My husband discussed some hard stuff with me the other day. I’m proud of him for his self-awareness and courage and I’m also proud of me. Because my response, both in moment and in the days after, truly reveals how much I’ve grown since my first marriage.
I didn’t overreact, so I could be a safe place for him.
In my first marriage, I would have overreacted to something similar. I would have instantly gone to defcon 1 with my fears leading the charge. And my reaction would have been the furthest thing from a safe space. In fact, it would have announced, “I can’t handle this, so you need to protect me from it.” Ugh.
A few years ago, my insides probably would have thrown a panic party while I worked to maintain a calm exterior. An improvement, for sure, but still not ideal.
But now? I not only responded in a calm manner. I felt calm. I didn’t try to catastrophize or worry about what could, maybe, possibly happen. I just listened. Instead of being in my own fear, I could be with him.
I feel more compassion instead of a need for perfection.
In my first marriage, I was afraid of any potential blemishes. They were threatening, something to be feared. And so I felt a sense of disgust at any sign of imperfection in myself and in my first husband. Of course, since neither one of us could uphold this charge, there was a constant low-lying tension between my expectations and reality.
It’s different now. Which is especially good since my now-husband and I have officially reached the age of mammograms and colonoscopies. It’s hard to maintain that veneer of perfection when a nurse half your age is squishing your boobs against a metal plate.
I have so much more tolerance – and compassion – for the struggles that we all have. I no longer see the struggle as a sign of weakness and I enthusiastically celebrate the courage and discipline evident in those that don’t shy away from their particular battles.
My boundaries are both more forgiving and more robust.
Before, I expected perfection but would put up with a lot as long as I didn’t have to look too closely.
Now, my boundaries are set further back. They allow for mistakes and the opportunity to be human and messy. But at the same time, they are less tolerant of bullshit and will no longer be consoled with pleasing words that are spoken in place of action.
I have confirmation that I chose MUCH better this time around.
We are not defined by how we handle the easy times. Instead, character is truly revealed in how someone handles the hard stuff.
My first husband’s response to struggle was to hide, lie and act out of shame. After experiencing the brutal conclusion of that approach, I intentionally sought out someone with courage who’s default setting is in revealing rather than concealing.
Yet again, I’m filled with gratitude for what I endured ten years ago. It may have been a conflagration, but it was one that prepared me for the growth that needed to happen.