by JJ Carson, author of the Ex-Factor, http://addingextospouse.wordpress.com
This weekend I attended a family wedding. A Memorial Day weekend event. It was beautiful. Traditional. Festive and fun. All the things a wedding day should be.
Despite all that I've been through, I still like weddings. I love going with my kids. I promised my 8-year-old daughter who LOVES to dance that we would 'shake it til we break it!' And we did. We didn't stop until she dropped. It was a fun evening with family.
Here comes the 'but.'
But... I couldn't help but reflect. Not out of sadness. Not out of anger. Not even out of wistfulness of the past. Just out of reflection and learning.
Sixteen years ago on Memorial Day weekend, I was the one in the white dress. Glasses clinked, I had cinched 'forever' with my soul mate. And I really thought he was.
Well... it didn't quite work out the way I had envisioned when I was the one throwing the bouquet.
As I listened to the toasts and looked at their happy faces, I thought... where will they be 16 years from now? Will they 'make it?' I hope so, I really do. The groom, my second cousin, holds a special place in my heart. And like anyone who's been married, I wanted to depart words of wisdom as I filled out my card.
What do I say? What words of wisdom do I have? Am I, of all people, in any position to give any advice?
But I gave it my best shot thinking... if I haven't learned anything from this divorce, then all of the pain was for not.
So, I told the new couple to be honest. No matter how hard. No matter how much you don't want to hurt someone with your words, be honest but respectful.
I told them to ask for what they need, even when they feel selfish for asking.
And I told them, don't forget the 'Us' time. Even when jobs fail, kids make life busy and... you want to smother him in his sleep with his own pillow for the 100th forgotten dirty sock... don't forget the 'Us' time. Get it however you have to. The money you spend on sitters, the favors you ask of family will be NOTHING compared to what you will need in a divorce. Look at it as an investment plan.
In hindsight, I recognize I let those things go by the wayside. I thought I had time to bridge those gaps. The 'normal' gaps of marriage and then small kids.
But gaps turn to chasms.
Ultimately, my story would have ended the same way. I believe that. But, I still have ownership. There are things I regret, things I have learned and lessons I will carry forward. Practicing those lessons in real life makes me uncomfortable sometimes, but I'm determined to learn them just once.
So, I signed the card, raised my glass and put my thoughts aside for the night. After all, I still had plenty of shaking to do before I could break it.