This is a week of celebrating on the blog. Not only is it a year since we started The Beautiful Place, but today just happens to be my third wedding anniversary to Dave. And not only is it our third anniversary, but it's our "golden" anniversary -- three years on the 3rd! Get it??? (Yeah, yeah, I know that's not a thing for anniversaries. I know your golden anniversary is the 50th one. Humor me.) Not to mention that in a mere nine days, we'll celebrate four years of being together. (That's right, we started dating, got engaged, and and got married in under a year. #get'erdone #whenyouknowyouknow)
I can't tell you how much Dave and our life together mean to me. Our marriage has been the best adventure of my life, and I know that we've barely scratched the surface. Three years is nothing. But already, two things that a wise mentor once told me have proven to be true: 1) We had no idea what we were getting into, and 2) It just gets better and better.
This isn't to say that there haven't been any downs to go with the ups. We've been through a lot together, including my ongoing struggles with depression and anxiety. Because we've been talking a lot here lately about what depression and anxiety is like for us, today I wanted to share one way that it's affected my relationship with Dave and how we've worked through it.
When you struggle with anxiety, you can be anxious about anything. So, I really shouldn't have been surprised that I struggled with anxiety about my relationship with Dave and whether we were right for each other. But I was surprised. In fact, I'm still surprised, because I still have the occasional bout of anxiety about our relationship. It's super frustrating. The worst thing about it is that not only do I feel that anxiety, but I also feel anxious about the fact that I feel anxious about our relationship. It's like the Inception of bad feelings: so many layers of awfulness.
Before we got married, I felt anxious about my anxiety because I thought you weren’t supposed to feel that way about your relationship with the person you wanted to marry. If you felt anxious, that meant that there was something wrong; it's a red flag. Everyone knows that, right? Besides, I witnessed firsthand a relationship where a woman didn’t feel good about her relationship with her fiance, and they called off their wedding. Did this mean Dave and I should do that, too?
After we were married, I felt anxious about my anxiety because I thought you weren’t supposed to feel that way about the person you married. If you felt anxious, that meant you’d made a tragic mistake, and I didn’t want to think our relationship was a mistake. Not only that, but I felt guilty on top of the anxiety because it felt like I was emotionally cheating on Dave. How could I think this way about us??
But here’s the thing: There are different kinds of anxiety. I’ve realized that mine, when it comes, is almost always about the what ifs: What if someone like her would be better for him? What if someone like him would be better for me? What if we’re not right for each other? We don’t see this minor issue the same way -- what if we’re not compatible? And so on, and so forth. They’re not anxieties about actual realities; it’s all speculative. I think people who don’t normally struggle with anxiety get a little taste of this when they have pre-wedding jitters.
On the other hand, the red flag anxieties, the real ones that should give you pause, are about something that’s actually happening: I don’t feel safe with him. I’m just not attracted to him. I think we’re rushing into this. I don’t feel good about his temper. Her family concerns me. Do you see the difference?
Sometimes I do. In a moment of clarity after we got engaged, I realized that my anxiety about my relationship with Dave wasn’t really about our relationship; I’m just a person who struggles with anxiety in general, and this happened to be where it chose to attack. But sometimes my anxiety clouds my judgment and it takes a good conversation with Dave to set me straight again. I’m so grateful I married someone who understands my struggle and isn’t threatened by it.
So if you struggle with anxiety, sometimes it might decide to obsess about your relationships. It’s not you; it’s your anxiety. Don’t let it keep you from something great.
And thank you, Dave, for loving me through this for three years. Or, really, four. You’re the best.