13 – The Luckiest Number
This is the story of how my husband and I fell in love,
lost each other, and then found each other again.
I love my husband. Like, no really, I love him. I love him more than anyone or anything. And you know what? He was so easy to fall in love with! He’s smart, charismatic, funny, good looking, fun, impulsive, loving, passionate, and hard working, just to name a few of his qualities. He’s not perfect, but when we started dating my life exploded with a light that I hadn’t seen before and he was the sun. We were crazy about each other. When we were dating we lived about 4 hours from each other and we did everything we could to be close. We talked on the phone, drove, bummed rides, what ever it took to see each other. Falling in love was pure magic. It was joy. To fall in love with him and have him do the same in return…what can I say, its the stuff poetry and love songs are made of. And it was real. It wasn’t just a spell the would fade and pass, it was deep and meaningful. It was the kind of relationship that robs you of any thought of a future without that person. It was just everything.
Our courtship was short. I used to make fun of girls like me. We met and started dating in March of 2000, were engaged by July, and married in October. Friday the 13th to be precise. We have healthy senses of humor and loved the idea of flipping the proverbial bird to the “unluckiest” day of the year. Our day, our lives would be perfect. Magic.
And we did. We had many days, many years of happiness, but not bliss. Kids came but not that magic we had once known together. And it got worse as time went. Matt was unhappy and I was perfectly willing to ignore our unhappiness. He and I both tried and failed to address our issues but after so many years of not succeeding our failing marriage reached a crescendo. He lived his life and I lived mine. Two people lost in the same house.
So, a few weeks after our 11th wedding anniversary he came to me and suggested we separate. I was devastated and convinced this was just the beginning of the end for us. He was desperate to be heard and genuinely thought a separation might help us get perspective. We couldn’t agree on very much, but there were a few things we did agree on. First, was our kids. At the time we had a nine-year-old daughter, a 6-year-old son, and a 1-year-old son. We wanted to make an unstable and scary situation as stable and painless as possible. We agreed the best way to do this was to NEVER speak poorly of each other in front of or to the kids. We agreed that Matt would still come over to the house after work to help with homework and bed time. We agreed to not fight in front of them. We agreed that they would spend one night each weekend with him at his apartment. He didn’t want me or the kids to suffer financially so we continued to run the bank accounts the same way as when we were living together. He didn’t play dirty and neither did I. We knew that even if the separation ended in divorce we still had a lifetime of raising our kids together.
We also agreed that we needed help. We knew we couldn’t deal with a separation and what it might hold on our own. So we sought out counseling. Karen Kindred was recommend to us and we starting seeing her. For the most part we saw her separately, even though she is a couple’s therapist and her goal was to help us either fix our relationship or let it end amiably. We worked hard with her. Seeing a good therapist isn’t easy but we were willing to do what it took to go in a better direction. After three months of separation and counseling I finally decided that I was ready to move on with the divorce. It took three days of explaining my decision to Matt to get a divorce, and it was three of the worst days of my life. I told him the night of my 33rd birthday and 5 days later, on his 35th birthday, we were on the same page. No more counseling to fix the marriage, the counseling from that point on would be to prepare for divorce and single life.
But a funny thing happened. When Matt and I both believed, really believed that the marriage was over, we stopped looking at the other person’s faults and started examining our own. Instead of looking at the other person with disappointment, or anger, or frustration, we looked inward and really asked, “What can I do to be better? How can I avoid going down this road again? What are my flaws that have lead me here?” Suddenly the whole world was different again. Letting go of the consuming blame for the other person opened our hearts and minds to dealing with our own issues that had been a destructive force in our relationship. We started working on our own faults and as we did this our relationship changed. It changed! For the first time in years we started seeing the other person’s perspective. The issues that had been destroying us were dissolving as we worked to overcome our personal faults. We stopped trying to fix each other and started to fix ourselves and much to our amazement, that started to fix our marriage.
Just a few weeks after I told Matt I wanted a divorce, I knew in my heart that we were on the road to recovery. I continued to see Karen and he continued with his own therapist, separately working on our own issues. It wasn’t like when we fell in love. It wasn’t fast, comfortable, or easy. It was the opposite. But it was also magic. Don’t get me wrong, it took so long and such hard work. Sometimes it seemed that for every 2 steps forward we would take 3 steps back. But we didn’t stop. We kept going. We rediscover that deep, real love we had for each other. It wasn’t gone or destroyed, it was just lost for a while.
With the help of professional therapy, hard work, and by God’s grace, we found each other again. We dealt with issues that had plagued us for years. We learned new and healthier ways to communicate. We more fully understood who we were as individuals and what that meant for us as a couple. And that original connection, that magic from the beginning was not just rekindled, it burned into something new, brighter and better than we had ever known.
Today, Matt and I have officially been back together for six months. We have been in therapy for two years and continue to go separately on a regular basis. Our journey is not over, but it is not an uphill battle anymore. It is our tender new dream from the beginning of our relationship, realized.
I used to believe that there is no such thing as love at first sight or soul mates or promises in a different life to find each other in this one. I’m not such a skeptic any more. Why? Because I finally see that the man I chose, the man I fell in love with over 13 years ago is the perfect man for me and I’m the perfect woman for him. We work for it, we try, we constantly re-evaluate what it takes to make our marriage successful and happy. Yes, it’s a lot of work, and yes we still fail. But guess what, that’s normal! Karen says it’s the 80/20 rule. If you are happy in your marriage 80% of the time and frustrated or angry or whatever negative feelings we have toward spouses 20% of the time, then you are normal. Better than normal, you’re doing great. Today, at this moment as I write these words, I’m having a hard time giving the bad even 1%.
Today is October 13, 2013, our anniversary. Matt, I want to say thank you. Thank you for recognizing what I could not see. Thank you for following you gut. Thank you for giving me everything you have and everything you are. Please know that you are cherished. That you have all of me. And, come what may, Friday the 13th in 2000 was the luckiest day of my life.