One woman’s honest journey to divorce will break your heart and inspire you at the same time.
Everything is calm now, inside my head. All the mental yelling and screaming and rattling of the cage is done. All the panicked ‘get-me-outta-here’s have quieted down. There is nothing left but blanketing silence. This marriage is done.
We started dating two days after high school graduation.
We each had a handful of high school relationships before that. His were pretty innocent, mine were fairly traumatic. But still, it was high school, how serious could any of it have really been? Sexually, we both were each other’s first. We went off to college together, got married immediately after, and moved to California to work nonprofit jobs and save the world. We had a child, one that we both waited years to have and wanted whole-heartedly. Then, we imploded.
So many times over the years people said “awwwww” to our story. They found it so enchanting. To them, we were the quintessential All-American, fairytale romance; the scenario people push on their kids as the ideal marriage prototype. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love, get married, and only have sex with each other. They have a baby, are good citizens, and live “happily ever after” until they are rocking on the front porch together in old age. How precious.
Only it doesn’t actually work out that way.
At least, it didn’t for us. By marrying the person we’d been dating since we were 18 years old, neither of us ever had a true sense of ourselves as an adult individual outside of our connection to each another. There was never a fully developed him. There was never a fully developed me. As a result, we always resisted us.
The idea that someone can decide so young who and what is right for them and then be expected to stand by that decision for the next 60 odd years doesn’t seem romantic, it seems wrong. And I’m annoyed by anyone who hears the story of our coupling and finds it enchanting. To those people who say that they are shocked that we’re splitting up, really? Because when you reflect on the absurd odds stacked against us, I, for one, am totally astounded we ever made it this far.
I remember distinctly the first time a voice in my head gave me an inkling that my marriage would soon be over: the night our daughter was born. The nurse came into the hospital room to help me use the bathroom for the first time after my arduous delivery. As I staggered wearily back to the metal-framed bed, the sympathetic nurse said, “Oh, honey, you look so exhausted.” At which point he stirred from his nap on the in-room sofa bed and groaned, “I am!” The nurse and I exchanged an “Oye, men!” eye roll and she snapped back at him, “I was talking to the person who just squeezed a human being out of her body.” “Oh,” he replied and went back to sleep.
As I settled back into the bed, a cold sinking feeling slipped into the pit of my stomach. I pulled the crisp hospital sheets across my legs and heard the voice in my head say loud and clear, “You will be doing this on your own.”
He had an affair (I bet you saw that coming).
A month after our daughter’s first birthday, he left. Walked out. Said he just couldn’t “do this” anymore (“this” being our unhappy marriage) and that he loved me, but had to go. He needed space to think. I asked if he was having an affair. He swore that he wasn’t. He was lying. Our therapist is the one who finally broke the news to me. She was acting super twitchy at my individual appointment and kept asking me if we had talked. When I told her we hadn’t, she started talking in circles and implied he might be involved with someone else.
My heart stopped cold. I knew instantly who it was. The “she’s just a friend” gal pal from work. Their friendship had been a ticking time bomb of inappropriateness. Two weeks before he walked out, the two of them went to the movies together while I was at home with the baby working on a late night deadline. Apparently, that’s the night their “friendship” elevated to a whole new level. All of this hit me like a freight train as my therapist stared at me silently, pleadingly, waiting for me to connect the dots.
I said “It’s f*cking [her], isn’t it? … Mother f*cker!!” And then, in naming it out loud, my world stopped.
Suddenly everything around me evaporated. My peripheral vision went out. My throat closed up. Everything became this searing, blinding white light. I felt a sharp pain and a rush of heat shoot up the back of my head. And then the air in the room began crashing down on me like a weight. Oceans of pressure smashing me, smashing me, smashing me down into the seat. I couldn’t breathe and my head began pulsing and pounding. And then I heard it: a noise. A loud, sharp, cracking sound … deep down inside me somewhere. I actually heard it! My entire self splitting open.
Revisiting it all again in my mind, seeing the vulnerability and humiliation of that trusting girl I used to be (who to her core believed that “my guy” was not capable of being “that guy”), I realize that a part of me ended in that moment. That’s what the pain and the light and the cracking sound were – an execution.
Looking back on it now feels like watching a dog get shot.