Live and Learn

I’ve been reading articles lately about the aftermath of divorce, avoiding divorce shame, and how to move the hell on after divorce with dignity and a pint of beer…and I say, “Cheers!” to them all because they’re so accurate…

I’ll be the first to admit that I was a total bitch to my first husband. By the time our marriage ended, I had become a person I never expected to be. Bitter. Angry. Resentful. In my early twenties, I saw all my friends meeting wonderful men, having whirlwind relationships, and then pledging “til death do us part”…and I kept thinking, it’s my turn to have that. Because of course, I was an old maid at age 21. And honestly, I really was looking for that life partner. The soul mate. The one my heart longed for. The one to complete me like Jerry Ma-Fucking-Guire completed Dorothy. So naturally, when the first boy to treat me nicely asked me to marry him, I said yes.

And then I entered hell. Mental, emotional, and physical hell. Because I should have said no. I should have listened to my dad and fled the church before the ceremony began but I let my pride walk me down the aisle. What would happen to all my friendships if I suddenly decided I didn’t want to get married? I would be ostracized, crucified, and left alone. So I married the guy and immediately regretted it. To his defense, my ex-husband did try to make the marriage work. He did everything he could think of to make me happy for several years. I truly believe that, even after all the shit he put me through at the end of our relationship. Ultimately, we were just a very poor match.

I took on much of the blame for my flailing relationship because I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t in love with my husband. I went to therapy for months thinking something was wrong with me. I pleaded with God and everything else to make me love him. And then I gave up. About two years in, I left town and started a new life 400 miles away from him. I felt like it was the right decision; but I let some people bully me into reconciling because surely being married was better than getting divorced. I felt like I had no strength to be my own person without this sham of a partnership. But the sham seemed better than the certain isolation I’d face if I owned up to my own feelings of regret.

I look back and think about how horrible we were to each other. The words we screamed, the hateful expressions we gave, and affection we withheld…and it’s a miracle we survived almost five years as husband and wife. Our marriage ended very abruptly when he admitted he’d been having an affair–via text message. I went to work married and drove home from work a future divorcee. I never saw or talked to him again. I moved out and went through the entire legal process alone (by choice). The true friends I had before I married him remained constant in the hours, days, and months after I left him. And when the judge granted the divorce, I walked out of the courtroom smiling from ear to ear. I went for ice cream and celebrated. For. Days. Because I was free. He was free. We could both move on with our lives.

Starting over was incredibly brutal for about six months. I drank. A lot. I went to therapy again and tried to stay busy. Though we weren’t the best match, at least my ex-husband provided companionship. There was a physical presence at the end of the day, someone to come home to. One day he was there, the next day he was gone… It was like he died. I hated the silence that filled the nights I spent alone. I hated that he still lived in my proximity and that I could run into him and the girl he cheated with when I went to hang out with my friends. I hated that I felt punished and isolated while he fucked his way across town. I hated that his infidelity scarred me so deeply, I didn’t know if I’d ever recover.

It’s been almost five years since we broke up. We’ve been apart about as long as we were together and that’s an odd feeling. It seems surreal, like that part of my life never really happened. He and I both remarried about a year after our divorce was finalized, which speaks truth that we never should have stayed together. I think for a long time we were more afraid of facing the unknown apart than remaining committed to each other…

Sometimes I wonder if my ex-husband regrets marrying me. I wonder if he was ever truly happy or really loved me. I wonder if he’s forgiven me for the pain I inflicted. I think perhaps we were both in love with the idea of being married but rather than admitting it and walking away, we punished each other for our growing unhappiness. I like to think he has grown a lot from the time we shared as spouses, the good and the bad. As much as it hurt, I wouldn’t change anything because the experience led me to my current husband. My second marriage is everything my first marriage should have been…and more. I am deliriously happy. And I hope somewhere…my ex-husband is too.

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