There it is again; that little voice in my head telling me that I’m not good enough. It’s always there, but sometimes it louder than others; sometimes I can’t fight it off. Even the most confident people have insecurities, but where do these insecurities come from? Mine personally, come from what I think I am supposed to look like, act like, feel like, and have. There is always a standard; always something to live up to. And for me, there is also the insecurity that stems from the comparison between old and new, or then and now.
I often get caught up in the compare and contrast game. How much fun last summer was compared to this summer, how skinny I looked in this picture vs. what I look like this week, how last month I kept my house cleaner than I have this month. You name it, I have probably spent some time analyzing it and how it’s different, or better, or worse than the here and now. Small amounts of this can be ok, as it helps me set goals, gain perspective and reminisce. I also tend to think about the future, and how it will most definitely be better than my life today (even though my life is pretty amazing already). Some of this is healthy too. Actually, this year I am focusing on growing spiritually, which means that manifestation and visualization are big focuses of mine. I spend time thinking about exactly where I want to be in 1 year, 2 years, 5 years, etc. Where I will live, the health of my family, my own mental and physical health, and what job or role I will take on.
It becomes unhealthy when someone like me, a “thinker” if you will, puts more focus on the past or the future, than on the present. And in 2017, I experienced a new type of comparative thinking that sent my insecurity shooting through the roof… Enter Eli, my new boyfriend, a once married man. The compliments and affirmations coming out of his mouth on a daily basis have got to put him in the running for some type of Guinness Book of World Records “Compliment Medal.” If there was ever a time for me to feel confident, it was when I was spending time with him. So, what’s the problem? Why is that little voice nagging me about not being good enough? Oh, right. It’s because he was married to another woman before we met.
Being married to someone is not just “dating in high school,” or “hooking up last year.” Being married to someone means that at one point or another (presumably before your engagement and wedding) that you wanted to spend the rest of your life with that person. That is heavy. You are probably thinking, ” Well, weren’t you married?” And to that, I would answer, “Yes, but that’s different…” I know my past with the Ex, I know the decisions we made, and I know that we weren’t making each other happy. While dating someone that has been married before, you can’t possibly truly know that they were sad more than they were happy. You can’t know how much they still love their Ex. And when you add kids into the mix, a whole new level of closeness and intimacy is created that feels impossible to compete with. This isn’t, or shouldn’t be a competition, but I want this relationship to be better than my last one, and I desperately want it to be better for Eli than his past relationship. So here comes that comparison thing that I tried to avoid like the plague.
My first word of advice… Do NOT, under any circumstance, look at old pictures from facebook or Instagram. Don’t even look at pictures that your new love is tagged in, because this is where you will find other people’s posts about how cute your boyfriend or girlfriend looks with their Ex. I am only telling you this, because although I knew it was a bad idea, I couldn’t resist. I looked. And I looked again. And I looked again. It would create this sick, empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. The same feeling you get when you receive bad news. Technically, this was bad news. She was beautiful. She had long hair, straight teeth, and perfect lips. Like seriously, couldn’t she be ugly? It was gut wrenching, but I couldn’t look away.
What was worse than her being above-average-looking, was that they looked happy together. And you know those compliments that he showered me with? Guess who he used to compliment and shower with love? Her. I was jealous. Jealous of his past; jealous that he loved her. Why you ask? Because I compared myself to her, and guess what? I looked nothing like her. I’m not tall and tan, I don’t have gorgeous long hair, I don’t have a perfect smile. It made me wonder if Eli really thought I was beautiful. It made me wonder if I was his “type.”
After fessing up to Eli about snooping through his social media history, he apologized for not taking all of the old stuff down. It wasn’t his fault, (it was my fault for snooping) and he did not owe me an apology, but he said it anyway, and he meant it. I told him about my insecurities and he brought me back to reality. He was with me, and he reminded me that beauty is only skin deep. That resonated with me at the time, but now I truly understand what he meant.
The other thing that would pop into my head during the worst possible moments, was the fact that he lived life with her for five years. So many dates, so many sweet moments and so many life experiences can be shared over the course of five years. I didn’t want to think about it, but I did. Every time Eli took me somewhere that he loved, I knew that he’d been there with her. Every time he talked fondly about a trip or a place or a moment with his kids, odds are that she was in that memory. We would go to A’s games pretty frequently during baseball season and I knew that they went to A’s games together. They sat in the stands on warm summer nights, had a few beers, and enjoyed each other’s company, just like we do now. Questions would run through my mind about how his time with me compares to his time with her. Is he having more fun now? Does he feel happier now? Is he happier with me?
After much self inflicted emotional turmoil, I realized that I had to stop these comparisons. With Eli’s help I reframed the situation and was able to look at things more realistically. The first point that I came to terms with is that they divorced for a reason. Before I ever met Eli, the papers were filed and he had been moved out of their family home for months. Things had been rocky for years. The “D” word was threatened frequently. He was NOT happy, and although they had happy times, that does not mean that the relationship was healthy. I had to recognize that regardless of whether or not Eli had met me, he would not be with her. I had to stop thinking of it as him being “hers” and start looking at it as it actually was. And for Eli, it was only me.
There was also the fact that if he didn’t meet her and spend 5 years with her, I would never have met him. There are so many things that had to line up so perfectly for us to have found each other that day at ClubSport. If he had not had the exact experiences, both good and bad, that he had with her, I wouldn’t be sitting next to him at this very moment, as happy as I have ever been. Because of her, Eli and I have each other. I realized that I shouldn’t be jealous of the time that they spent together, but grateful, as his time with her has helped shape him into the amazing man he is today. The man that I get to grow old with.
Which leads me to the most important thing I have realized through all of this comparing and contrasting: I will never be his first wife, but I know that I will be his last. The fact that I am nothing like her is a blessing, because if I was, I would not be with Eli. Who cares if I wasn’t the first woman who he took to Jupiter in Berkeley, or the first woman who he hung out with at the Francis Ford Coppola Pool? Each day, each month, and each year, we have each other and our own unique experiences. Everywhere we go and everything we do is ours. Our moments, our memories, our life.
In this case, I would much rather be last, than first.