5 (Un)Gentle Suggestions on How to Get a Reality Check When You've Romanticized the Past
I have a vivid memory of my mother from my childhood. I think of it often. She's folding laundry in her bedroom, and I'm chattering on about something as she holds out a fitted sheet. We each take our respective corners, create a crease and bend them in neatly while I continue talking. In complete unison, we fold the sheet. First in half lengthwise to the right, then together top to bottom we meet in the middle, she holds the top while I grab the bottom and bring it up into a fold, at which point she takes the sheet from me and holds up another.
I am a daydreamer, I've probably romanticized this memory much. But in my humble, small-town roots, with my modest, small-town church, in my parent's outdated but perfectly fine bedroom, folding that sheet with my mother looks like one of the most blissful things I’ve ever done.
I don't remember enjoying folding sheets.
We do this about our memories creating storylines of "better days gone by." I'm sure you've heard this before, "Ah! Those were the days when kids used to play outside all day and come back when the sun went down!" Or how about, "Before all this technology, people used to sit and have real conversations!"
These things are true. Kids got more fresh air and moms had more free time where they actually socialized.
But kids also got Dad's belt for misbehaving (I'm all for punishment, not whipping children), women smoked while pregnant and around newborn babies, and they drove without seatbelts 🚘.
Let's keep going.
If you were a woman, you could grow up to become a flight attendant ✈️, a secretary ☎️, a teacher 👩🏫, or a nurse 🏥, but your greatest accomplishment would be being a wife 💍 and homemaker 🧺🧹🧽. [Source]
People of colour 👩🏾 had to use separate bathrooms, go to independent schools, and in some places, even use different phone booths.
Ah, the white picket fence isn't so pretty now, is it?
But there were good things too. Can you imagine darning your stockings to go out of the house today? By darning, I mean sitting with a needle and thread and sewing your pantyhose before work. We would just throw them out and go nude-legged. Or, buy a new pair on the way to work. But sewing them? Ha!
We have become so wasteful.
There is a small sub-group of Millennials like myself who are trying to get back to a less-wasteful lifestyle; Reduce, reuse, recycle ♻️, right? Although I don't see myself darning my stockings, I did invest in one thick, ethically made pair that should last for many winter days.
I'm not trying to talk to you about culture. I went off on a tangent there, sorry! It's been a while since I sat down and wrote. What I want to talk to you about is romancing the past.
Sometimes we need a reality check because we've made our past a beautiful memory and allowed it to distort our current sensibility.
How to Get a Reality Check When You've Romanticized the Past
1. Get your head out of the sand.
Seriously. Stop convincing yourself that your loved one is currently okay, just because you want them to be. Honey, they're a mess. Well, they likely are if you're reading this anyway. And yeah, you might believe God will save them, and that's great, but they still have to do the work cause honey, they a mess. "I know, but I believe God is working!" Great. But we're not there yet.
2. Three months sober is not long enough to leave your past behind.
Let's do a math problem! How old are they? How long have they battled addiction?
(____ years old) - (____ total lifetime sober)
= (____ years battling addiction) / (____ current sober time)
= (____ years expected recovery time) + (Jesus *divide again by 2)
= ____ (years before you should expect healing)
If they're not following Jesus, and by following Jesus, I mean following Him disciple-style, not saying they believe with lip service but no actions of depth are following suit, your recovery time is the one before Jesus.
My husband needs about 5.5 years sober before I will expect everything to be cheeky. If he does it without God, it'll be closer to 11 years. Throw in some brain damage in there and the natural aging process and the healing time could wax and wane.
My point is (and I hope you do this math!) a few months is not long enough. Keep your hopes up without being naive.
3. Stop dreaming about your ex-boyfriend.
Guilty! I was a head-runner. When things got bad, I imagined life took me down another road. With that, stop dreaming about your next husband as well. There's not much in the Bible to support remarriage (there are a few verses in certain circumstances to which this may or may not apply) so unless you want to Sin Life Away (like, Swing Life Away, get it?!) stop those thoughts before they progress. You can't do anything about them sneaking into the night, but you can prevent yourself from laying in bed in the morning willing the dream to keep going. Ahem. Just saying.
My husband never reads my blog, let's hope he doesn't start here!
To stay on the safe side, if you want to imagine your future without your addicted loved one, picture yourself single with Jesus as your main and only man. How's that feel? Check out our best-selling Bible Study, The Be Still Series, if this is an area you want to grow in.
4. You need a plan, girl.
A real one. With an emergency fund and an overnight bag. Better yet, emergency phone numbers, a place to go if you need to, a plan B in case it doesn't ever get better or worse, they have passed away due to their addiction. I also suggest you have a secret credit card you don't use but keep stored for emergencies, a photocopy of all essential documents (drivers license, social security or SIN number, bank accounts), passwords to their accounts, a lawyer in your pocket, possibly even a draft separation/divorce agreement and a will. Yep. A will.
This is not backing out on Jesus. It's having a plan in place and being wise. Choosing to continue on a path with someone running their lives into the ground without a safety net for yourself is not smart. Seriously, you're just as lost as they are if you don't consider your options (I said these were ungentle suggestions, right?!).
This is a back-up/emergency plan. Jesus can change it, and hopefully, you will never need it.
5. Realize you're part of the problem.
Yeah, it might have been you and your loved one in a relationship in the past, but today, it's You, Me and the Addiction make three. As long as addiction is in your relationship, I want you to choose to live. Active addiction is not the time for marital submission and compromise.
They're spending all your family money? You buy groceries on their credit card. They don't have one? No problem. Call a lawyer and get your finances back. There is never an excuse good enough to leave your family without food. Ever. That's some shady biz right there 🕵️♀️ and if you're allowing it…. well, that's it. You're allowing, enabling it, conceding to it, whatever you want to call it.
No condemnation, my friend. Call it for what it is, you love them. You're hoping for the best. But you can love them without being the doormat to your own life.
Some of the memories I romanticized about my husband and me, they were still lovely. I will hold them forever as dear. But not all of the things I daydreamed about in our past were. I painted a blissful picture around ugly memories to make them feel better.
Acknowledging reality is a big part of our healing. We have to see things clearly so we can recover too. Especially if we want our relationship to thrive down the road without resentment and unspoken (or maybe spoken too many times!) anger.
If you're in recovery, but you're still angry, revisit some of these. We all need a refresher some days to get a reality check. I know I do!
Download our free "reality check" worksheet if your expectations need a tune-up.
A Real Life Example
Currently, I am already Christmas-shopping planning (yeah, I'm organized, it's August). I put everything in my shopping cart and checked my bank account and got a reality check 🙃.
Ha! Okay, not a real-life example, exactly.
Because I find it super interesting, here are more things we used to do that we know are bad for us now:
Unsafe cribs where baby's heads would get stuck
Smoking was deemed "good for you!"
Walking to and from school alone at a very young age (age 4)
Heroin cough syrup (oh, yeah)
Toys painted with lead paint
Houses filled with asbestos
No helmets for anything
Used tapeworms to lose weight (ew!)
Drank cocaine in our Coca Cola
Used radioactive cosmetics to prevent aging
Want to keep reading? Here’s some things Millennials should bring back from the 1950's!