When my therapist first asked, “Can you picture yourself married again sometime in the future?” my immediate response was to laugh. My signature was barely dry on the divorce documents. I had been told every reason imaginable why I was terrible to be married to and miserable to live with. I was still transitioning my love for my now ex-husband from that of a spouse to something else. I had had my heart broken, seen every dream crushed, and every hope dashed. It sounded impossible and probably foolish to ever consider marriage or even a romantic relationship again.
But my therapist was not being insensitive. He was asking me how broad and deep my vision of healing was. He was asking me to consider what seemed impossible now, being possible some day in the future. He was asking me to stay open to options that seemed risky or foolish because they looked scary and uncontrollable. He was asking me not to close myself off to possibilities just because redemption of parts of my story seemed too far-fetched at that point.
I am thankful for the question. It is one I have returned to often in the last year since he asked. Honestly, I still do not have an answer. I have a hard time imagining falling in love like that again. I do not believe in soul mates but I also do not know how many people you can love as deeply as I loved him. I cannot picture moving through the relationship stages that take someone from dating to engaged to married with someone else. I know how that happened for me last time but I imagine it would be different with a different person. I do not think this is a situation where having previous experience really helps all that much. (In fact, sometimes I worry it could be a hindrance.)
I want to be open to whatever and wherever my life might lead next. My journey has already looked drastically different than I had expected it to (more than once) in my short 30 years. I did not expect to get married and then getting divorced was never even a possibility for me. Love and hope and healing have come to me in packages I have not always recognized as gifts. In some ways, my dreams have been too small and in other ways, there are things I wish for that I will probably never see.
I am an advocate for sharing stories while you are in the middle and not waiting until you know the end. This is a chapter that I am just at the beginning. These past few months since I have been open to dating again, I have been reminded what a humbling process it is. For me, it takes skills that do not come naturally and reveals aspects of society I would rather not confront. It is also stretching my heart and mind and soul in ways that are sometimes uncomfortable.
The stretching can re-open wounds that have only just healed and reveal places that are still raw. I am willing to go through whatever discomfort is necessary for greater healing but I also want to be wise and gentle with myself. So I am taking baby steps. I am aware that I am re-learning how to walk certain paths and hope in certain outcomes. I am giving myself time to get used to this world again and giving myself permission to pull back when it feels like too much or too soon.
When I am sitting across from someone new, as interested as I am in him and his experiences, there is still sometimes an ache for the depth that comes with the familiar. Sometimes it is difficult not to just wish for the story I thought I knew – the story I would have written for myself. Dating and getting to know new people pushes me to be open to a new path that is full of risk and uncertainty. I know that with that risk also comes the potential for something really wonderful and beautiful and life-giving which is the only reason I am willing to try at all.
If you asked me today, “Can you picture yourself married again sometime in the future?” I think my answer would still be, “It seems unlikely.” But I will not say it is impossible and I will not laugh. My story is unfolding in ways I would have never imagined and all I hope for every day is that it will be a good story – whatever that may mean for me.