I am a romantic, always have been, and I probably always will be. I love Victorian clothes, houses, decor, and literature. I swoon over roses, chocolates, and Valentine’s Day. The phrase, happily ever after might be my mantra if I actually had a mantra—which I don’t. If a movie or a book doesn’t end with happily ever after I see no point in wasting my time on it. Imagine my complete feeling of failure when my marriage crumbled. It was like the end of a movie where the horses ran in opposite directions and the sunset clouded over.
I Have Failed at Marriage
Have you noticed how often the words divorce and failure are used together? People say, "my marriage failed," or something similar when they tell others of their impending divorce. Our society—a society where 40 to 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce—is very negative it.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that divorce is a great thing worth celebrating, but I also don’t think that it should be a reason to be ostracized, criticized, and termed as a symptom of failure. I know for a fact that I gave 110 percent and then some to my first marriage. I worked really hard at it—my ex-husband would no doubt tell you he worked hard at it—and yet it did not have a happily ever after. Thirty years of working hard at being married resulted in nothing.
Well, not nothing. I have eight great kids, and I wouldn't take back having any of them. But if it were just a matter of having kids, I could've gone through a sperm donor—and skipped three decades of commitment and investment into someone who wasn’t as invested in me. If you base a successful marriage on how much work went into it, then divorced couples would have the most successful marriages by far.
We worked our butts off to try to make it work.
I Have Succeeded at Life
My marriage didn't ultimately work, but my life is full of successes. My children are wildly talented and successful in their own right. I try not to say too much about them to protect their privacy, but trust me when I say people are impressed with my kiddos and the marks they have already made in the world. I homeschooled them and poured 30 years of my life into raising them. I tried to encourage them and give them opportunities to develop their talents and interests. I am proud of what they’ve done and what they are doing.
I picked up the shreds of my life at age 50 and began a successful career after three decades of being a stay-at-home mom. I worked 12-16 hour days. I sought work constantly, and I did everything I could do to hone my skills. It took time, but this year I'm seeing things ease up. I am making a living; I own my own business, and I'm relatively respected by my peers.
So, by many of the measurements people use, I am successful in my parenting and career. Two out of three ain’t bad, right?
‘A’ Is for Effort
I did not struggle with raising my kids. They were all relatively easy to parent, but I still applied myself completely to teaching and encouraging them. I learned a lot from the example my own parents set—especially the philosophies and methods imparted to me by my dad.
I have worked hard at my career, but I know people who have worked harder and not been able to achieve what I have achieved. For that reason, people shouldn't consider those with different results failures. A little bit of luck and good timing can certainly help matters.
If you are going to brand your life with a 'success' or 'fail' stamp, you need to look at the effort you put in, not the way it turned out. You could put all the effort in the world into building a monument or becoming the CEO of a megacorporation. But when it comes down to it, you can’t make either of those things happen by yourself.
Whether or not your marriage was successful should be measured on your effort, not on the things you couldn’t control.
Happily Ever After All By Myself
My happily ever after happened when I walked away. I had poured out everything I had, and it wasn’t enough. I had forgiven actions only to have them repeated. Finally, when someone else was chosen over me and given the attention that was rightfully mine, I was done fighting. I had not failed—I had resigned.
I was no longer the right person for the job.
When I walked away, I realized that I was walking away into a glorious sunset—my own happily ever after, all by myself. I realized I was responsible for my own well-being and happiness. I was responsible for taking care of myself and making sure my needs were met. And I was not responsible for the choices other people made, nor their happiness. I finally had met someone to live happily ever after with—that someone was me.
I did wind up remarrying someone who adores and spoils me, but he is not my happily ever after. He is a wonderful man whom I am committed to, whom I adore, and whom I choose to spend my happily ever after with. But if he walks away tomorrow, my happily ever after is still secure.
My kids love Pokemon. When they are playing a game, they have to choose which character they will use to defeat their enemy. I realized I had spent my life choosing other people and wondering why they weren’t as loyal to me as I thought they should be. The answer was in front of me all along; I just needed to choose myself first.
I am my primary supporter, and I am the one who decides whether or not I have failed at something. I am responsible for making sure I'm taken care of—anything someone else does for me is just gravy.
How about you? Are you ready to make your happily ever after really happen? Join First Wives World and get advice, affirmation, and encouragement from others who know how you feel because they’ve been there, too.
Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, User : Josef Seibel