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On Surviving Marriage and Divorce

September 24, 2011

When one has managed to accomplish two divorces before the age of 25, it’s hard to feel like anything but an abject failure. Happily ever was there, right there, in my hands. To have and to hold meant that in sickness or in health, for better or worse, our love would carry us through.

I’m one of those people who’s had to learn the hard way that love isn’t enough.

I knew the exact moment of death each time. The first, as I rode in the car to the venue, wishing the entire time that someone would save me. The second was the moment I knew for sure I was pregnant and the reality that now I could never be rid of him set in. Yes, both were over before the wedding ever happened.

Why would I get married to someone with whom the relationship was already doomed? Well, honestly, I’ve wanted to have me happily ever after for longer than I’ve been willing to tell people. Publicly, I hid my dreams of being proposed to at prom, of being that couple that knew from the moment they met they wanted to spend their whole lives together. Marriage, kids, white picket fence, epic romance – I wanted it all! But I thought people would think me insane and I had a fundamental objection to being classified as a girly-girl, so I drew pictures and wrote fantasies down in a spiral-bound notebook that I still have stashed away to this day. I dreamed big and crashed hard.

I got married the first time because I was stubborn. I wanted to be married and I thought that he and I had a special connection, never mind all the screaming red flags. We’d known each other for about four months when we tied the knot, just two weeks after my 18th birthday. I was willfully ignorant to his cheating, to the abuse, the separating me slowly from anyone who spoke against him. I ignored him trying to use my bisexuality to try to add another women to our relationship. We struggled financially as he was let go from or quit job after job but continued to take on more bills, spend more money, ignore the past due notices until they stopped coming. I was so depressed I contemplated suicide daily, wandered aimlessly hoping someone would save me. But I wouldn’t leave, I made this choice, I needed to make it work.

When I went to bootcamp I told him that I wanted to separate. The response nearly drove me over the edge. I was emotionally battered with phone calls, letters, collection notices, comments about all the people who hated me because I was doing this to him. He was blameless, I was the evil bitch. I sent money home to try to help him and was rewarded with him spending over three thousand dollars on taking someone else out on dates when he told me he needed the money to keep from losing our truck. Yet, when it came down to it, I stayed with him. My arrival at my training command after boot camp was being asked by one of my classmates which of the guys in our group I was going to fuck first since I was getting divorced. In a panic, I reconciled with my husband and continued trying to maintain our miserable existence and project happiness in hopes that we really could tough this through. And for another year, we did.

The world crashed down around us as I faced the truth that I was unhappy and began having an emotional affair with my high school sweetheart – the one that got away. So many fights came from my inability to walk away. I thought some days he might kill me rather than let me leave, then others everything was good. I had no privacy. My phone, my email, any accounts I had online were ruthlessly and randomly gone through whenever he got paranoid. One day, I’d had enough and looked in his email. The truth was devastating. He’d never been faithful to me. There were more women than I cared to count. Pictures, emails, accounts on adult sites with my picture attached to them advertising for women to come play with “us”. That, combined with him describing a fantasy to me that involved our someday daughter and saying how he knew she’d be just as beautiful and sexy as her mother, sent me over the edge. I ran home and filed for divorce.

While I was home, the one that got away proposed and I said yes. Unlike my first marriage where we just decided to get married, this proposal was under the moonlight, by the river, down on one knee, storybook perfect. Well, minus the WalMart ring I’d picked out less than an hour before. I went back to the town I was stationed at and told my hudband he needed to move out. It should have happened easily, he signed the paperwork, he knew what was coming. Instead he had a counter-proposal. He wanted a month to find a place to live. Reasonable enough. That month would include my acting as his wife in every sense of the word, otherwise, he would go to my Command and ensure that I was thrown out of the military for adultery and being bisexual.

I was trapped. If I could have gotten out of it or not is a moot point now. My career was my life, if he took that away from me I would be devastated. So I agreed, even as everything in me was screaming. I told him I didn’t want to sleep with him and that lasted for a short while. He came back into my bed because forcing him to sleep on the floor for a month was cruel. Unfortunately, that was also the first time he raped me. I was asleep the first time he did it, to this day I don’t know why I didn’t wake up until after he was done. It took me confronting him about why I hurt before he admitted it.

Every time after that I cried, but the screams for him to get off me stayed in my head. I didn’t think there was anything I could do or that anyone would believe me. He didn’t seem to notice or care if the sounds I made were sobs or moans. When it finally ended, I was grateful that my body was intact. The damage to my mind and soul didn’t really come to light for several years. It took me a full year after the fact to even admit what happened was rape. In public we played friends for a while, but I put an end to that when he kept making advances on me and had plans for us to continue to see each other after the divorce was final. My fiancee moved in with mild fanfare and it seemed that life was finally going to be good.

The honeymoon ended quickly with my soon-to-be-second marriage. Our plans to not marry quickly ended when I got pregnant. Secretly, I was devastated because he was supposed to leave for boot camp and I had been counting on that as an excuse to get space because we’d been fighting and the incompatibilities were showing. But, I am old-fashioned and a baby required a complete family unit, so marry we did.

I almost completely mentally shut down during my pregnancy. At work I was a super hero. At home I was a wreck. My husband admitted stealing thousands of dollars of gear from his workplace, then thought it appropriate to pretend to everyone else he bought it once he’d confessed to me what he’d done. He became unemployed and would not be going back to work because it was cheaper for him to stay home than to pay for daycare. His time was increasingly spent on World of Warcraft and I felt like I had to handle everything that was attached to being a responsible adult – like making sure bills got paid. I ended up having to take out a loan to buy baby gear when my son was born because everything was so tight.

I can say with certainty now that I had post-pardom depression. I wasn’t diagnosed at the time because I know how to correctly answer screening questions to avoid being tagged as having issues. I wanted to be left alone. I was exhausted and numb. I tried to rekindle my relationship but it felt one-sided. For the period of time where I physically wasn’t able to have sex after having my son, my husband did nothing to keep the romance alive and it killed me. Holidays, my birthday and our anniversary were passed by as if he’d forgotten them, but I went to great lengths to do things for him. The more I came home from work and found the house trashed and him playing WoW, the angrier I got. I begged for counseling, something, anything and he didn’t see the need. According to him, we hadn’t changed since we were teenagers and didn’t need to now. Apathy tore us apart.

Our relationship died in a series of explosions. I felt unloved and went on a quest to find love elsewhere. He turned to substance abuse. Too many fights and tears later, he took my son when I deployed to Iraq, drained my bank account and said I wasn’t allowed to be in their lives anymore, except to send money. A year of ugly court battles later, I was given sole custody of my son. It’s been almost two year since that point and my son’s father hasn’t made any true effort to see him since then, but that’s a story for a different time.

Divorce is devastating. It feels like you’re tearing yourself into pieces. No matter how bad the relationship is, this is someone who at one point you’d promised and planned to spend the rest of your life with. Even when they turn into monsters the companionship and intimacy still bind you to them. The worst part about divorce is that no one has any sympathy for it. They’ll tell you they knew, talk about all the red flags, tell you you’re better off, dismiss it and be done.

I wish it was that easy to let go.

Having forever in your hands and losing it leaves a huge hole that nothing seems to be able to fill. There’s an irrational voice that takes hold in your head and attaches forever to every relationship that you enter into. The compulsion to move too far too fast is overwhelming. Nothing feels right if it’s not at the level of forever, the place where things are supposed to be. Silently, you wonder if you’ll ever be okay again. You’ll fall in and out of “love” faster than anyone can understand. You’ll cling to relationships that are dangerous because somewhere in them is the illusion of hope for happily ever after. You’ll never feel more alone than when you watch everyone around you get married and in the back of your head is the mocking voice that reminds you that you are a failure.

It takes years to work through the baggage of a divorce and it only compounds when one gets into a relationship before resolving the existing issues. Be patient with those around you who’ve suffered that loss. You really can’t understand unless you’ve been there.

I do still want to get married. I want my happily ever after, for me and my son. I want to find a man who’s worth having forever, I just need to get out of my own way and be willing to wait and let it happen. I still cry on my anniversary to my son’s father. I can’t stand to look at pictures of my wedding days or any couple or group shots from those years. Some days I still wonder if we could have made it work. Some days, I wonder if some part of me will always love them for what they were in that one moment. The lessons I learned I can use to help others, but I’ll always carry their price.

Someday, I hope to know what the joy of a wedding day is supposed to feel like.

Until Next Time,

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