There it is again, another photo of a happy, longtime married couple popping up on my Facebook newsfeed. Another celebration of an anniversary of over 20 years showing photos from their wedding day alongside a current one, their faces a bit older and their middles a bit thicker, but their smiles are still the same.
Another photo of their son or daughter going off to college, leaving behind the happy “empty nesters” who now have time to themselves, and to be with each other completely. What will we eat? Where will we go? they ask their friends online almost like giddy teenagers. The answer is eat anything and go anywhere you want to, together. They post pictures of their new adventures, with big grins, arms around each other.
Just the two of you. Forever.
And they’re happy about it. Truly happy!
I want to be happy for these couples, and actually I am. It takes a lot of work, determination and mental strength to stay together that long, and still want to hold hands and vacation together…alone.
I am happy for them, for this accomplishment. Proving to the world that yes, it can be done and it can be successful and feel right. You can stay married to the same person for half of your life, and still want to remain married to them for the other half.
But I am also sad, disappointed, angry. I feel gypped, shutout, let down, lied to about the whole “happily ever after”.
And yes, I am jealous. Sometimes angry tears kind of jealous, other times just melancholy.
I didn’t start out believing it was true or that it happened that often. Happily ever after is a fairytale. People eventually hurt you, and leave you. You never stay happy, do you?
I grew up not trusting love, not believing in forever. There weren’t many solid examples of true love around me. Those were stories and movie plot lines. I love a good rom-com where they discover their true love, but let’s be serious, that stuff never happens in real life!
I honestly questioned it in the beginning, I had the “what ifs” zipping around in my mind at a deafening speed. I was told that it does happen if you want it to and you’re with the right person. I believed him when he said he loved me, and would always love me.
I believed him, I trusted that he was dedicated to us and to our future together.
With every handwritten message in every birthday/anniversary card I believed that I was his other half, the part that completes him, the life partner that he’d always hoped for and couldn’t imagine living without.
So we bought the house and built a life together, over many years, many hurdles and some very big challenges. Children, moving, job changes, etc. That’s what makes your marriage stronger, isn’t it? That’s what bonds you to each other, those challenges, those hurdles, the surprises that test your relationship.
We were strong together. We built this thing brick by brick, together. Every day.
Until, one day, the challenge got to be too great. The sacrifices too much, the love too little. Until one day, he wasn’t the same person that promised me forever.