October 30, 2014

The Woman My Husband Wanted: Sometimes people change, and that's okay

Sometimes, I run across a piece that just leaves me with a real "what the fuck" feeling. Not a WHAT THE FUCK or WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK feeling, just an honest state of confusion.

This piece was one of those. Some of the advice was good, but the overall theme of the piece left me wanting to give this woman a hug.

The piece by Traci Bild was posted at the Huffington Post and ran under the headline "The Day I Realized I Was No Longer the Woman My Husband Wanted".

Traci shares this scenario:

Not too long ago, I was deep in my closet, cleaning out the clutter, when I found an old tin box FULL of letters. Sitting on the floor, I began reading one after another. They were love letters, written to my husband, David. 
My heart began to sink and my eyes filled with tears as I read sentences like: 
"Hello gorgeous, how's my darling, sexy, charming, romantic, thoughtful, loving man doing?" 
"I miss you so much I feel like I'm going to go crazy!" 
"I feel like something wonderful is getting ready to happen in your life!" 
All I could think was, Who is this girl? 
Reading her letters, I was overcome by feelings of jealously. She was sexy, fun, romantic and totally in love with my man! Some letters had hand-drawn images and others were sealed with a kiss, literally -- with pink lipstick that looked as if it were just kissed yesterday.

I don't think it's unusual over the course of a relationship to realize that you've changed--sometimes in ways that you don't care for.

There's certainly nothing wrong with trying to better yourself, but there are some things about Traci's piece that really hit me hard. It took me a bit to put my finger on why, but I've finally figured it out, and I have a message for Traci.

It's okay to change.

Recently, I was talking in the comments section of another blog about our obsession with prolonging life. While reading Traci's piece, I realized that it wasn't entirely accurate. We are obsessed, on a massive scale, with prolonging youth. Gone are the days when we were expected to gracefully age into an elder, with a dignified role in our society. No, today we are supposed to be youthful, for as long as (and preferably longer than...) humanly possible.

In her piece, Traci uses the word "girl" six times. She uses the word "fun" seven times. She contrasts these with words like "responsibility", "stressed out", and "anxiety".

This is, in many ways, the difference between being young and growing older. But it's not inherently a bad thing.

I think the aspect that most jumped out at me, however, was that Traci never once mentions talking to her husband. She makes this assessment of herself, decides what he wants and doesn't want, and moves forward--without ever talking to him or communicating to him to find out what he thinks.

My relationship with my husband has changed so much over the eight years we have been together. I can't imagine how much it will change over the next however many we have. But in all of that time together, the growing and changing have been good things.

He's not the same man I met eight years ago. He's not the same man I married two years ago. I'm not the same woman. And that's okay.

We've grown up, we've settled down, we're raising our family together. We have lives and careers and responsibilities, and all of that is great.

But if he asked me, I would tell him the truth: I love him more today than ever. I love watching the person he's become. I never wanted to change him, but it's been amazing to watch him changing himself--from deciding to go to college to picking a job he enjoys to parenting, it's an amazing process. We're building a lifetime of memories together.

For people that thrive on levity, there's certainly nothing wrong with bringing some of that back into your relationship if you feel it's missing...but you just can't tell what your partner thinks without talking to them.

I appreciate who my husband is. I knew he would not be the same man at thirty that he was at twenty-two, and I know he won't be the same at 35 or 40, at 50, at 60--because people change.

And that's okay.

Sometimes we strive so hard to hold onto who we were that we forget about how hard we've worked to become who we are. Change is our natural state of being. It's not an anomaly--it's a basic feature of our (and most) species. Adaptability isn't a negative--it's a survival trait, one we've honed over millennia of existence.

That doesn't mean there aren't things that you miss when they are gone. My husband surprised me with flowers not long ago, and it shocked me to see how much I had missed that little gesture, something he did quite regularly when we were dating. But that change should be made for you, and it should be mutual--not one-sided. There are things my husband misses too, and when we talk about them, I commit to bringing that spark of whathaveyou back into our marriage. It's a back and forth, a delicate dance of communication, but all of it is built on an appreciation of what we have.

One sentence in particular really struck me:

What if he were to meet "YOU 20 years ago" tomorrow?

This thought is truly chilling. What if my husband met me from 8 years ago (we've covered that I'm young--me from 20 years ago would be 7, and he'd point me in the direction of my parents)? If my husband did, he'd choose me. I have no doubt that he is fully in love with the woman that I am today, and I have no doubt that he would choose me.

But the idea is insidious. It's the same idea behind, But what if women just had more sex? What if they just keep themselves up? What if they did this or that? That's how they can hold their marriages together!

And for the woman that's unlucky enough to be left behind, it's an insidious accusation. What didn't you do? How is this your fault?

The same can be reversed for men too. The jilted partner, regardless of sex, MUST have done something wrong, because that's how we protect our own marriages (in our minds).

But the simple truth is, some marriages end. Sometimes it's the fault of one or other party, sometimes both, sometimes none. There's no foolproof way to prevent your marriage from ending, and the idea that such a way exists is inherently harmful.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to bring a little spark back into a marriage that you feel is floundering. There's nothing wrong with wanting to be more fun.

But try talking to your partner first. You may find that they are happy with you, just the way you are, and truly couldn't imagine being with anyone else.

Because change is going to happen, and that's okay.

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