ones do I think may become troublesome in the future?
Is he/she financially stable or smart with money?
How do they parent?
Do they keep a clean home?
What are their relationships like with friends and family?
Do they have any bad habits?
And I kid you not: how good or bad of a driver are they? Trust me, this is important. This is a great way to see if someone is irresponsible.
When you are older, you are wiser! You don’t want to repeat the same horrible issues you spent years trying to get rid of.
My second chance at marriage was a quick but well thought out decision. I have never prayed so hard in my life and I’ve never received such strong personal revelation.
Matt and I met and were married in less than 4 months. Cameron and I met and were married in 4 years. But there is a huge difference between the two.
In my 3 years of marriage with Matt I have never had to deal with even a fraction of what I endured with Cameron. And yet I felt guilty about that.
I will have moments where I wonder why Matt and I have gone months without a fight, getting along so well, and have peace in our home. And I will feel guilty about that.
For the first year or two I kind of just expected Matt to come home one day and tell me he was addicted to porn or that he blew money on something (because that would be something I was used to) but the day has never come. We share love and happiness instead. And I felt guilty.
You may be wondering why on Earth I would feel guilty for being happy?!
Honestly, because it makes me sad about Cameron and my first marriage. Because Cam and I struggled so often and we weren’t able to have this kind of joy, even after years of trying. We were supposed to live the life I have today and feel this happiness together and yet it didn’t happen. For twenty years I tried (ohhh how I tried) everything imaginable to have a successful marriage and a peaceful home but it never worked and then he died.
And that finality hurts.
You can’t keep trying when they’re gone. Its game over. And it feels like I failed. It’s almost like my mind is saying “if I didn’t have a perfect marriage with Cameron (especially after all the effort) then I’m not allowed to have one with anyone”.
I feel guilty at times that even under the circumstances that Matt and I have (8 children with deceased parents, children with anxiety, grief, step parenting issues, being such a large family, etc) we are still happier, drama free, and more stable than Cameron and I were. And I feel guilty about that.
So how do I handle the guilt? I am slowly working though it. At times I have to give myself permission to utter the words “I am happier than I’ve ever been” …and that hurts to say! It hurts because it feels like I’m saying “I’m glad Cameron is dead”–and that just isn’t true.
I’m happier today not because Cameron is gone and Matt “is better”, that’s false. I’m happier because I’ve used my experience with Cameron to make me a better wife the second time around. I don’t believe I would know such happiness had I not gone through my first marriage. Ive learned to appreciate the little things and to love a little deeper because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Our life experiences are like little stepping stones and I’m using what I know now to better my future.
One of these days I’ll let go of that guilt and just allow myself joy without hesitation. I’ll let myself just feel at peace that I’m at a good place in my life and that it’s okay.
Because no one should feel guilty about loving their life, right?