Dear daughter and son,
As much as people probably think I left your dad for another man, I did not. I did not meet that other man until I had moved off the farm. I made mistakes. I became involved with someone new before the divorce was final. There are so many decisions I made along the way that I wish had been made differently but I am not going to wallow in regret because I took important life lessons away from all those decisions and I’ve done the work to become a better person because of it.
If all other promises to your partner feel impossible to keep, at least keep this one: always be faithful. There are no greater destroyers of another human’s trust in love or belief in one’s self, than the actions of an unfaithful partner.
I may not have been physically unfaithful while I still lived with your dad, but I was emotionally unfaithful. What does that mean? It means that rather than try and find ways to tell your dad about all the things I felt unhappy about in our relationship and in my life, I started telling my girl friends and then eventually another man. That is called an emotional affair and it is just as damaging to a relationship as a sexual affair. Both sets of actions pull the attention away from connecting with your relationship partner to connecting with someone outside your relationship. When things start feeling off in your relationship, talk to your partner FIRST. Always! Not your best friend, not your mom, and certainly not another man or woman, talk to your partner! If they do not seem like they are listening, then find a different tactic to get their attention. Keep trying. Please do not share your relationship struggles with others unless you are in direct physical or mental distress and see no other way to cope with your overwhelming emotions.
This is also the time when you need to look in the mirror and find out how much of your unhappiness is because you are not living in alignment with your core values and beliefs and it very likely has less to do with your partner’s shortcomings than it has to do with your own disappointment in yourself. You might not be looking after your physical health and you might blame your fatigue on stress caused by your partner. You might be dissatisfied with your work and might be finding ways to blame your partner. You might be overwhelmed by the needs of children or aging parents and might think the stress is coming from your partner.
When you feel like you need to escape from your partner, that is the very moment you need to figure out how to get closer and re-connected to them again. Do not seek comfort outside your relationship because that will mark the beginning of the end of your relationship. Fight for the love that brought you together. Do not quit on it. Do not think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence because I can assure you, it is not. Unless you are being physically or mentally abused, your partner has a gambling addiction, or relationship counselling shows no signs of helping improve your ability to strengthen your love again, do not quit fighting for your love. Always remember, you did not choose to begin a life with this person because you hate them.
There will be times throughout your relationship when one of you might be experiencing some personal growth, perhaps through career advancement or by taking on different roles of responsibility in the community, and the other is not and feels left behind. If you are the one feeling left behind, take the bull by the horns and either become part of their growth or set yourself up for some personal growth of your own. You can walk on different sides of the path and as long as you are heading the same direction, you will continue to hold hands throughout the journey.
As adults age, physical pain can become a relationship enemy, too. Know right in the beginning that physical pain affects how a person gets from one day to the next and not everyone is vocal about the pain they are in. If you have a partner who works in a labour intensive career where their bodies are physically taxed day after day, eventually those bodies will start to wear out and for some that happens at relatively early ages. Pain can change people when it is not managed appropriately. These changes can affect the way you and your partner relate to one another. It can affect the playfulness and the intimacy. Keep the communication compassionate and open. If their pace in walking down the path slows, work together to find ways for you to keep up your own pace and still join them at their pace frequently. They will not want to hold you back from being all that you can be and yet they will not want to lose you, either. Find what works for both of you to keep you both feeling secure and fulfilled in your relationship and lives.
Crisis and traumatic events affect everyone differently and your partner may experience any of those situations with vastly different feelings, attitudes, and actions than what you do. Communicate. I can not stress this enough. Keep your heart open and accept their experience will be different than yours and understanding will only come from patience, time, and effective communication. There may be times in your relationship where you need to carry the brunt of the load to keep the wheels of the bus between the lines on your path together. Depression and mental fatigue can happen to anyone. When your partner struggles with their emotions, encourage them with compassion to get professional support and never belittle them for what they are experiencing but try your best to understand and be patient while they work on healing. Now is the time to be empathetic.
The lesson here is this: Stay Faithful. Solve the problems as they arise, do not run from them. I ran from mine and you two know the results of that. It has not been an easy ride for any of us for a long time. Staying faithful to your partner and exhausting all options in healing a hurt relationship and a hurt self is just as much an act of respect for yourself as it is for your partner. Learn from my mistakes, fight hard to keep the love you believe in when you walk down the aisle. You will never regret a successful marriage.