The 4 Year Mark Approaches

I have some rare time to myself this evening.  My daughter is asleep, my husband is in bed earlier than usual, fighting off a stomach bug.  Dishes are done, the laundry isn’t…but I’m putting my desire to write before housework tonight.  I don’t allow myself much time to write anymore and it’s something I love to do.  I’ve realized it’s also a tool that helps me through emotional times.  It’s been a tough, emotional weekend due to recent news at work.  The sadness I’m feeling due to that is triggering some memories from four years ago and I’m hoping that writing about it will help me move on.

Most days, four years ago feels like an eternity ago.  Compared to where we were back then, few things remain the same.  We now live in a new city (my hometown), we both have new jobs, we bought a new house, as well as a new car.  Our 2.5-year-old daughter is the light of our lives and we couldn’t be more proud of the spunky, sweet little person she is becoming.  We’re excited to welcome our second daughter into our family the first week of July.  Our marriage isn’t perfection but it’s strong.  We feel like a united team and have made an incredible amount of progress from the state we were in this time four years ago.

But once January hits, there are days that thoughts and memories of the affair creep their way into the contentment and peace of our lives today.  The thing that I hate about this time of year are the holidays and annual traditions or events that have memories of the affair tied to them.  As St. Patrick’s day approached, I couldn’t help but realize that March 15th was the day Max and Tori first slept together.  It was the day before we all attended a St. Patrick’s day party with a bunch of Max’s coworkers; where they snuck out to kiss in the parking lot.  March Madness is in full swing and I’m reminded of the afternoon that Max and Tori went to watch basketball and Max came home two hours later than I thought he would.  Turns out they were having sex then, too.  I hate that my brain hangs on to every little detail and twist of emotion that I experienced in those days.  They are like highlighted portions of my life, jumping off the page in fluorescent yellow.  I’m hoping that as years pass the colors will fade.  I don’t want to forget any of the lessons learned from that time of my life, but I would love to forget the gory details.  It’s truly hard to believe that my husband is the same man who did all of that to me back then, and I think that’s why it cans still hit me so hard some days.  Like it can shock me all over again.

I’ll be relieved when April 6th has come and gone again and the affair will haunt me less and less.  It can return to being a dark, but important memory that has scarred me but taught me things I didn’t know I needed to learn.  I am so grateful for the joy that now fills the majority of my days and I look forward to the new joy that our soon-to-be little one will add to our family.  I will do my best to focus on that joy in the next two and a half weeks and find a way to celebrate just how far we have come on April 6, 2017.

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Thanks, Timehop.

**This post was drafted in January but wasn’t posted until now.

To be perfectly honest, I believed my blog entry days were over.  Thoughts of my husband’s affair no longer permeate my days.  Most of the time, thinking back to four years ago feels like remembering a bad dream; something strange and foreign that almost seems like it must have happened to someone else.  But then there are the fluke days, like this Tuesday, when I find myself crying in my car on the way home from a dentist appointment.  I’m crying because I once again can’t comprehend that my husband could ever have been so selfish and stupid enough to repeatedly sleep with another woman when I had told him that was exactly what I feared would happen from the very beginning.  When I once again feel the anger and embarrassment of being made a fool, of being repeatedly lied to, and made to feel like a third wheel in my own marriage.  It’s like these emotions have been sleeping somewhere inside me and are awoken by a random trigger.  Like Timehop, reminding me of the seemingly blissful Hawaiian vacation we went on in January of 2013.  That’s when the tension was building.  When our first fights about her took place.  Seeing those photos brings back those memories and they got to me this week.  Luckily most weeks aren’t like this week and the affair is the last thing on my mind.  But as the new year begins and April 6th approaches, I have a feeling there may be a few more weeks like this one ahead.

Wondering About Her

A few days ago I had a random urge to Google Snarky Bitch’s name.  I’m honestly not quite sure what possessed me.  I suppose she has been on my mind a bit more often because it was at this time two years ago that she was beginning to creep her way into our lives and chip away at our marriage.  I typed her name into the search bar and up popped a few photos of her.  I expected that burning feeling in the pit of my stomach to pierce through me…but it didn’t.  I found myself to be supremely annoyed at her smiling face, grinning innocently in vacation photos.  I’d seen them before when I Facebook stalked her two years ago.  I let my mind wonder what she was up to now.  How was she living with herself?  Did she ever think of me?  Does she wallow in regret?  Does she hate me for being a road block in her twisted love story?  Does she daydream about what her life would be like if Max and I had divorced and she ran off with him?  Maybe she has matured.  Maybe she has learned lessons from her disastrous choices.  I think part of me will always wonder about her.  I also wonder when I will reach the day when I can forgive her.  Most days I think I want to…but then other days I allow myself to feel the anger as I remember how she rested her head on Max’s shoulder on our way to the ski resort…how she suggested Max should come down early to her vacation house on Easter weekend and I could just meet them there later…how I felt like an awkward third wheel whenever we all spent time together.  No.  I’m not ready to forgive quite yet.

I’ve also realized in the past few months that my post-baby body has brought up self-esteem issues.  I’m still 25 pounds heavier than I want to be.  I find myself quietly wondering in the back of my mind if Max ever wishes my body were more like hers.  She definitely wasn’t a super model, but compared to my sagging post-pregnancy belly and sizable thighs, she would be considered very fit.  I know Max still finds me sexy.  He tells me all the time and basically can’t keep his hands off of me.  But knowing that in the past he risked losing me to pursue sex with a younger woman doesn’t help me feel confident in my current state.  So it is my mission to work on that: to love myself the way I am while also working on consistently building exercise and healthy eating into my day.  And trying to push images of Snarky out of my mind.  I’m only hurting myself by focusing on her.  I think I need to lay off the Google.

Making It Through The Sad Days…

As we approach Thanksgiving and my Facebook feed is flooded with daily thankful posts, I’ve been pausing frequently to get a good perspective of what I am thankful for in my life right now. When I stop to really think about it, I’m overwhelmed by all I have to be grateful for. Our beautiful, healthy baby girl, my supportive and loving family, a network of close friends, a comfortable home, a job I love, my health, and my husband who has worked tirelessly this past year and a half to regain my trust and rebuild our marriage. I feel like it should be fairly easy by now to focus on all of the positive things I have going on in my life and leave all the negativity in the past. But I’m realizing I may be asking too much of myself, too soon.

Last Saturday was what I simply call a “sad day.” Nothing in particular triggered it, I just developed a heavy, depressed feeling that seemed to weigh me down as the day progressed. My mind easily drifted to memories surrounding D-day and various scenarios that happened during Max’s affair. I couldn’t seem to regain control over my wandering thoughts as I’m usually able to do on a normal day. Everything began to remind me of the affair, from a song on the radio (I’m Not The Only One by Sam Smith, to be exact) to the name of a cupcake flavor at a shop we stopped at (Cheating with Chocolate.) I let myself wallow in the deep sense of sadness that had welled up in me. I let the soundtrack of tired questions play freely in my mind: “How did my husband ever allow himself to have an affair?”, “If he really loved me, why did he betray me?”, “Will I ever be free from the painful memories?”, “Do I honestly trust him now?” We were out running errands with the baby and by mid-afternoon I was crying along with her in the backseat of the car. It felt so incredibly good to cry. I hadn’t really allowed myself to in a long time. Max was driving and he realized I was crying and reached back to grab my hand. I could tell he felt helpless and concerned. I told I was having a rough day, thinking too much about the affair. He let me know that earlier in the week he’d had a moment when he was struck by just how much he loved me and couldn’t believe how stupid he had been when he almost lost me. It felt good to hear that. We haven’t spent much time talking about the affair in the past few months. I haven’t felt much of a need to until fairly recently.

Our life has been so consumed with the new realities of parenthood, that the past is feeling increasingly foreign. I’m starting to have a difficult time determining how much thought and energy needs to be put into things relating to the affair. Most days I feel like we are in a very good place. We’re communicating openly, showing our love for each other on a daily basis (though having a baby now does make it difficult to find time to be intimate!), and focusing on keeping our relationship strong by making time for date nights, even if it’s just a glass of wine and Netflix movie at home. Most days I feel like I have forgiven Max. Most days I am very happy with our “new” life. I adore being a mother, and seeing Max as a father melts my heart every day. But I’m finding that being somewhat isolated at home with the baby (I only work in the afternoons) seems to allow more time for thoughts of the affair to creep into my day. Do I just push all those thoughts away entirely? I’m afraid of transitioning into a place where we just act like it didn’t happen. I don’t want to diminish the life-changing events of 18 months ago. But I also don’t want to keep bringing up the same memories and questions…I feel like they have all been addressed. What do I gain from thinking about it now? How do I leave the affair in the past, but still acknowledge that it is a part of our past? These are the questions I’m struggling with. I’m realizing it would do me good to organize these thoughts and really talk with Max about it, instead of just mentioning things to him here and there. One thing he has made clear to me in these past months is that my happiness is his priority. It may be hard to discuss this ugly blemish in our marriage now, but I know he will do anything to help me clear these hurdles in recovery. I just hope I can figure out exactly what it is I need right now to keep moving forward and make these “sad days” a thing of the past.

An Almost-Goodbye

As I sit down to write this post, my daughter is sleeping peacefully in her bouncy chair on the floor next to me. I don’t feel as though I’m writing this first and foremost as a betrayed spouse anymore. I’m writing now as a new mother and a wife who is at peace with the current state of her life.

I began this blog 6 months after I learned of my husband’s affair; when triggers, flashbacks, and run-ins with Tori were still a frequent part of my life. I viewed this blog as an outlet for my thoughts and emotions that could help me navigate through recovery while possibly being able to help and support others. I am feeling like I have essentially accomplished this over the past 9 months. I no longer feel driven to sort through the past, to dwell over details or missed opportunities. I still want to offer support to those who may be in similar situations, but my posts may be few and far between from now on. My life has now fallen into a new rhythm.

The birth of our daughter has been one of the best things (if not THE best) to happen in our lives. Seeing Max as a father has made me fall even more deeply in love with him. He is honestly in awe of how much he loves our little girl and I love watching them build their daddy/daughter relationship. I have embraced my new role as a mother and love every minute of it (well, perhaps not sleep deprivation part, but I can live with it!) I’ve been surprised by how smoothly we are transitioning into our new normal and I realize it could honestly be because of the affair. Max and I have been through hell together. We have fallen apart together. We have doubted, analyzed, questioned, and dissected our relationship. We have developed better communication skills and strategies. We have survived a darkly stressful, painful time and emerged even stronger than before. All of these skills and experiences have helped us navigate this new time in our lives with minimal stress. We don’t take each other for granted. We certainly don’t take for granted the fact that our daughter came very close to never existing. I brought this idea up when Max and I were on our celebratory date when Tori had her last day at his office. I mentioned that it was crazy to think there was a time when we may have ended things and our daughter would never have had the opportunity to exist. To my surprise, Max teared up. He never gets visibly emotional and I hadn’t seen him even come close to crying since the weeks after D-day. I think he truly understood in that moment all he had come so close to throwing away for some cheap, instant gratification. I find it very hard to believe that he will ever take this new life we have for granted. I know so many new wonderful experiences await us as a family of three.

I don’t want to make this into a “good-bye post”…but rather a “thank you” for joining me on my journey. I may chime in with a post here or there, but I won’t be posting in any kind of a regular schedule. My time has become very precious with a newborn in the house, but I don’t want to abandon my writing entirely. So thank you to all of my readers for supporting, questioning, and advising me. I hope I may have offered some form of comfort or support to those of you on the same path of recovery. I wish you all peace, happiness, and grace as you all continue on your own personal journeys.

She is officially GONE!!!

As of five minutes ago, Snarky Bitch (aka Tori) no longer works with my husband!!!! I’ve waited for this day since last April…and it’s finally here! We have dinner reservations made for tonight and plan on celebrating all night long! Soon SB will be thousands of miles away and I will never have to see her obnoxious bangs or ugly outfits again…we will both be free of any visual reminder of the disgusting role she played in our lives. And I am SO relieved. Good riddance and let the celebrating begin!!!!

An Unfortunate Mother’s Day Movie Choice

Sunday was my first “Almost-Mother’s” Day.  It was very low-key since it seemed a little funny to celebrate before our little one is even here yet.  I felt like it was more of a practice run for next year, when I’ll actually be a full-blown mother.  Max woke me up with a “Happy Mother’s day!” and made me a delicious breakfast (his first time making French toast was a complete success!) We then took our dogs to the dog park before heading to my in-law’s house.  Now, going into the day, I knew there was a high probability that spending the day with my mother-in-law could result in an uncomfortable situation.  My MIL loves seeing movies, and due to health issues, rarely gets to go.  So her plan for Mother’s day was for all of us to go together to an afternoon movie.  My husband grew up in a small town with only one old theater that shows a grand total of two movies at once.  Our choices for the day were:  Spiderman or…The Other Woman.  Guess which movie my MIL (and sisters-in-law) chose?  Yep.  The Other Woman.  Max got word of this on Saturday and did his best to sway opinions and even offered other activities we could do instead of a movie…but to no avail.  He simply played it off as not wanting to go to a chick flick, but really, he didn’t want me to have to sit through that movie.  I know he honestly didn’t want to either!  But it was Mother’s day, and it was what my MIL had her heart set on…so we went. 

I decided to go into the movie with the mission of critiquing it for this blog.  And it was exactly as stupid and flimsy and insulting as I expected it to be.  For those of you who haven’t seen previews, the plot goes like this: 

A successful lawyer (Cameron Diaz) falls for a charming businessman and thinks she’s finally found a great guy. She ends up discovering that he is married after showing up to his house unannounced and comes face-to-face with his wife. The wife (Leslie Mann) is portrayed as a slightly dim-witted, semi-naggy woman who has an entirely too-colorful wardrobe. After Diaz shows up, Wife puts two and two together and confronts The Other Woman at her office and has her worst fears confirmed: her husband is cheating on her. (Cue “comical” hyperventilating meltdown.) She ends up befriending the OW since she claims she has no one else to turn to. Through a “Mission Impossible”-like stake out, they discover the husband having a third affair, befriend this OW as well, and then work together to take down the serial cheater. The end.

Now, I understand this is marketed as a comedy…but honestly, how is any of this funny?! Yes, I am completely and utterly biased, but I am quite sure that even if I weren’t a victim of betrayal, I wouldn’t be chomping at the bit to see this movie. It did a stellar job of perpetuating the “once a cheater, always a cheater” stereotype. Those exact words were actually spoken. It entirely trivialized the concept of marriage since the wife never once attempted to discuss anything with her husband until the very end of the movie when she served him divorce papers. And seriously, who in their right mind would believe that a wife would honestly seek out a friendship with the very woman who was sleeping with her husband??! I know for a fact her first instinct would be to punch her in the face!! And who could discover that their husband was cheating and then continue to interact with him as if nothing had happened? Every once in a while, the movie would attempt to have a moment of gravity and actually have the wife face the fact that her marriage was broken, but those attempts most often came off as very trite. The only part that actually got to me was the scene in which the wife throws her wedding rings into the ocean. It wasn’t that action that caused me to tear up, but rather the song, “The Sun Is Rising.” (see below) In any other situation I might think it was a slightly cheesy song, but it reminded me so much of the emotions I went through in those first months after D-day, that I couldn’t stop the tears. Nothing else about the movie was remotely related to actually dealing with betrayal at all. But that doesn’t mean it still didn’t make me highly uncomfortable. I squirmed through the first half, mostly trying to focus my attention on eating popcorn. Max held and squeezed my hand through most of the movie. I know it made him incredibly uncomfortable, too. We were both very relieved when it was over. I can safely say it was one of the stupidest, most obnoxious movies I have ever seen. Max and I talked about it later, on our drive home after dinner. He reiterated how badly he felt that I had to sit through that movie on Mother’s Day and apologized for the whole situation. He hated it just about as much as I did. But his mom was happy and that was really what was important in the long run. I simply took one for the team. And believe me, I never, ever want to live in a town so small that I only have two movie choices!

The Countdown Begins…

A day that I have longed for since April 6th of last year is now fast approaching.  On May 15th, Snarky (aka Tori) will no longer be working in my husband’s office!!!!  Just one more week!!  It will be such a comfort to know that Max doesn’t have to see her every day…that she can finally fade into the past.  They rarely have to actually interact at work, so it doesn’t necessarily weigh on my every day that they still work together.  It’s more of an annoyance by now.  But the thing I will appreciate the most is the fact that we will be able to attend a work party or function with my husband’s coworkers, and I won’t have to mentally prepare myself for possibly running into her.  I won’t have to wonder if every white 4-door Jeep that drives by is actually her car.  She will literally be on the other side of the country attending grad school, and that couldn’t make me any happier.  The farther away she is, the better! 

Max and I plan to have a celebratory date night on May 15th.  We’re not quite sure yet where we’ll go or what we’ll do, but I know we will both feel like celebrating!  Another hurdle in our recovery journey will have been cleared! 

A Year After D-day

On April 6th, one year ago, my husband confessed he had been having a month-long affair with his coworker. One year ago, my entire world came crashing down around me. One year ago, I was a shell of the person I used to be; full of rage, shock, hurt, disbelief, sadness, pain, and anger. I couldn’t begin to imagine what life could be like, 365 days from that nightmare of a day. I went to bed that night, half-drunk and desperately wishing I’d wake up to find it had all just been a hellish dream. But it wasn’t. Life went on. I discovered I could somehow still function in a socially acceptable way. Since that day there have been plenty more horrible, painful days. Days filled with sadness and disappointment. Days when I couldn’t believe my life had become the life I was living. But there have also been days with glimmers of hope and silver linings. Days when I could catch a brief glimpse of what our new future could be like. That future is becoming clearer now, as D-day sinks deeper into the past.

As I mentioned in my last post, my birthday falls just four days before D-day. The weekend before my birthday, Max surprised me with a trip to the local Humane Society to choose a cat for my birthday present. My cat of 18 years passed away right after Christmas, and we’d thought about getting another, but hadn’t fully committed to the idea. Getting a new cat as a birthday surprise was perfect! We found a sweet, gray and white short hair male cat who has now fit perfectly in our family. On my birthday I spent the day completely relaxing, since I was lucky enough to have that week off. Max left me a note on the coffee pot that morning that read “Happy Birthday! Look in the oven!” Inside the oven were two bags with “I love you” written on them with chocolate filled croissants inside. Definitely made my morning! Later in the day, after a trip to Starbucks, I met my best friend for lunch and had delicious Thai food. Lunch was followed by a heavenly prenatal massage (finally used the spa gift card Max gave me on our anniversary last year!) It was perfectly relaxing. Max came home from work not long after I got home, and suggested we go to dinner a little early. As we drove there he seemed a bit distracted and I thought maybe he had a surprise waiting at the restaurant…maybe flowers? When we arrived, instead of checking in at the front, he guided me to a long row of tables…where all of my closest friends and his family were waiting for us! It was a wonderful surprise! Dinner was delicious (dessert was a chocolate eclair cake that was beyond amazing) and it was great to catch up with my family and friends. When we arrived home, a huge bouquet of two dozen red roses was waiting on the doorstep. Apparently, Max had been distracted on the way to the restaurant because the flowers were supposed to have arrived during the day and he wasn’t sure if they’d be delivered so late in the evening. Luckily they were and they are still gorgeous today! We finished the evening by watching “Frozen” (we’ve finally joined the masses and have seen it!) When I got in bed, a card from Max was waiting on my pillow. It promptly made me cry. He apologized for the “ungodly shitty” birthday I had last year, talked about how far we have come since then and how excited he is to have a 9 month old daughter to celebrate with us next year. Hearing all of those words from him was the perfect way to end my birthday (though I do have to say, we didn’t go directly to sleep after that ;))

On Thursday night, we talked a bit about what we should do the following day. Max works four 10-hour shifts, so he has Fridays off. Max suggested we get up early and get on the road by 8:00. I asked him if he had anything in mind for us to do and he was quite vague…so I thought he might have another surprise up his sleeve. On Friday morning, as we were getting ready to go, he informed me that I’d need to pack for two nights. He still wouldn’t tell me where we were going, but I was more than happy to pack up and go wherever he wanted to take me! Turns out he had planned a trip for us to a little island I had been wanting to take him to since we started dating. I was so excited to share that place with him, I knew it would be the perfect way to spend our one-year post-D-day weekend. He found a cute bed and breakfast run by an old French couple (the food was amazing) that was right on a little pond. It hadn’t been recently updated though, so we had an awesomely retro weekend watching The Net on VHS and listening to cassette tapes while Max taught me how to play chess. It was an absolutely perfect weekend. It was one of those romantic, relaxing getaways that makes you fall even deeper in love. I am so incredibly grateful for the thought and time he put into planning all of this. It’s another way he is showing me just how much he has grown and changed since this time last year. I now feel that I truly come first in his life and I realize that I never really felt that way in our marriage before, at least not consistently. Now we understand that to be deeply happy in a marriage, the needs of your partner must come first.

And so, April 6th came and went without too much sadness on my part. We talked about it some, as the clock switched to midnight. But I have too much to appreciate now and too much to look forward to to spend much time excessively dwelling on the past. The past will always be there and it was always be a part of us. The lessons we are learning from it are shaping our today. As much as I absolutely hate what happened a year ago, I will always be grateful for what we learned from it. Our marriage is infinitely stronger now. I know we will never be invincible, but it feels good to know we fought our way out of hell together. And I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us!

At This Time Last Year…

I’ve been quiet in the blogging world for a little while now for a couple of reasons. First, the last week of February was spent completely cut-off from technology during our “babymoon” cruise to Mexico. It was absolutely wonderful. It was exactly what we needed to just relax and focus on us. Pretty soon it will be trickier to find time to devote solely to us as a couple, so it felt good to take full advantage of the time we have now. It was heaven to not do a bit of cooking, cleaning, or laundry for a full week…to just focus on having FUN! We went on an awesome whale-watching trip in Cabo San Lucas and actually saw mother and baby humpback whales breaching in the water. It gave me goosebumps! During that week Max felt and saw baby girl move for the first time. I had been very eager for him to finally feel one of those little kicks or punches I’d been feeling constantly for a couple of weeks now, and he thought it was amazing! It was all around a pretty awesome, stress-free week.

Since then we’ve been busy getting back into the swing of things and preparing for baby girl. Max surprised me and got her crib assembled last Friday…I swear that man is getting very, very good at finding sweet, meaningful little ways to surprise me. (And I LOVE surprises!) So we’ve been working on setting up and organizing her room and I’ve been busy assembling the guest list for my upcoming baby shower. Honestly, Tori and the affair have not occupied much space in my mind lately. Until March 15th…

I knew full-well that the date was approaching. It was the day that Max and Tori first had sex a year ago. Max told me he wouldn’t have remembered the date at all had I not told him. But I know I’ll never forget it. March 15th, March 30th, April 5th, and April 6th are all dates that are burned into my memory: all of the days that they had sex (except for the last, which was D-day.) On the Thursday before the 15th, as I was driving home from work, a particularly sad song came on the radio (“Say Something” by A Great Big World.) I had been thinking ahead to Saturday, trying to decide what we could do to distract myself from the memories of last year. Suddenly a lump formed in my throat and my eyes burned. I was shocked by the tears that started flowing and the sobs that shook me as I drove. I hadn’t cried over the affair in MONTHS. And suddenly, out of nowhere, I was a red-eyed mess in my car. I was overwhelmed with sadness. Sadness that I even had to be brainstorming ideas of things I could do to distract myself on Saturday so that I wouldn’t allow myself to dwell on the fact that on that day, a year ago, my husband was having sex with another woman while I was at work. Sadness that I know he will always have memories of those days, those intimate times with her, even if they didn’t mean all that much to him. Sadness that it still stings to remember how foolishly trusting I was, to remember all of the lies he told me over those weeks. Sadness that my husband ever allowed himself to become so selfish and vulnerable that he repeatedly hurt and betrayed the person he loved most in the world. It felt good to cry. I was much better by the time I arrived home, but I told Max about it once I got there. We decided to plan something special for Saturday night to focus on where we are now, instead of how broken things were a year ago. We ended up going on a dinner cruise on a lake near our house and it was perfect. We did talk a bit about the affair, but not too much. We mostly focused on the future, talking about the baby, the possibility of moving, and the job options I’m considering after baby girl is here. I felt more centered again after that night. I feel more ready to face March 30th and April 5th. My birthday falls in between those dates, and I happen to have that week off. So, I plan on filling my day with shopping, pampering and plenty of good food! Honestly, I’m truly looking forward to that week. I have a feeling Max is planning a surprise for my birthday weekend…so I’m excited to see what happens. I know we’ll do something special on D-day too but we’re not sure exactly what yet. I want to acknowledge the sadness, hurt, and pain that was suffered last year but to also celebrate the immense progress we’ve made since then. I think April 6th will evolve into a day that celebrates our marriage. I’ve heard of calling D-day an Anti-versary…I interpret that as being the day our old marriage was burned to the ground, and a new, fragile one emerged from the ashes. It’s taken a lot of tears and hard work to build it up to where it is today, and I know we will be continually building for the rest of our lives. Marriage is constant, conscious work. I don’t think I fully believed or understood that before, but I most definitely do now. And I am happy that Max is right by my side, working hard with me, every single day.