I have another blog. On that other blog, I wrote a letter to my husband for our 10th anniversary. However, BlogHer and Warner Bros. asked a group of bloggers to share their own Second Chance story in honor of the new film, Nights in Rodanthe, and I couldn’t turn down the chance. You can visit BlogHer.com and check out the special promotion they’ve got going for Nights in Rodanthe by clicking right here.
My story. Here goes…
On September 6th, my husband and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. The traditional wedding anniversary list tells me that we should be commemorating the occasion with aluminum, which makes sense because after the decade we have, we are in desperate need of a 6 pack of PBR.
I’m not entirely sure we actually liked each other all that much when we said, “I Do”, but we had a 5 month old baby and the invites were sent out, and, well, the show must go on, you know?
I was 23 years old the day I became a bride. I thought I had my entire life figured out. I’d lived a lifetime in those first 23 years, and if I knew any one thing, it was that I knew every single thing and no one could tell me otherwise. I was ready, mentally and physically, to move into my golden years.
Except, of course, that I forgot in all my infinite wisdom to tell me that nothing would stay the same for much longer.
By the time I reached the ripe old age of 24, I realized that marrying my second boyfriend maybe wasn’t the hottest idea I’d ever had. I realized that perhaps being a mother before I had been a child myself has just setting myself up for disaster. With this new information, I did what any reasonable, mature woman would do…I had another baby.
All the while, my husband was going through his share of twenty-something angst over in his corner, while I battled my own demons in my corner. Occasionally, we’d push each other up against the ropes, and sometimes we’d be flung into the center of the cage together for a while, only to stagger back to our corners with a bloody nose or a swollen eye (metaphorically speaking, of course) a short time later.
We spent the better part of our first decade of marriage making each other about as miserable as two people could. We didn’t do it intentionally; we were just fighting to figure out who we were as people. We had only really defined ourselves in the context of each other, as a family, and that only gets you through so much time before you just need to know who you are.
To say we grew apart would be the grossest sort of understatement. We never really were together enough to come undone. Though we truly have always loved each other, and neither of us have ever doubted that, there was always a thick layer of resentment clogging the veins that led to our heart, and that kept the love from flowing properly and feeding our relationship. As these things go, the relationship more or less died.
We piled insult on top of injury, we found new and creative ways to stick knives in each others backs, and we completely forgot how to trust each other. It was only a matter of time before one big thing would happen and the last few threads of surgical string that held our relationship together would come undone.
When it came, it came in a way that was bigger and more frightening than either of us ever imagined it would be. The details of the events that unfolded two summers ago are not as important as the events that unfolded after them. A major, dangerous, unforgivable sort of offense was committed by one of us, and a major, painful, unjustifiable reaction was had by the other one. With that, we died. Everything we had built over 8 years; our home, our family, our relationship, it all just ended, and it ended two years ago, the day before our 8th wedding anniversary.
My children and I moved 1600 miles away from my husband in the middle of the night. We began to build a new life for ourselves while I moved, one by one, through all the stages of grief. My husband stayed put in our house, silently and singularly moving through those same stage himself. The pain we brought to each other in our absence, with the absolute finality of our situation, was certainly more agonizing that the previous eight years of power struggles and head games ever could have been.
We were both forced to look in some very tall, wide mirrors. We had removed from each other the one crutch, the one scapegoat we’d always had before; each other. After a few heated, angry months, we had no other choice but to look inward and to take responsibility for our own share of the problems we’d never been able to surmount when we were together. We were forced, once and for all, to grow up, to be the adults we’d always felt the other one had denied us the chance to become.
We had more or less no contact with each other over the first 12 months of our separation. There were random phone calls to and from the children, and there was the occasional argument over money, but for the most part, we were happily on our own, finished with each other, all moved on and in the process of building new lives. We both began to find small bits of happiness in those new lives. We began to really understand who WE were, as individuals, Josh and Shannon as opposed to JoshandShannonandallthosekids. The beginning of our 30’s brought us both the chance to bloom, to shed all the angst and the drama that we had spent our twenties stockpiling. Once we came to the realization that we liked who we were, that we were each, individually, fairly awesome people, the one thing happened that everyone but us knew was coming. We sought each other out, to at the very least compare notes.
It started with a question, just one small question. “How are you?” Those three words turned into more specific questions like, “How is work?” or “How are things on the PTA?” Those questions, and their measured answers, turned into guarded conversations. Those conversations became open dialogues. Those dialogues turned into an invitation to visit. That visit led to an apology, a sincere apology on both sides, the kind that comes only when you don’t except acceptance of it, when no strings are attached to it. That apology led to a grand visit, a cross-country trek by station wagon with three kids and 1600 miles of road ahead of us to really chew on the implications of the week we’d spend in our former home, with all of our possesions, with a clean slate and anger that had been washed away by time and distance.
We never came back from that visit.
Two days ago, my husband and I celebrated the 10th anniversary of our rocky, painful, tedious, never meant to be marriage, and we truly celebrated because though we battered each other, though we pushed and pulled and tried at every turn to sabotage our relationship, we found a way to keep it together. We grew into each other as mere children, grew as far apart as two people could in our youth, and once we settled into ourselves, once we knew what the word ‘Ourselves’ really meant, we realized that the only people we wanted to spend the rest of our days with were each other. We learned that those first few hard years taught us how to not be, what to not do, what each other are capable of when backed into a corner. We learned each other’s breaking point. We saw that we could live without each other, and that made us aware of the fact that we didn’t ever want to again.
Its Never too Late For a Second Chance. Really, it’s not.
See NIGHTS IN RODANTHE Sept. 26th. Preview it here.