I was helping my then-boyfriend (now husband) unpack his belongings at his new house. Fully self-aware, I knew I’d be triggered to find anything from his past relationship. Even his ex’s handwriting on some of the boxes was enough to trigger me.
I chose to help with an innocuous enough selection of boxes marked as movies for the living room. I started unpacking and sorting between adult movies and children’s movies before I saw it…
their wedding video.
It stopped me dead in my tracks, and I had to get away.
I told Kevin I needed run to the grocery store, and I got in the car, called my mom and bawled like a baby.
It was then that I started the grieving process.
You had a vision for your future.
Growing up, you likely dreamed of getting married, maybe having kids, and growing old with the love of your life.
You probably didn’t factor in an ex-wife, stepchildren, a custody schedule, and court battles. Your partner wasn’t divorced, you had the vision just like you sang on the playground, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in the baby carriage…”
That’s not something you can sweep under the rug. Your vision for your future felt so very real to you before you met your partner who didn’t perfectly align with that vision.
Your life doesn’t look like that vision.
This path you’ve chosen is far more complex than the life you dreamed of. Things aren’t as easy as they would be for couples where children, divorces, and custody agreements aren’t factors.
You didn’t have the same honeymoon period, the late nights out alone without responsibility, the autonomy over your schedule for last-minute vacations.
Accepting that your future looks differently than the one you’d dreamed of is the first step.
You can’t fully move forward until you grieve and accept the new reality.
Until you’ve fully mourned the loss of the life you thought you’d live, you’ll be triggered by reminders of that reality, like I was with the wedding video.
Those little triggers can grow into mounting resentment, and it can consume you. Instead, recognize and accept that things are different. That doesn’t have to mean worse, but it is still fundamentally different.
Mourn the loss of that easier life, the way you wanted things to be, and allow yourself to feel the full depth of that loss. And then, once you’ve given yourself that time to grieve, focus on all of the reasons you’ve chosen this life.
Remember all of the reasons your partner is worth the extra effort, the co-parenting drama, and the different. Remind yourself why you said yes.
Once you’ve gone through this process and mourned the loss of the life you thought you’d live, the future you thought you’d have, you can fully and truly live in the moment and look forward to the future with your chosen partner.
P.S. If you’re new in your role, here’s an open letter to the new stepmom that may resonate with you!