“Every love story is beautiful, but ours is my favorite.”
Good lord how I hate that meme.
It’s like opening the card that speaks to you so personally, then remembering it’s been mass produced. Because everybody likes that sentiment. Everybody want to be the special one.
(This thought process, incidentally, is probably one of the reasons everyone in my family now refuses to go near the card aisle of Target with me.)
Pretty hypocritical for someone who just titled her new blog inspired by one of like the top five wedding readings ever, right?
Pretty hypocritical for someone who read posts on one, or two, or maybe five popular blogs this past week, and thought, repeatedly, Dammit she just told my story before I got a chance to tell it.
There should be a Facebook button for “Jinx, I was just gonna say that!”
This morning, that silly little meme of master bedroom wall decals and painted wood pieces over the couch, the one that makes everybody and therefore nobody feel special, slapped me in the face and scolded, “No, jackass, nobody else told your story. They told their stories. If they have similarities, so much the better.” And then it whispered, gentle but insistent. “You tell your story.”
My story, our story, my favorite one, is the one I’ve wanted to write for years. It runs deep under the current of what I have written, in my braver moments, and what I have had the courage to say. It’s the story that otherwise stays pushed off to the side in my heart, a little too heavy, a little too soon. It’s a beautiful story, really (but aren’t they all). And it’s a good story. It’s also ugly at times, and raw, and painful.
Again, aren’t they all.
So, why tell another love story? Does the 21st century really need one more myopic, self-indulgent blog devoted to exploring the day-to-day ups and downs of a stuffy and outdated social institution?
Yes, I believe it does.
(Oh, great, and now she’s gonna tell us why, isn’t she.)
Yes, I believe I am.
One, I would argue, in an entirely biased manner, that marriage is neither self-indulgent, nor stuffy, nor outdated, if you’re doing it right. And two, hell yes, you can absolutely do marriage wrong. It’s not like the trite anti-mommy-war parenting sentiments where we pat each other on the back and say there’s no wrong way to do parenting. Nope, there’s a hell of a lot of wrong ways to do marriage. Like, a LOT. (More to come, that part of this beautiful love story.)
And three. Which, to be honest, is everything: Our story is the story I needed, when it wasn’t there. It isn’t the kind of story that gets shared often, not the kind that’s easy to find, because it’s too personal. It’s too private. Too painful. Oh, and what will people think?
It’s the kind of story you learn about a couple long after the fact, when it’s a part of their history. Even then it’s the kind learned entirely in whispers, raised eyebrows, quiet nods. Them?
It’s the kind of story a woman writes, but she changes her name and identifying details. I know this, because I have books full of anonymous stories lodged in the bottom drawer of my nightstand, unread to this day. Unread probably forever. I glanced through once; they weren’t the stories I needed. Don’t tell me there’s no shame in it then change your name.
Here’s what Jake and I learned, together, even without the books we were supposed to be reading: You can’t heal what you won’t talk about, or what you won’t own. You can get past it, in time. But healing doesn’t happen for as long as you keep a cloak of shame over your pain. For as long as you let the pain define the story, it will hold you captive.
I will always wonder if my own healing process would have been faster, or felt safer, if more women and men before me had thrown off the Shame Cloak, exposed the pain, and owned their love stories.
There’s freedom in telling, and owning, a good story.
We’re working so hard in this country, finally, to undo shame and stigma. From addiction, to mental illness, to eating disorders, to childhood trauma, we tell people recovery is possible, that shame is unnecessary and damaging. And yet. We struggle to say that about < spoiler alert, only not really because you’ve probably figured it out by now > infidelity. I know we still struggle to say it, because I can count on my fingers the number of people to whom I’ve ever told our story.
Until I decided, my marriage is stronger than some preconceived, ill-advised need for anonymity.
If our story is one I needed, maybe it’s a story someone else needs, too. Maybe if we all told our stories, they wouldn’t seem so scary, and those of us who find ourselves mired in the ugliness wouldn’t have to confront those horrible, self-esteem destroying myths that only compound the pain: Strong women leave. Once a cheater, always a cheater. Your relationship is ruined.
So let me state, unequivocally, what no one could tell me when it happened (because I refused to let anyone know I needed to hear it): Sometimes, strong women stay. Cheaters can change, if they want to. And your relationship can heal, I promise. (Will it? I don’t know. But it can.)
The night he told me, I never thought I would be able to say it again. There were times it seemed impossibly far-fetched. However – healing happens. I know it does. Because our love story is beautiful. And it’s still my favorite.
And it’s time to tell it.