This article was written by Lance Armstrong's ex-wife. It is a really good
article that makes a lot of good points. If I want any of my friends to take ANYTHING out of this article, it is to not lose yourself in a new relationship. You should maintain who you are, you beliefs, your values, your wants, and your likes and dislikes no matter the cost. The person that you are in a relationship with is in one with you because of who you are. You will need yourself when that relationship ends. I would hate to see any of you come out of a relationship not knowing who you are because you are left as nothing but a shell of a once vibrant, thriving person.
The greatest conspiracy in modern history is not Watergate or the shooting
of JFK; it's something far more ingrained and insidious in the way that it distorts the truth. The conspiracy is marriage. It's not that I don't respect the institution and the belief I've cherished since childhood of what such a union could be. One heartbreaking and publicly failed marriage later, I actually revere marriage more at age 34 than I did as a blushing bride of 26.
The problem is that when a young woman announces her engagement, everyone is quick to roll out the matrimonial red carpet by throwing showers and obsessing over wedding day plans. This helps a bride prepare for the reality of marriage about as much as nine months of baby showers and nursery decorating prepare a gestating woman for the awesome task of raising a child: not at all.
Perhaps we are all guilty of holding on too tightly to our own Cinderella stories, thinking that the glass slipper of the perfect marriage will conform to us uniquely. Engagement, like pregnancy, is a fleeting and hopeful time, and those who have gone before hesitate to disrupt this dream with a dose of reality. So we carry a young woman toward the threshold of her new identity as a wife and mother and abruptly drop her off at the curb, peeling out on two wheels with a honk and a wave and a wish for good luck.
Here is the truth as I see it: Marriage has the potential to erode the very fiber of your identity. If you aren't careful, it can tempt you to become a "yes woman" for the sake of salvaging your romantic dream. It can lure you into a pattern of pleasing that will turn you into someone you'll hardly recognize and probably won't like. I am warning you because I only wish someone had warned me.
The incredible disappearing woman
Ten years ago I never would have expected my life to turn out quite the way it did. At 24 I bought my first house and was working for a high-tech company in Austin, Texas. I had adopted a dog named Jake from the pound and drove a cute little green Miata that I paid for in full. I was career-minded and single-minded. I was also headstrong and naive; I treasured my self-sufficiency so much that I scoffed at women who gave up their jobs, stayed home to take care of children or relied on men for everything.
Then I fell in love. I met Lance Armstrong, the Texas cyclist who was
battling testicular cancer, at a press conference I'd planned for his foundation's first cancer fund-raiser. Soon I was joyfully sporting an engagement ring with a hefty rock the size of my dilated pupil in a darkroom. I was so enamored with my new stature as part of a couple that I paid more attention to my left hand than to readying my heart for the journey ahead. I quit my job, rented out my house, gave my dog to an old boyfriend, sold my car and moved to France so Lance could reenter the world of professional cycling. We got married and promptly had three children—a son and then twin daughters—who were breast-fed, toted between countries and utterly adored by their devoted, full-time, stay-at-home mommy. (So much for my scoffing.)
My memories tell the real story. I remember being a bride of two weeks, writing thank-you notes and pondering the strange ache in my heart as I grieved for my old name and independent self. And postpartum me in 1999, weeping for apparently no reason in the middle of the night as I sat on a sofa-size maxi-pad and rocked my crying newborn, Luke, while feeling utterly and terrifyingly alone.
If you ask me today what I truly love, I can easily tell you I love God, my family, my friends, fireworks displays, a good red wine, staying up late with a mystery novel, a sweaty run, painting abstract art, indulging my organizational compulsions, laughing until no sound comes out and taking my time. If you had asked me when I was married what I loved, I would have automatically told you the things that I loved about my husband: the confident, easy way he traveled between countries adapting to cultures and languages, or the way he could fearlessly MSH (our acronym for "Make shit happen," something we both excel at), or the little-known fact that he is a good photographer. I forgot my own list (and I'm a list girl!). Making him happy became my happy.
So this once-devout Catholic stopped going to church because it was inconvenient. Between my husband's seven-day training schedule and the impossibility of my attending solo with twin infants and a rowdy toddler in a cathedral with a Latin mass and no nursery, I gave up. I quit reading late into the night because the light was bothersome to a tired athlete who needed sleep. I put all the energy and skills that made me a good manager and account executive into errands, planning and mothering. But the beauty of a wife is not found in those things. The beauty of a wife is in her being, not in her doing. During those years I perfected my doing and neglected my being. I remember the day that revelation first hit me: I made a joke to Lance about being opinionated, and he looked at me, sincerely confused: "You?"
Getting back the real me
If I were to do things over again, I wouldn't have thrown myself so irrevocably into my new life. I would have guarded the things that made me feel like me —the places, the friends —and above all I would have spoken up about my needs. Instead, I will leave you with a lesson about how a woman can hold on to the bright, hard flame of who she is.
If your husband asks what you think, tell him. If you have a preference, voice it. If you have a question, ask it. If you want to cry, bawl. If you need help, raise your hand and jump up and down. I spent five years juggling kids, travel, cooking, smoothing. I never once said that I couldn't do it on my own, or that I was just plain tired. I became a prisoner to my own inability to say uncle when life squeezed me too hard. The warden was pride, and I remained in maximum security.
The time may come when you realize that the only way to restore the meaning to your marriage is to get back the real you. It requires warrior-size courage to take a stand against the miscommunication, deception and emotional distance that breed in the shadows of inauthenticity. You will have to boldly step up to the line and speak from your heart. You will have to own your words (spoken and unspoken), your actions (done and undone) and the consequences of both. If I ever marry again, I will have cue cards prepared with "Yes, I do know what I want," "Make me laugh and I'll get over it" and "I need you, please help me."
I know that one day my daughters will face these same challenges. At age four they are already starting to form their own dreams of a handsome prince on a white horse. Without destroying the beautiful elements of their innocence, I long to prevent them from a disappointment like mine —so with each step between now and then, I vow to myself and to them to be real. I hope that as they watch me painstakingly reclaim my hard-earned authenticity, they will manage to guard their own. And when they do decide to wed, they will bring to their marriages the greatest gift of all: a unique and unshakable sense of self.
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