Today is my 18th wedding anniversary. Since finding out about the affair I have been kind of ambivalent about the significance of the day. Whilst I have not wanted to ditch it altogether, I haven’t really wanted to go all out in celebrations either. So in the last few years, we have more acknowledged it rather than celebrated it. My husband has taken his cues from me gently asking me this morning whether I wanted to do anything tonight. As I write this I am still undecided. It is not that I find the day in any way painful just that I haven’t thought through what it means to me in the new relationship we have now.
What is the significance of a day that remembers and celebrates a contract, a vow, a promise - that is destroyed when one of the parties to that contract goes outside the marriage? Peggy Vaughan talks about choosing not to celebrate it and instead they celebrated the day her husband finally told her about his affairs as the day honesty was restored to their relationship. Or you could go the other way and celebrate it with renewed energy as the relationship has survived!
I see a relationship – married or not – like a patchwork quilt you start creating from the day you meet, where all the squares have been taken from different times throughout the years, with the quilt growing bigger as each year passes. Some of the squares are beautiful and some not so and others downright ugly but the whole tells a story of a love well lived. The ugly happened but over time as you focus on the beautiful, it fades into the background.
I had many beautiful squares in my relationship quilt before the ugly of the affair and perhaps those beautiful squares should be what wedding anniversaries remind us of. But in the early days after finding out the pain and the ugliness of what has happened overshadows any of the beauty and an anniversary serves as a huge reminder of that. The first wedding anniversary following the revelation of Brett’s affair was a dark day (I have written about this in a blog post I wrote for a friend’s blog a few years ago here) and the only thing that kept me from acting on my despair that day was focusing on love and those in my life that loved me.
Rebuilding a relationship after an affair means you get to choose how the relationship will look. You get to say what you want to keep and what you would like to do differently. Nothing is taken for granted anymore – it is all up for grabs. In thinking about this I realise that a wedding anniversary does not need to commemorate a contract that was broken and become an ongoing reminder of that. Instead I can focus on love and the decision we made to love each other and the anniversary of the day we declared it publicly to our family and friends. This can extend to a focus on all of the beautiful patches in our relationship quilt since the day we met and put the affair where it belongs in the background of a relationship filled with love.
I’d better go and book a restaurant!