names have been omitted and changed in this post
The trees were beginning to bloom and happy pops of yellow daffodils along with crimson tulips sprang from flowerbeds in neatly manicured yards. Large homes graced the sparkling lake we lived on and I breathed in the spring air as my mother and I made our way around it getting some exercise. My mother had moved in with me… we had limited time left living in the home I'd shared with my husband. I was still in the process of my divorce from having filed upon discovering my husband's adultery. Our divorce would likely be finalized within a few months come summer. For now my soon to be ex was living in a modern loft in the cultural district where museums, sushi restaurants and upscale bars reigned while I stayed at the house until it either sold or he moved back in. Ultimately he would end up keeping it and eventually moving in a woman he'd marry three years later. I'd purchase my grandparents home at a high cost having no where else to go. As we walked I spoke "It's unreal… this whole thing… this divorce. It doesn't just make you reflect on your marriage… it forces you to reflect on your whole life. Every decision. It's like this wave of memories that come at you and you reflect on everything."
"Yeah… I see that." My mother replied "What specifically are you thinking about?" She asked. My mother was a naturally curious person.
A long pause hung between us and finally I replied "Jeremy."
I heard my mother utter what resembled a grunt in response and then she spoke "You did the best you could at the time, Jennifer."
I winced. My mother and I for the first time were about to discuss Jeremy in depth. I had dated Jeremy prior to marrying my soon to be ex husband. She had known I'd regretted losing him but not much more in detail had ever been discussed. Him, like my time gone in high school had not been delved into until during my divorce process fifteen to twenty years later. "Yeah… I did but I wish I had been able to share what I'd been through. I wish I'd shared my feelings for him. I hate the cruel reality that you can't have a redo. It beyond sucks." I said bitterly.
"Even if you had there's no guarantee that the relationship would have worked out." She told me.
"True…" I admitted, knowing that was honestly reality… "I guess what makes me angry is I didn't get the chance to find out. That's what makes me disappointed, sad, and frustrated." I admitted to her. "The thing is… the morning after he drove off… I picked up the phone three different times to call him. I was going to ask him to breakfast and explain everything. All of it. But I kept thinking how I'd tried to get him to come in my apartment the night before to explain and he wouldn't. He'd originally wanted us to drive to his apartment which was thirty or forty minutes away… but he'd been drinking and I didn't feel comfortable with it. My apartment was just two minutes from Razoo's. I couldn't get him to come in. He'd already made up his mind. It was too little too late." I told her. "And he wasn't calling me. So… I finally just put the phone down and told myself that he'd made his decision and that he obviously stood by it." Birds swirled overhead and the bright blue sky hovered over us like a beautiful canopy despite the deep conversation. "I wondered what could have been, I just didn't realize it would continue to haunt me and I'd struggle so much with it." I told her and then switched gears referring to my soon-to-be-ex, "At one time he said it felt like there was always someone else between us… I think he used Jeremy to justify his cheating and as a weapon." I explained.
My mother spoke sternly "Your marriage was not healthy. Period. Regardless of Jeremy. Jeremy was such a tiny part of it." My mother told me. She was right. Then softening her tone she continued "And on that same note your regret over Jeremy was magnified to some extent because your marriage was miserable. If you'd had a good marriage perhaps the loss wouldn't have been so overwhelming. I wish Jeremy hadn't been so hot headed and driven off."
"Maybe drinking that night or his ADHD contributed to that... " I surmised aloud, having ADHD myself. "The impulsivity? I don't know..." I trailed off. I didn't know if at the time he was taking medication for it. I had limited information. One would question if I was giving grace or mere excuses for him. I had perspective now years later… I could look at the situation without putting sole ownership of it's consequences on myself… finally. We'd both had our part in it. I also knew Jeremy's decision that night didn't define him. Just like mine didn't define me.
… realizes people aren't perfect and to look at the bigger picture of what we can learn from our situation or experience. Sometimes we've had all we can take. Sometimes we walk. That's what he did. And that's what I've been doing ever since in the romantic relationships I've had.
She ignored it and continued "At some point in time Jeremy was upset, whatever you want to call it over you two not being together… back when he sent you that email years later it was obvious. But now? Today? If you had the chance to ask him how he feels who knows what he'd say. Now he may think he was spared… he may think he missed a bullet… that it's a blessing it didn't work out. We never know what people think later on… people change, perspectives change. And you don't know what he's been through. He's been through something, guaranteed. That's life. You both have changed in ways for sure. And who knows if back when you were dating if he would have been willing to take on all your baggage you still needed to work through. You don't know what his reaction would have been. It was a lot and honestly it would have taken a really strong person to handle it. He might have run. I don't know. At one time I thought he was perfect for you… when you were dating I wanted you to marry him. I thought he was the guy. Now, today I wouldn't be so convinced even if it was an option." She paused in thought, then continued. "Let's say hypothetically he became single and it was an option. I know you. If he was interested you'd bite. But the fact is you not opening up would always be an issue. It likely would turn into a situation of if YOU had opened up we both wouldn't have gone through marriages to other people and been together originally. We would have had babies together. We would have had a longer life together. And you would have always felt bad for the time lost. You can't build on that mess. The fact is life moves on."
On some level deep down I knew I'd been who he wanted when we dated. Back then he was just waiting for me to choose him. Don't we all want to believe that what we had with a specific someone was extra special? Wasn't that human nature? Don't we want to believe that whatever we've been through had served a purpose of some kind… to build strength and more chiseling to be better for the next relationship or chapter? Some might call that idealistic, naive and stupid but something some of us cling to all the same. We all have things we want or need to "get over", to numb the pain, to take away the painful feeling of loss but it takes time to go through it… leaning on God for perspective, comfort and growth.
Jeremy was such a prime example of how it was such a blessing and curse all at once to feel emotions so deeply in life. If you're the sensitive, empathetic type you can likely relate. Joy, sadness, regret, longing, frustration, anger, elation… were magnified with my ADHD and personality type; INFJ *. My empathetic nature often had me wanting to "fix" everything, repair the past and take on the worries of the world. I cared to a self detriment, exhausting myself. Being an introvert and yet always expecting myself to grow, do better, be better… it was draining. How easy it is to give others grace and encourage rest and self care but oftentimes not ourselves? It was one of my biggest issues and I needed to work on it. I needed to stop seeing self care as wasteful and frivolous… yet it was something that wouldn't happen overnight. It would take time.
If this is something you struggle with refer to the idea that to never choose rest is not a self imposed compliment but actually an insult to God. Ignoring our weakness and human need for physical and emotional rest stems from prideful self sufficiency. You deserve and require rest, pampering, rejuvenation and inner nourishment of the soul. Don't confuse this with over-self-indulgence. During my marriage my husband would use my difficulty with self care to berate me because I didn't fit his "ideal", his desired image and get the manicure, the pricey trip to the salon, etc. Post divorce I would slowly make changes toward balance but it was a continual self-reminder to do it. Yet self care is not limited to the outside… it's also finding rest and quiet time with God to avoid burnout from the everyday.
Matthew 11:28 New International Version
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
My sneakers continued hitting the pavement and my ponytail bobbed; a stream of brownish auburn trailing behind, the sun gracing it's highlights. "I had to delete Jeremy as a friend on Facebook because I was getting so much grief..." I said, referring to my husband. "Nothing was going on, for goodness sakes we weren't even messaging!" I exclaimed. "Everything was fine. But I was hearing about it all the time so I finally threw my hands up and said 'Fine! I'll delete him' ". I told her.
"I know nothing was going on and those weren't your intentions." She replied. "You were enjoying seeing what he was up to and sharing what you were up to. Probably wasn't the best idea because your husband was insecure about it. Probably wasn't appropriate at the end of the day. Most husbands would be insecure and I get that. But the truth is your husband's issues had nothing to do with Jeremy no matter how much he may want to blame you and him. His problems were his own issues. That's why aside from Jeremy your marriage wasn't going to work anyway." She told me. She spoke the truth.
I'd had regret over Jeremy and yet dug in anyway to do the hard stuff to make my marriage the best regardless. I wasn't a sinless wife; I had been mentally focused on the past with Jeremy and that had detracted from my marriage. God knew this. I had cried out for help. In that also Lord knows I had tried in my marriage as well. I had tried to continue to be a good wife to him; supporting his dreams, his career, caring for our children and the home, listening to his work woes and being intimate with him despite not wanting to. In some ways I had accepted this was my life sentence and tried to hang in there all the while continuing to have hope on some level it would improve. My regret over losing Jeremy may have left my husband feeling snubbed, rejected, etc… which I felt guilt for on my own yet also guilted by him. But at the end of the day my husband was emotionally and verbally abusive and it worsened over time. It wasn't a healthy marriage. It was not a marriage where love reigned but instead increasing debts were expected to be paid by me... for anything and everything he did. It left me feeling never good enough, anxious and tarnished.
"I pray for him often… for Jeremy... for his safety, for his health, for God to keep him in His word, for his steps to be that of a Godly man and lead his family, to have a blessed marriage, a good life. I want only good things for him. At this point that's the only expression of love I can send his way." I told her. The fact was Jeremy had a family, a wife and children; he was likely digging in and being the best he could be for them, loving them, cherishing them, leading them and living his life as God intended with those he'd been blessed with. I applauded that.
"I know you do… you've forgiven him." She spoke.
"Yeah… and I've forgiven myself. Generally speaking no matter what choices people make regarding relationships forgiveness frees you. I hope he's forgiven me… " I murmured "Holding back my past and feelings… I didn't do it to be mean… my intentions weren't to hurt him. But they did."
* To learn more about the personality type INFJ click here
Relationships aren't always easy… sometimes they take turns we didn't foresee nor wanted. Relationships show us that we don't have control in life as often thought but in reality other's have free will to choose and sometimes that means not choosing us. Sometimes that means us not choosing them. Just because were dating or even married doesn't mean our partner is choosing us or in a way that is for our best. We hope they are. But we can't force them to. We can love someone and they may not love us back. We can be transparent but they may lie. We may think we have love but it's only a fake presentation and really hiding agenda. We may have given our heart only to have it battered and returned to us in less than great shape. We may have taken our childhood wounds into adulthood and looked for love in all the places not good for us. We may have signed up for familiar only to painfully realize it's like being restricted to our old childhood home of punishment and entrapment. We may have painfully come to realize that what the unloving call love is really abuse. We may have spent a lifetime searching for a love that's real in a confusing world of wolves and sheep. If you are feeling discouraged today because you long in your heart for a love that's true yet still feel the heaviness and pain of those relationships in your past please take heart and don't be discouraged… don't let your hope be extinguished. Invest in self care, invest in loving yourself, invest in reflective solitude, invest in your circle of support, invest in your faith. Like the daffodil that springs forward every spring season we can ask God to strengthen us and color our world with brightness again. Re-newel of your strength, spirit and outlook can be refreshed by Him.
Maybe your faith has been shaken… maybe you have had multiple broken relationships and your longing for a special relationship has remained unfulfilled and you would like to cross paths with someone whose heart is seeking God. Ask Him to move in your life. The answer may be "not yet"… but to wait. But it's better to ask than ignore the power of humble yet bold prayer. No matter what your sadness, regret or grief… please know that God doesn't want you to live a life of anguish… He is for you. When we are trying to figure everything out and the why behind relationships, life's situations or experiences it merely leaves us feeling mentally weary, hopeless and stagnant. Our mental wheels may be spinning yet we are stuck. We may be thinking in limiting and defeating terms: "I will never get past this" , "I am so tired of feeling stuck or captive by these things in my past or present" or "He or she has left me such a mess from the damage they did." We are not meant to live this way and the devil delights in it when we do because we are not looking to God's good promises and victory. We can turn to the Lord and find life in His word. We can find peace instead of worry in God’s word to Moses and Israel as God commanded them: “Do not be afraid. Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. The Lord will fight for you and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:13-14).