Well, I survived a slightly whirlwind Easter weekend out of town with Mark and a large portion of his family (most of whom I'd never met before).
We went out to Hopkins, MO (go to Kansas City and turn right) on Friday after Mark got off work. His parents had already gone with his sister and daughter earlier in the day, so we made the 6-hour drive by ourselves. I brought along books and knitting. Mark brought audiobooks. We didn't need any of it, because, instead, we talked. For the entire trip. Non-stop. We had to stop and get throat lozenges. Because we're ridiculous.
The rest of the weekend went well, I believe. I met tons of his family members and helped wrangle/entertain Kaylee (by which I mean playing catch with my shoes, playing hide-and-seek, looking at my old View Master, and coloring). I know I was under scrutiny for being the "new girlfriend," and to see how well I fit into the future stepmom role. But, with my newly earned title of Child Whisperer, I like to think I passed. At the very least, she didn't drown on my watch while we were trying to teach her to swim in the hotel pool. So there's that. And she chose to sleep snuggled up to me instead of her dad, which was nice for my ego but pretty terrible for my sleep.
We drove back Sunday (Well, Mark drove. I watched movies in the backseat with Kaylee until we both fell asleep.), dropped her off, and went to my parents' house for Easter.
Well, I thought we went there for Easter.
What we apparently went there for was my mom telling Mark everything she always hated about my ex, his family, and the fact that I married him.
This went on for what felt like five hours, but that could have been because I was so embarrassed I was nauseous.
She detailed how she and my dad contemplated bribing me with a trip to England or downright kidnapping me before the wedding (until they saw an actual news story where parents were arrested for doing that exact thing). She told him how they hoped that my ex would have gone to seminary when he was supposed to so that I would come to my senses, instead of him delaying his entry to seminary for a year so I wouldn't be on my own without him to keep an eye on me.
She talked about how she had contingency plans for everything, including me turning around in the middle of the ceremony and telling her I didn't want to get married. About how his mom turned to her the day after we got married and triumphantly told her that Alec was my problem now. How my mom was depressed and cried herself to sleep most nights before I got married. How they didn't think I would make it more than five years.
(Well, ha. I made it seven. So take that.)
I'm choosing to believe that this giant pile-on took place because she actually likes Mark and not because she's subtly warning him that she's not about to let me make the same mistake twice.
I'm also choosing to believe that one day she won't feel the need to bring my wreck of a marriage up as often as she does.
But what I've learned over the past two years is that the inevitable thing about being in a relationship with someone after a prior long-term relationship ends is the comparison factor. This is only compounded by the fact that we both ended long-term relationships.
Everyone is comparing him to your ex. Everyone is comparing you to his ex. You're comparing yourselves to your respective exes.
It can be a bit much.
I know I'm guilty of interpreting things my parents (and his parents, and our friends) say and do to determine how they compare our current relationship to our past ones. And I know I'm guilty of seeking the validation that our relationship now is better than our past ones.
But why? It's not like I need the validation. I don't. I may want it (who doesn't?), but I don't need it. I'm better when I'm not worrying what people think of me, and I'm sure Mark is too. I know I don't want him to worry about if he's doing something that my ex used to do. And I don't want to worry about if one day my mom will be regaling someone else with the next rendition of "why did Ashley do that?" I want us to just be us.
On the other hand, it's all but impossible for a relationship of any kind to stand on its own. We are all always building off our past experiences, off our past friends and lovers. The past shapes us, whether we want it to or not, for better or for worse. And I like to believe that even the worst of the past has made for a better present.
But that's just me. You are, of course, free to make your own judgements. And I'm free to (try to) not care about them.