And so, with a sparkling ring on my left hand, I am faced with a second chance.
A second chance at love. A second chance at marriage. A second chance at building a life together. A second chance to love well and completely. A second chance to give without losing myself.
The thing is, there are a lot of things that were great about my marriage to Robb. In equal parts truth, especially in this retrospective place of five years later, I can see so clearly that there were some patterns in place that weren’t healthy or good for him or me.
Sometimes that’s just how it goes. Sometimes you realize too late that you’re following dance steps that are mostly just a tug of war where somebody’s toes are always getting stepped on. Dance steps of rescuing or caretaking, patterns of chasing or fixing someone else’s emotions, and tendencies to claim responsibilities that were never mine to claim.
But has it ever happened to you that you get a do-over? When you suddenly realize that there’s a clean slate before you, and you get to paint the picture the way you want to?
A friend of ours celebrated our engagement with a play on the current catch phrase “YOLO: You Only Live Once.” He cheered for our engagement and said, “YOGEO: You Only Get Engaged Once!” And then we all laughed awkwardly with the realization that YOGEO is completely not the case here. Sometimes you get engaged more than once.
Everything about this story breathes Second Chance.
On the brink of a second chance, I’m faced with two choices. Actually, maybe it’s not a decision between two choices, but rather a spectrum. On one end is a toolbox that reads “Do It All Differently,” and on the other end is a comfortable couch that says “Old Patterns.”
I could step right in and “do marriage” the way I’ve always done it. Or I could be intentional about the changes I can make in myself to do this in a healthier, stronger, better way. Big changes happen with small steps in the right direction. And small steps happen to be my favorite kind of change.
Vulnerable and transparent fact about Tricia: My tendency is to believe that anybody’s emotions are my fault and my responsibility. So, if you’re having a bad day, I tend to assume it’s my fault, even though it may have nothing to do with me. And then I’ll go into rescue mode, I’ll try to save you from whatever is bothering you, and I’ll try to change my behavior to make your world happier. That’s not necessarily what you need, and quite frankly, it’s crazy exhausting.
Perhaps you can identify on some very small scale, you there, reading on the other side of this screen. Feel free to raise you hand ever so slightly in solidarity with me, the Codependent who likes to know someone else feels and operates the way I do.
I said to Peter, “Here’s something I’d like to do differently in this marriage. How about this: if you’re mad at me, would you just tell me? Then I’ll know for sure that I’m the problem, and then we’ll look at the conversations we need to have to make repairs. And if you’re mad, but not mad at me, then I can just listen to you and learn about where you are, but I won’t try to fix everything since it’s not my fault or my responsibility. How do you feel about this?”
“Babe, I love this idea,” he said. And we both audibly breathed a sigh of relief.
Because we’re doing this differently.
p.s. If you silently and ever-so-slightly raised your hand in solidarity above, join me in reading the book Codependent No More. And brace yourself for freedom.