I am fortunate to have a wedding anniversary neither on Christmas or New Years, but during the same holiday period. As I approach yet another anniversary of our marriage I am reminded of all the day commemorates, both for me and for others celebrating anniversaries in this upcoming year. Anniversaries are yearly celebrations of something “for the first time,” for example the anniversary of one’s first date, first kiss, first time love was mentioned and ergo the “Anniversary” usually is synonymous with love and happiness.
However we also celebrate our yearly anniversaries at work, yearly celebrations of milestones accomplished, anniversaries of friendship beginnings and sadly we also commemorate anniversaries of the passing of loved ones. The most celebrated anniversary is known by its own name…the birthday!
As I approach yet another wedding anniversary I am reminded of the many anniversaries past. The anniversaries before our children were born for example. The anniversaries when our children were small and we often failed to celebrate. The ones that came later as the children grew. The ones when we were “madly” in love and the ones we weren’t.
So as hard as it might be to say and to hear…there were years we weren’t madly in love, far from it. Thinking back I realize how could it have been otherwise? It is all the years good and bad that make the fabric of our lives. It is the years we weren’t that built on the ones we were. It is through those arduous times we came to discover what love really meant. It was those hard times that built the foundation that holds us to this day.
There were those periods when I was consumed with worry. What if we didn’t make it? What would life be with a broken love and a broken family? I had come from one of those families and sworn to never inflict that family on my children. Surely we could figure it out! But sometimes it just seemed there was no other way but to end it.
But we are still here and the fights are smaller and less frequent. They aren’t about the big things any more. Those have either been sorted out or we decided we loved each other more than we wanted to be right or to get our own way. We have learned how to communicate and to compromise! There are no more exciting tantrums or silent treatment reciprocations. There is a shared respect for each other’s needs and feelings and a commitment to put our relationship first. We have grown into a comfortable love that really is forever. We have built a life with memories, children, property, and trust. We are each other’s life and each other’s best friend and confidant. I can say that when no one else is on our side…we are on each other’s side!
We were always these things to each other, but in the past, before we had sorted through the bad parts, the thing that got us through was a shared commitment to the marriage. I will always know and remember at the worst of times we were each willing and able to reach out for help. Seeing a counselor was embarrassing and scary. It made us look in the mirror and face each other and ourselves. We went to bad counselors, good counselors, and ok councilors – but most importantly we went!
In grad school I was told the first fifty percent of healing occurs in the making of the phone call for the first appointment to a counselor. I believe it! It is one hard call to make. Sometimes it takes couples months, even years, of suffering before making the call.
The next twenty-five percent of healing occurs on that first drive to the appointment. I remember the first drive during one episode, I must have pulled over three times deciding whether to turn around and go home or not. The last twenty-five percent is hard work, but is made easier by the joint commitment involved in taking the steps to go. It is in the follow-through to that scary place that solidifies the commitment to healing.
So for those of you in a new relationship looking forward to those early “honeymoon” anniversaries, I say to you, Enjoy! But remember when things go south for whatever reason (and the reasons are as varied as there are couples) don’t despair and don’t give up. Think back to the reasons you fell in love in the first place. Those reasons still exist. You might have gotten mired in the negative aspects of daily living, which has left you bereft of those early feelings. You might have stumbled into patterns dictated by the homes you grew up in, each different and troubled in its own way. You might need a little help getting back there, but if you are both willing to work very hard to get it back, you can. You can share many anniversaries, more “in love” than not in love.
Here’s to anniversaries!
Tara Ubelhor M.Ed., LPC