At seventeen I married my boyfriend of nearly three years, my high school sweetheart. I was five months pregnant and in love. I didn’t marry him because I had to. I married him because I wanted to. The odds were against us for sure, so young without a clue as to what we wanted in the world, other than to be together. Once our son was born, life got complicated really fast . . . and then our daughter came along.
He worked full-time and I was a full-time student. Our lives were definitely growing in different directions. We were each fighting for free time, time with friends, away from kids, wishing and wanting so badly to behave like the twenty-somethings that we were.
I can admit now that I was overwhelmed by motherhood and school and being in charge. I wanted to be free, to have fun. I resented my husband. In my eyes he had all the freedom, all the fun and I was saddled with all of the responsibility. Before long, I was behaving in ways that could only bring an end to my marriage. Despite the pain it caused my children, their dad, and my family, I chose an unhappy ending.
He had every reason to hate me and for a short time he did. We were always civil for our children’s sake. We celebrated their birthdays together, spent holidays together, and pretty quickly were able to be true friends. Close to nine years after we were divorced we each remarried. Within a few years our children were graduating from high school and eventually he would start a family with his new wife. There was very little reason, if any, for us to spend any time together and we rarely did.
I spent a lot of those years feeling guilty about what I had done, how I had broken up my family, disappointed so many people, mostly myself. I didn’t believe we should have stayed together, but I beat myself up about the failure of the marriage and took full responsibility for the pain.
Ten years later we divorced our respective spouses . . .I reached out to meet for coffee. I had something to say. I told him that our kids were in long-term relationships and weddings could be in our future. . . . I talked about how our parents were getting older too. I said I didn’t want our first meeting in years to be at a wedding or a funeral. Most importantly, I wanted to apologize for how poorly I had treated him when our marriage ended. I got completely choked up, but managed to say what I had to say. His reaction surprised me because he was surprised. He smiled and even laughed a little, saying he never had bad thoughts about it, and had forgiven me a long, long time ago.
Within the year his mom passed away, and shortly after our daughter became engaged and married. At the wedding he made a speech. I stood at his side. He thanked me for being a good mom and doing “all the heavy lifting.” I could not speak, but managed a smile.
I have reflected on our coffee shop meeting and the wedding speech many times. Forgiveness had lightened his heart. Forgiving me was something he had done for himself, for his own well-being. In doing so, he could see me in fair light. I realized that while I quickly forgave others, I rarely, if ever, forgave myself, making me weak and sad . . . for a long time.
Now, I practice forgiveness every day . . . . and I am mostly successful. I still struggle a bit forgiving myself, but I am getting much better.
Grateful for forgiveness . . . and its many lessons.