I’ve got it good. I realize this.
My sweet husband was married before, but his first wife sounds like a fairly nice human. I’ve never met her – she lives across the country, and they didn’t have kids, so it’s not like there’s an awkward drop off / pick up scenario multiple times a week.
I got a fantastic guy with a bit of a broken heart and some random housewares. Basically, I got leftover wedding gifts, wedding gifts for which I did not have to write thank you notes. Pretty much a win.
When we merged households, I rather subconsciously got rid of stuff from Before. If we had duplicates of something, I chose to keep mine rather than keep his. I wouldn’t admit it, but I was trying to purge his first wife from our house. Sure, I’d keep the towels from her bridal registry, but I’d use them on the dogs. I sure as hell didn’t want them hanging in my bathroom, reminding me that I didn’t come first. I didn’t want to admit it, but I was a touch insecure.
I’ve mellowed in the 3 and a half years we’ve been married. Maybe because my initial purge was so successful, or maybe because I got over my fear of being devoured by marriage, of ceasing to be myself, of somehow being in competition with this other woman.
I did have a run-in with a leaky wooden salad bowl that left me cursing her name. But other than that? My Guy’s first wife isn’t on my mind. After all, I’ve already outlasted her. This means I won, right? (What did I just say about not being in competition? Hmm. I don’t recall.)
But Christmas is a tiny bit different. My sweet husband loves holiday decorations, and brought what can only be described as a shit ton of Christmas ornaments into our marriage. About 99.99% of these ornaments came from his first marriage.
We put them up. I will admit that they aren’t my favorite, but they’re Christmas ornaments. It’s not like you can actively hate a Christmas ornament, unless it plays music incessantly.
But there’s this one ornament.
It’s a gingerbread man. And on the back, written in Sharpie, it reads, “Our First X-Mas 2004.”
I hate this ornament. Why should I want an ornament that celebrates my husband’s first Christmas with someone else?
Now, I was once in a relationship where I was supposed to pretend that I had hatched the moment we started dating. I wasn’t supposed to talk about past relationships. It was a reflection on my boyfriend’s insecurity and narcissism, and it was somewhat debilitating. It denied me as a fully formed human.
I sure as hell wasn’t going to impose such craziness on my husband. Sure, let’s put up all those ornaments you bought with your ex! They are important to you. Look how loving and accepting I am!
Except that one ornament. I hate that ornament. It surpasses my capacity for grace.
Our first 2 Christmases together, we hung the gingerbread ornament and I wanted to say something, but I didn’t. Instead, I sulked just a teensy bit. Oh, woe to the second wife!
But this year? I pulled the ornament out of its bag and opened my mouth before I could even think about it. “This ornament makes me sad!” I exclaimed, holding that shady gingerbread man up for My Guy to see.
He looked at me blankly.
I turned the ornament over so he could read the inscription.
He looked at me blankly some more. Then he said, “Was that Foxie Doxie’s?”
And then I laughed like a hyena. No, the ornament didn’t belong to my dead dog.
I spent years being hurt about an ornament that he had no knowledge or appreciation of. And I kept my mouth shut about it. But when I finally said, “No, this was from your first marriage,” My Guy just laughed and shrugged. “Throw it away,” he said.
But then I laughed some more, feeling crazy and free. “No! I don’t want to throw it away now,” I said. “Now, it’s hysterical!”
OK, maybe not the funniest thing ever. But a reminder to go ahead and open my big mouth, and to realize that maybe my assumptions are a little off-mark. And maybe I can chill out just a bit. It’s just marriage – it’s not that serious.