My Deep, Disgusting Secret


Last week, AirForceWife wrote about our conversation in the bookstore, her need to get anticipatory grief out of her system.  It took me a few days to work up the courage to publicly admit my side of the conversation.  I also needed to run the idea by my husband; he isn't entirely comfortable with the fact that I have this compulsion to reveal embarrassing emotions and thoughts to the entire internet.  He also doesn't really feel the need for anticipatory grief in his life, and I think he finds this milspouse urge to plan for death unsettling and unnecessary.

By this point on SpouseBUZZ, we all know that we plan for the worst.  We plan for the doorbell to ring, we plan to have to arrange a funeral, we plan to have to tell our kids, we plan to potentially quit a job or sell a house and move.  We do these things, and we've begun to open up and talk about them.  And I wonder how many of you out there do what I do...how many of you take it a step further?

My heart is pounding and I am starting to feel a little like throwing up, just because I am about to admit how far my anticipatory grief goes.  It's such a private, creepy thing to admit.  But I know I can't be the only one.  I just know it.  (Gosh, I hope I'm right.)

My husband and I don't have children.  If something happened to him, I would be alone.  I don't want to be alone.  I love being a wife.  I love being a military wife.

My deep, disgusting secret is that sometimes I try to imagine if there's anyone else we know in our life that I could consider marrying.  Like I run through a mental checklist of all the single guys we know, to see if I could ever imagine having a life with one of them.  I honestly don't imagine ever dating and falling in love again, and it grosses me out to imagine a physical relationship with someone else, but what I see for myself is some sort of choreographed partnership with someone who knows my husband, someone I could take care of and who would help keep my husband's memory alive.  Kind of like an arranged marriage.

That's what I do in my anticipatory grief: I arrange a second marriage for myself.

It's sick.

But somehow, it brings me stupid comfort.  It's like a small way to control the future and my emotions.  Because the alternative -- imagining myself alone, or trying to date again like a regular childless 30-year-old -- leaves me horrified.  I don't want to date or fall in love again; I just want to not spend the rest of my life alone.  So I need an arranged marriage.

I have no idea if I would still feel this way if something really did happen to my husband, but for now, this is what makes sense in the sick imaginary future after The Doorbell Rings.

And it's not just for me; I also have a second wife picked out for my husband.  Unfortunately, she's married, so I informed him that he will have to work hard to steal her away from her husband.  He thinks I'm nuts.

He really does.

But my darling husband lets me be nuts.  He lets me talk to him about these things, voice my fears, and run my imaginary future plans by him for approval.  He even jokes with me about all the different reasons I couldn't stand to be married to this guy or that: this guy is too spontaneous for me, that guy is too messy.  He indulges my crazy.  Over the years, he has learned about this anticipatory grief and lets me share it with him so I don't feel like such a freak.  I'm not really sure he understands it, but I am so blessed that he sees it as a healthy venting of how scared I am to lose him.

One other thing that AirForceWife and I discussed in that bookstore was how our husbands absolutely do not plan our deaths.  When my husband and I went to purchase additional life insurance, he initially said that we didn't need any on me because my life is not dangerous.  He cannot even conceive of losing me, and I am certain he never thinks about it or plans for it or arranges himself a second marriage.  I wrote about this a year ago, about how I wanted him to help shoulder the burden while he was deployed, that I worried about him constantly but he never worried about me.  It wore on me, constantly thinking that he might die, and it kind of hurt my feelings that he never lies in bed at night and cries because his mind starts to play through scenes from my funeral.

AirForceWife mentioned something in passing that really struck me.  She half-joked that if something ever happened to her, her friends would have to converge on her house to take care of her husband because he's never planned for this.  Rushing to comfort AirForceGuy had never crossed my mind before, but the instant she said it, I knew she was right.  He would need us just as much as she would if something happened to him.  And I decided I would drop everything to get to AirForceGuy as soon as I could if anything (oh, gulp) ever happened to AirForceWife.

And my husband might need the same, if anything ever happened to me.  One of you might have to come take care of him.  (I hope you're reading this, My Husband's Future Wife I Picked Out.)

Sometimes I worry that anticipatory grief can be taken too far, that once I've started picking out a new husband, there is something wrong with me.  I remember a friend saying once that she feels so guilty for stuff like this because she worries that thinking about it too much means that she wants it to happen.  I certainly don't want to marry any of my husband's single buddies -- trust me, by age 30 we're scraping the bottom of the barrel!  But somehow it brings me comfort to imagine sharing a life with someone else who also cared for my husband and knew him well, so I wouldn't have to pretend like I was over him.  Because I would never be over him.  However, I have a hard time envisioning the entire rest of my life as just being alone, so this made-up future with one of his friends in it is just a way for me to hang on to him, to be able to leave him in the #1 position.  It makes far more sense to me than moving on with life and trying to fall in love again ever would.  Being in love with someone else in the future is a much more disturbing thought than an imaginary, separate-twin-beds, domestic partnership with one of his buddies.

Now I have to go freak out that I admitted this in public. 

Previous SpouseBUZZ posts on anticipatory grief:"what if" we are normal?Anticipating the WorstDealing With FearOn Mil-Spouse Conversations

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