Teddy Roosevelt, and that time I was in therapy
I’ve truly grown up with the inward and outward sentiment that my parents’ divorce didn’t really hurt me. I don’t remember it tearing my life apart, yearning for my parents to get back together, or not understanding it. Rather, I’ve always felt like it made sense to me, and that it was unique to them—not something that was bound to spoil my own relationships someday or color and shape my views of my own marriage.
And by now you might be rolling your eyes, or at least raising an eyebrow. Because, as I discussed before, I called off my own wedding just a couple of months before, and then later the entire relationship. And in that time period, I saw a psychologist who in the nicest way, tamely suggested that perhaps, maybe, there could be a slight chance that the divorce may have affected me in ways of which I was not consciously aware.
It’s amazing what always thinking you’re right, and always thinking you’ve thought everything through, can do to your psyche. And yet, I still struggle with this, constantly.
And so this is where, in numerous other articles and diatribes and essays, the author would go on to describe any number of phenomena and speculations: divorcees’ children's propensity for divorce themselves, all of the evidence supplied from divorce that tells young people to make very sure before jumping into marriage, all that can go wrong between a man and a woman, and how much can change after the wedding day/honeymoon/having kids/empty nesting.
But my psychologist, in what I now feel was such a brilliantly insightful maneuver, realized that sitting on the couch that day, the last thing my brain needed to process was more of these kinds of speculations, negative questions, and testing of myself. After all, I’d gone into her office on my very first day spewing honest thought after honest thought, in an attempt to illustrate for her what a typical day in my brain had looked like as of late—a dark place full of skepticism, judgment, and serious lack of faith. It was exhausting, and she kindly agreed.
Yes, sometimes people need to do more questioning in life, more soul searching, more brain teasing, as a gut check and as an assurance that they’ve thought something through before acting. Sometimes people don’t do enough self assessment, enough consideration of what something may or may not mean. But I live my life as a classic over-thinker and analyzer (trust me, I'll be the first one to demonstrate that "an unexamined life is not worth living"), and amazingly, and simply, in these circumstances I needed to practice doing just the opposite. Despite my confidence and pride in the idea that I was not terrified of marriage, my psychologist recognized that instead, I had, and still have to a degree, a rather crippling fear of divorce that sits under the radar, below the surface, but is always present. I can still remember her saying, in her always logical and rational way, “instead of focusing on all that could be wrong with your relationship or your person, and all that could potentially go wrong someday, and all that seems so perfect with everyone else’s relationships, do you ever focus on all that is right in your world, all that you love about your person and your relationship, and all that you are sure about?” She emphasized how in any marriage or relationship, there is risk in marriage. There is risk in choosing a "forever" person. There is a lot of unknown. But the unknown should never rule the known. The known is life currently, and the only grass you should be assessing is your own, not what is or might be on the other side. Happiness should be that simple, that easy.
This notion, this very simple notion, was life changing for me. In a way, it aligns with one of my very favorite quotes by Theodore Roosevelt which is that "comparison is the thief of joy." Because if you’re living in a world of comparisons and what ifs, you’re really not living your life at all. And the worrying, in this case, is only stunting a person from enjoying all of the good stuff in the here and the now.
And don't get me wrong, this is something I still struggle with very often, and not just in my relationship. But this new perspective and footing has helped me tremendously. It has proven itself right in so many circumstances where I’ve wasted time worrying or wondering instead of finding comfort in those truths that are evident all around me and deserving of much more credit than they’re given.