The 10-Year Anniversary That Isn’t

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I was really nervous because the moment felt so big.

Not because I was afraid to marry her.

But because there were all these people. People from every corner of my disjointed life. And they were all there, staring back at me.

There in the front row to my left were my mom and dad. And my stepparents. Both remarried for many years because they couldn’t get their marriage right and I didn’t want to be like them.

Just behind them? My grandparents. Married 50 years. That’s how it’s supposed to be.

To my right were her parents. They didn’t know me very well because we were living faraway in Florida. And there was her older brother I’d only just met. And all her many aunts and uncles, friends and extended family.

Everyone in the room was wondering: Are they going to make it?

I was thrilled to be marrying her. Gorgeous every day, but especially that day. They coined the term “marrying up” for guys just like me.

I wanted to get it right for my grandparents. Married all those years. Walking the walk.

I wanted to get it right for her father. Giving away his little girl to a guy he couldn’t possibly trust but treated like gold, anyway.

I wanted to get it right for me. To prove I’m good enough. Smart enough. Capable enough.

To prove I was up to the task of shedding the dysfunction of my past and creating a new life for myself with the person I chose. With the person who chose me.

The wedding is a blur in my memory bank.

Gorgeous church. Super-fun reception. All the right guests.

I smiled at her when I slid the ring onto her finger. Feeling the foreignness of cold metal for the first time on mine. My wedding band, which still is laying at the bottom of my sock drawer because I wouldn’t sell it. Not because I believe my life would be better if I was still wearing it. But because those years really mattered. No matter what, they mattered.

The ring stays.

I do remember one thing.

I spoke the words with purpose.

‘Til death do us part.

I meant that shit, babe. I hope you know that. I did a bad job. But I totally meant it.

Ten Years Later

My brain’s having a little trouble wrapping itself around the idea that it was 10 years ago today.

An entire lifetime, it feels like.

But one giant blur, too.

Time is constant. But it has a magical ability to feel excruciatingly slow and unfairly fast all at the same time.

As the clock keeps ticking, everyone keeps healing. Exactly 51 weeks ago today, we finalized our divorce, forever changing the course of several lives.

Everyone’s still just trying to figure out this new rhythm of life. It’s an awkward dance. You want to be a graceful dance partner, but now the steps are unfamiliar and there’s no touching allowed.

Everyone watching is still a little unsure, too. Her family has always treated me very well, but no one knew what to say when we saw each other for the first time in more than year at my son’s birthday party earlier this summer.

One of them was one of the best men I know. Her uncle.

When we lost my ex-wife’s father, this man, who just lost his brother, looked at me and said: “You take care of that little girl.”

I didn’t hesitate.

“I will,” I told him. “Promise.”

And then I didn’t. Because I didn’t know how to be selfless during my greatest test as a husband. As a father. As a man.

I thought I was putting her first. But I wasn’t. I just wanted her to get over it and treat me like the most important person in her life again without doing anything to earn it.

We’re in a good place now, I think. As good a place as we can possibly be considering all that’s been lost. Felt. Screamed. Cried. Written. Done.

We’re our son’s mom and dad. A job both of us take very seriously. And I think she’s exceptional at it. And I hope she at least considers me adequate.

My one final chance at redemption with her. That she can go to sleep at night when her son isn’t home with a peaceful heart. Knowing I’ve got her back. That our son is safe.

If time can be both fast and slow, then I think my marriage can be both the worst and best thing that’s ever happened to me.

I think I can choose to focus on the good.

I think I can take comfort in the fact that all these paths are leading somewhere, and when I reach that next trailhead in life and things start taking shape, I’m going to be able to look back on the journey with the benefit of hindsight and understand why things had to be the way they are.

Can you have massive regrets, and no regrets at the same time?

On my 10-year wedding anniversary that isn’t, I say I get to do whatever I want.

If I could, I’d go back and do many things differently.

But. I also wouldn’t change too much because of all the good things that came from these past 10 years.

All that beauty.

Because without the veil of pain hanging between now and the past, I can see so much good.

Lots of regrets.

But no regrets.

It doesn’t have to make sense. Because I understand.

So, here’s a toast: To the girl I married, and the woman I share a child with. A gorgeous child. My lifeblood. Thank you so much for him.

You’re going to have a beautiful life. And maybe I am, too.

Happy anniversary, sweetheart.

I’m sorry I couldn’t buy you anything.

I totally mean that shit, too.

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17 thoughts on “The 10-Year Anniversary That Isn’t

  1. What a beautiful testament to the beautiful reality of a broken but beautiful and gloriously redeemed season…more than a season but, you get that.

    love you, friend! (tears)

  2. completelyinthedark says:

    “I think my marriage can be both the worst and best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

    and

    “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald

    Matt, congratulations. You’re the proud owner of a first-rate intelligence. One whose thoughts I’m pleased to read every week.

    cheers, Mike

  3. My 15-year anniversary would have been yesterday. I could have written a lot of this too ((hugs))

    • Matt says:

      Many thanks for the hugs!

      I’m both glad and sorry that you understand.

      As much as I despise divorce and all it entails, there is this fraternity of people who “get it.” And in a twisted way, it feels good to be a part of it.

  4. Nephila says:

    Ah Matt, it’s nice but it’s sad you sill love her so much after what she did to you. You still feel responsible. She’s the one who left. She’s the one who had already replaced you (yes that is cheating). I’m glad for your sake that you don’t regret marrying her, lots of people would. But man, you weren’t the one who married up. Truly. You are worthy of better.

    • Matt says:

      I always appreciate your support. I do. Thank you.

      I see no value in not trying to grow and accept responsibility for what my life is today. I hope everyone will take time to ask themselves the really hard questions with scary answers.

      It’s the only way we’re ever going to heal and be better people.

      I shouldn’t speak for everyone.

      It’s the only way I’m ever going to heal and be a better person.

  5. Yvonne says:

    Matt you’re posts often bring tears to my eyes because of how beautifully honest you write.

    You should be very proud of the person you are becoming because of this experience.

    • Matt says:

      This made me feel extraordinarily good to read.

      It means so much to me that you can read things I write, and then “feel.” That’s the part that really matters. All that stuff inside.

      And I think it’s important we talk about it. And I can’t thank you enough for being part of it and leaving this note.

  6. Vince says:

    Man the anniversary thing. I’ve thought about mine coming up in October. It would have been our 19th year of marriage, damn even as I type that I can’t believe I was married for 18 years. I can see how people can be married for 50+ years because the time goes so fast.

    Matt, I can tell you that 10 years or 18 years feels a lot alike, time just flows so fast you lose track. I can remember the first few years as well as the last. It’s the memories made during those years, the good ones, that we hold onto as treasures. Even though our marriages didn’t end up as we imagined they would, when we first made the promise ,they were a big part of us. Particularly so considering life came from those vows. Isn’t that awesome? I’m totally thankful for those years.

    Here’s to the good years ahead just waiting to be made.

    • Matt says:

      You and I are a lot alike in this way, Vince. Sad. Regretful. But grateful for the time and opportunity and our children who came from it.

      I can’t say it any better than I did. I have a lot of regrets. But no regrets. All at the same time.

      And it doesn’t make sense. But sometimes things don’t.

  7. Karah Womack-Hosek says:

    Thank you for sharing this. My anniversary would be April 2. I wondered what it will feel like. Now I think I know. Thank you.

  8. Deepa says:

    Writing is such a gift, isn’t it? This day would’ve been heart wrenching but I bet you felt at least a bit better typing it out. Congrats on all the growth you’ve done in the past year :-)

  9. Jeannie says:

    “There is a perfect rout of characters in every man—and every man is like an actor’s trunk, full of strange creatures, new & old. But an actor and his trunk are two different things.”
    – Milton J. Bates, Wallace Stevens: A Mythology of Self

    Thought I’d share that with ya.

  10. jennifer says:

    Happy unanniversary – <3

    -J

  11. Valli Mayil says:

    Your love and a respect for her just made me cry. Before I started reading your blog I didn’t know that men do have the emotional links and divorce do hurt them. I’m sorry, I regret for my prejudice.

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