It has been seven years this month since Mark and I met online and ventured into a relationship that most certainly has been challenging at times, but also so passionate and gratifying that we’re getting married next month.
That’s a long dating period, I realize, partly because it’s his second marriage and my third, and we met later in life. I’m 55 and he’s 65 now, so taking our time wasn’t as big a deal as it might have in our 20s or 30s – no ticking biological clock.
Also, Mark had a very long bachelor period of about 15 years before we met and was quite set in his single ways. On the flip side, I was very freshly divorced and had a 12-year-old son, which was a relatively foreign situation for Mark since he has one child, a daughter, who already was 27. Plus, I had a son in his early 20s who still lived at home, along with a married daughter who along with her husband and toddler w0ere around much of the time, too.
But there’s another reason why we had a rocky beginning, and that was the trust issues each of us brought to the relationship – the aforementioned baggage. Mark came from a broken home; his parents divorced in his teens but the buildup happened for much of his life. I am not from a broken home, but I did have a difficult childhood, which manifests in my personality in a similar way. Our trust issues took many forms in the dynamic between us. But ultimately, as we approach our wedding day, I know that since we had the wherewithal and love to get through them, we’re a strong and committed couple, largely due to those childhood challenges: They made us strong in the broken places. Here’s why:
We had to earn each other’s trust. We were hugely disappointed by people we loved. As a result, we weren’t going to just jump in and give over our souls without some reservations. However, once we moved beyond our reluctance to believe we would be supportive and loyal to one another, our bond is super solid because it grew through actions and not assumptions.
We are emotionally strong. Because we had to deal with anger, unhappiness and guilt, we became emotionally steely. Of course, this is part of what’s at the root of trust issues. But it’s also a plus, because we are survivors. When the hard stuff comes our way, we won’t back down. We’ll be each other’s champions, and tackle problems like professionals.
We are independent, in a good way. It’s not that we aren’t a team. But we’re independent because we had to grow up young due to the serious matters that we faced long before we were mature enough to deal with them.
We have no problem spending time apart, doing the things we like to do with others, allowing us to sustain our individuality. And we most certainly have the ability to get along without one another, but we don’t choose to. Making a choice – rather than acting out of fear or desperation – makes for a healthy relationship.
We do not expect perfection. No one is perfect, and we came to understand this many moons ago. When things were overwhelmingly complex we learned under fire to accept flaws because we loved our parents. This was a lesson in acceptance, and inasmuch, we accept each other’s shortcomings.
We are driven to succeed. We’ve always been overachievers, because we were trying to make up for all the things we came to believe were our fault and made us bad people as children. Now that we’re older and have healed, we’re ready to succeed in this relationship. We’ve moved on, and we know that life gets better with time.
This essay was written by Tracey Dee Rauh.