I’m skipping around here in my How Not to Get Chumped Again advice (blame my recent vacation), but I had a bit more to say on the subject. I hope you’ll find this hopeful, because it’s been rather revelatory for me.
4. Not everything is pathological. All those chump qualities you possess? Thinking the best of others, trying hard, and even some spackle — in the service of the right sort of relationship are not bad things. Now, I am NOT saying don’t examine yourself. If you’re a flaming codependent (I was), get help for that. If you persist in thinking well of someone despite mounds of hard evidence to the contrary, you need to stop that. And if you’re comfortable with lopsided giving, that’s never going to be healthy.
But what I am saying is — chumps, you don’t suck at this marriage thing. You sucked at choosing the right person. If you’ve got a bad picker, there’s help for that (outlined in the previous advice — mostly pay attention to their actions, and look for reciprocity, kindness, and interests in common). But it’s entirely possible that you will reconnect in the future with a giver, another chump, a decent person and find out — wow… relationships aren’t THAT hard. You aren’t a shrieking harpy. You aren’t that hard to live with. You are found attractive. You aren’t succumbing to drama and fights, or coldness and withholding. There isn’t a secret bastard child you don’t know about, or dating profile, or missing retirement funds. Life is just rather… normal.
Yeah, normal exists. Who knew?
If I have any dispatch to send you from the other side of infidelity, coupled up again, it’s this — you can DO a healthy marriage with a healthy person. Look, I’m not saying my marriage or me or my husband are perfect. We’ve got our issues like anyone else. But what’s different is I have a full partner where I never had one before. Whatever drama life imposes on us (teenagers, disease, five feet of floodwater), we work through together. That’s new! Ex-husband #1, would stonewall and refuse to discuss anything, Ex-husband #2, would fuck around and rage. Both would point to me and say I was the problem, because I saw a problem.
That stayed with me. I did think I was the problem. Two failed marriages, and trust me, people see you that way. Aren’t you the little fuck up? When I got married again my family was like “Yeah, good luck with that.” Not a big vote of confidence there. I’m sure they wanted to be happy for me, but they’re flinching too.
Several years into it now — what’s apparent to me is I’m not a failure at marriage. I’m actually quite adept at it. And so is my husband (Mr. Hard Ass Kill Joy No One Can Live With You according to his ex). All of our chumpy qualities are still a part of us. We’re givers. We compromise. We take people at their word. We’re not comfortable receiving. But these aren’t deadly flaws. It’s just startlingly apparent that in the past we were with some really disordered fucked up people who did fucked up things. It’s mortifying… we chose them… but it really didn’t have much to do with us, who we are, who we continue to be.
Bad choice. Bad person. It can be corrected. It’s not fatal. It was never really about you.