Question (from Facebook community): “Anniversaries are so painful for me. How do you cope?”
I’m writing this on an anniversary. Twenty-three years ago yesterday, my ex-husband and I went on our first official date. I was already crazy in love with him, having had a huge (what seemed completely unattainable and unrequited) crush on him for about three years by this point, having been friends for about two years, having flirted for several months, then having danced around the idea of actually turning friendship into something more for weeks. I remember what we both wore, where we went. I remember wanting to pinch myself because I couldn’t believe heactually liked me.
And seeing as four years and a day later, we were married, today would’ve been our nineteenth wedding anniversary. But this year, unlike every year prior, I will not be pulling out old college love letters. And I will not be watching our wedding video. No, not this year. Because this year, officially, I am no longer in that relationship, we are no longer that couple.
So how do we deal with these annual reminders of our current pain and changed status?
If in a difficult marriage when an anniversary rolls around…
Go on a date with God. (This idea I can take no credit for, so thank you to the ladies in my Facebook group for Christian women in difficult marriages for this little gem…) If your relationship is at the place where your anniversary isn’t even acknowledged and is treated like any other day, then use this day as a reminder to pray, perhaps even fasting for your marriage. Spend some extended alone time with God to thank him for the gifts that have come out of your marriage (children, for instance, or long-suffering and perseverance). Thank him for the things you’ve learned this year. Ask him to keep teaching you. Ask him what he wants you to work on during this coming year of being married. Ask him for special measures of strength to keep going. Ask him for a clear perception of your reality and if perhaps this is the year you get extra help to try to restore what’s not going right. Then spend some time praying for your husband, even if all that can fall from your lips is “bless him, Lord”.
If you’re separated or divorced…
Show yourself some grace. Anniversaries are going to hurt, I’m guessing for a while, so I’m anticipating some sadness. I’m not, like, scheduling it into my day or anything. I’m not planning to cry for forty-eight hours straight. But if a sadness falls on me, I will be aware of why, and I won’t beat myself up for it if it lingers a bit.
Pray. I’ve already simply asked God to walk me through each of those days. To hold my sadness for me. To remind me of the sweet times, the gifts, the lessons learned. To bring me some healing. And I’ve asked him to bring healing to my ex-husband as well.
Don’t dwell. If looking through a few pictures will help you, then do it. But probably don’t sit around in your wedding dress nursing a bottle of wine all day. Balance, ladies. We’re going for balance.
And regardless if still married, separated or divorced…
Do something kind for yourself. This day meant something. To you, and to God, even if it no longer holds meaning for your spouse (or ex-spouse, whichever the case may be) or for you two as a couple. So plan to meet a friend for dinner, take yourself to a movie, get a massage or manicure, or buy yourself some flowers. Just a little something that nods at the commitment made all those years ago and what it meant to you.
Remember, something has died. Something huge has died for us. Sadness and sentimentality come with the territory. Feel what you’re feeling, thank God for his sweet gifts along the way, and look forward to tomorrow, knowing God will be in that day and in this coming year just as fully as he has been all along. If this post helped you, I would encourage you to check out “Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage”, found here.
Excellent article. At 5.5 yrs after the separation doing OK, usually, with our anniversary, which is one week from today. Although sometimes there is the moment of sadness. It was almost worse when we were still together and I hated the day and didn’t want to celebrate it.
You said, “This day meant something. To you, and to God, even if it no longer holds meaning for your spouse” and I thank you for that reminder. It’s so heartbreaking to realize that it doesn’t mean anything to him..or not enough to have kept his vows or wanted to try to preserve it.
Such wise words and what I’ve been feeling…our 23rd anniversary was shortly after I realized my husb didn’t care about continuing our marriage and it was very hard. BUT–reflecting what the previous comment says, it was almost harder when we were together and we had to pretend to celebrate and accept the “congratulations” from others.
My dear friend, Karen, pointed me to your blog and I’m so grateful. I can tell it’s going to help me walk through this valley. So, thanks ahead of time.