Well, yes…and no. When I look back at our marriage I think of it as charmed. Sure, we had stressors, not to mention some rather intense family issues that arose from time to time, but overall, it was solid and it was good. Our marriage seemed (and still does) to embody the ideals of mutual respect, appreciation, and communication. We don’t fight…we’ve never even raised our voices at each other. From time to time, there’s annoyance or misunderstanding, but it’s quickly resolved.
But inside, I still had a lot of learning to do in terms of love, not to mention respect and appreciation for myself.
Throughout this series of blog posts I haven’t written much about my weight, body, or eating habits, but a little perspective is in order. Here’s a quick history:
As a pre-teen/teen I thought I was fat, even though I was not. Emphasis was on the number on the scale and that number was the indicator of health/beauty. I started emotional/binge eating when I was middle school.
In college I put on weight. I don’t know how much. By the time I was a senior, I was quite heavy, but I lost a lot of weight by taking illegal drugs (mostly speed). I finally liked my body but the only thing I thought it was good for was attracting men.
In my 20s, I gained a little weight, but it was rather stable. I don’t remember how much I weighed. I do remember that I tried lots of diets, like Nutrisystem. I also remember my first husband taking “before” photos of me.
When I met Tim in my early 30s, I was still insecure about my body. It was a couple of years into our relationship that the diet drug combo Fen-Phen came out. I started taking it and lost 40 pounds (thankfully I had none of the damaging side effects associated with this dangerous drug). The funny thing is, I have no idea how much I weighed to begin with.
By the time we got married, I’d regained some of the 40 pounds I had lost. After we married I gained the rest and more. I don’t remember when it was, but I do remember that at some point I passed the 200-pound mark.
It’s only in hindsight that I understand what was going on: I was NOT loving myself AND, although our relationship was as described above, I was testing Tim’s love for me, not just by gaining weight, but by being so insecure with myself that it affected my relationship with his kids and with others in my family. I put several good relationships at risk, while the more toxic relationships tended to flourish. How I treated my self and my body is how I tended to treat others. And this treatment arose out of pain and fear.
It was only my relationship with Tim that seemed to be healthy.
I used to have awful dreams that he was cheating on me. The worst part of the dream wasn’t the actual cheating, it was the attitude he had about it: “of course I’m cheating, you’re pathetic.” What I came to understand is that I was cheating on me, and I thought I was pathetic.
So, if that’s how I felt about myself, how on Earth was I able to love and be loved?
I am married to a man who loves unconditionally (and, until I met him, I didn’t know what unconditional love looked or felt like).
There’s also an element of luck.
And then there’s the fact that Tim is the kind of guy who doesn’t give up, and who will sometimes stay in situations that aren’t good for him out of sheer stubbornness or misplaced loyalty. I’m not saying that our marriage wasn’t good for him, or that I was a complete and total mess, but what I do know is that if I hadn’t learned to love myself, I am sure our marriage would not have thrived.
When I finally opened myself up to healing and took those first few tentative steps towards loving myself, I started to love him better and more fully.
And the good relationships that I had put at risk? They got better. And the toxic relationships? They fell away.
Earlier this year I decided to try on my wedding dress. It was too big. Way too big.