We all have dreamt of living in that house behind that proverbial white picket fence and having a couple of kids. A boy and a girl would be ideal, but I used to say that I would just be happy with healthy. I did have a “healthy” boy and girl and we were happy for a while. I remember the first vows I ever repeated, I said with my whole heart. I believed every word. “Till death do we part.” As a believer of love and the Bible, I think that when we finally divorced, I felt like such a failure and a liar of those vows that I didn’t think I would ever recover. I’d fought for fourteen years to survive the alcohol addiction, my very handsome Prince Charming battled, but when it came to the drugs, I said “ENOUGH!” I remember, for several years, when he would walk into a room, my heart would do a flip. I mean I really truly loved him.
Prior to my marriage, I’d been engaged to someone so intense and exhausting that when I left that relationship after three years, it did something to me. In a way, I think I grew up in a huge way, and in another way, I think it stripped me of all of my self confidence, pretty much forever. I believed that I was all the things that he said I was, and that “no one would ever want me” but him, which is what he drilled into my head. But then came along my first husband. Chiseled and perfect. Or so I thought. And THAT theory flew out the window as I realized that I could fall in love again and someone actually could love me back! It was a whirl wind romance. I loved the way he laughed. We talked and talked those first weeks. I used to joke that the first month we were together, we talked so much that we didn’t have anything left to say. For the rest of our lives. Because it didn’t seem like we had a lot to say after that. And when I did have something serious to talk to him about, I got really nervous and had to plan out just exactly what I needed to say. But having said that, at first it was magical. We met in February and married the first day of July. And NO, I wasn’t pregnant, we were just head over heels in love!
I guess that I divulged the spoiler and you already know why things fell apart. When I realized that his drinking was a genuine addiction, I thought that I could save him. He was brilliant. He started out at the bottom and worked his way up in his company as a Manager in charge of a lot of people and worked hard to get there. I was so proud! And in his case, I’m not too proud to say, that saying behind every great man is a great woman was true! I backed him and supported him every step of the way. But he really did work hard so when he’d come home at night, he was not interested in taking care of the kids. Even though I worked full time too. I understood. I guess. Later when I had my daughter I decided to stay home and build my art business and he supported that decision but he stuck to his guns about not babysitting (his own kids) so, I had to pay for childcare when I did my weekend art shows out of my earnings. Was he a good dad? Well, I’d say he loved his kids, and he always provided for them. But he wasn’t very hands on.
When drugs came into the picture, I was pretty much DONE. The fantasy had worn off by then and he no longer made my stomach flip when he walked into a room, and I no longer got nervous when I wanted to talk to him about something important, at that point, I don’t think I cared enough to be nervous anymore. It had been over for a while. We separated and he moved out. I was devastated. It was just not as easy as writing two sentences, explaining what happened. I was crushed beyond repair. Even when my dad died, I wasn’t so completely Done IN. It made me remember breaking up with my fiance’ right before meeting him. That had been another experience. When I finally had enough in that case, he didn’t let go easily. I’d come home from work or school and he’d be waiting for me in his car. Or even worse, at school or work. This time, we just separated without protest. I remember thinking, I’m not sure what is worse. Feeling stalked or discarded. I guess I looked at it in a kind of warped way, though the stalking was disarming, at least he cared enough to try to get me to change my mind.
Shortly after our separation, I met my husband now. He wasn’t really my type. (I think I liked the harder to get tough guys) And I am sure with two kids and a LOT of baggage I wasn’t his! But as I got to know him, I fell in love. I think he won me over with the way he was with my kids. And I’d like to think that I’d grown up a little and realized that the tough guy wasn’t always the best choice. After feeling so abandoned in the parenting department, I knew in my heart that he was the way it was supposed to be and not being so hard to get wasn’t such a bad thing after all. I guess I had to look at why I felt that just loving me was not as attractive to me, as fighting to be loved, in both of my previous relationships.
As I began to settle into my new relationship, it was a little surreal. You have this plan in your heart, or at least in your head, mapped out. The picket fence, the two kids, and maybe a dog… and then not once but twice, you have to readjust and change the direction you were going. In a way, I felt empowered, that I survived. Maybe even a false sense of strength. But in divorce especially, I hated that I failed my vows. For better or worse, in sickness and in health. You know? Where was my loyalty? Divorce was taboo. Sunday School definitely did not teach you that it was okay. I think it was never being able to justify my choice that bothered me so much. He hadn’t cheated. Which is the one OUT the Bible gives for divorce. I had to ask myself… Was this the for better or worse? The in sickness and in health that I was ignoring now? It bothered me a lot. but I left and he let me leave. Though there was one time, when he told me he regretted it. When he saw me with my husband now. We’d come home from a little vacation and he was really distraught watching another man bringing his family home from a family vacation. I told him it was too late. He’d made his choice. Another time my niece told me that he’d told her that he was sure we would have gotten back together if I hadn’t found someone else so fast. I have to admit, that has always haunted me.
When I said my vows for the second time, I wanted to feel more aware of how important they were, that I had to mean them this time. But oh how I meant them the first time. My little 21 year old heart was so full of love and faith. And then there I was, standing up in front of everyone saying those vows again to someone else. I couldn’t believe that I was saying… for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do we part all over again. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. It was surreal. My first husband has since died. Several years ago, pretty much because he lived a hard life. I’m sure if we’d stayed together I’d be a widow right now.
When he told me he was dying. I remember saying “I should have stayed with you. I could have just kept nagging you!” He’d said, “I knew you would blame yourself, that’s why I told you last.” I always thought that was a weird thing to say. I didn’t blame myself. I was joking, not in a funny, laughing kind of way but to lighten the seriousness of what he was telling me. He made his own choices how he wanted to live. He lost his family because of it. At that moment, I remember detecting the first sign of my hardened heart. And realizing I’d built some very high walls around it. When he apologized on his death bed. I remember saying I forgave him a long time ago. But his brain was so ravaged by then, I’m not sure he heard me. And remember thinking about the phrase: “Too little, too late.” and wondering if my heart would ever be soft again.
I guess I am writing this because it just dawned on me that I have relied on the “D” Word ever since. Like it’s some kind of weird badge of honor. But… If I was being honest, I think I’d have to admit that, that word actually terrifies me, even knowing that I survived & could do it again. I don’t want to. Though, every break up made me stronger in the sense that I found a way to move on and I know it is possible, in reality, it’s not an option that I want. I know I live in the past. And I am not stronger because of the walls I have built or because my heart is hard. I KNOW I am missing out and sometimes, wonder if I ever truly embraced my vows the second time around. In a way I was thinking that “until death do you part” has become a lie. Maybe God has made divorce so hard because He knows, like abortion, no one truly gets over it. It’s always there. I GET that He forgives us, and that if I keep beating myself up for my divorce, I am not fully believing in His forgiveness. But I think from my very first relationship, I started building walls and dragging baggage to my next place that I landed and then the next, with that hardened heart growing harder. My husband tells me that I have a problem “ALWAYS” seeing the glass half empty when he “always” sees it half full. I remember a time, when I believed he and I would never fight. We didn’t for one whole year. We’ve been married for over 25. You do the math.
Though, it’s hard to be married to someone who views me that way. He says he loves me. I love him. But I still don’t want him to view me as ALWAYS doing anything, especially something negative! The answer? I guess for me to change my way of thinking. Or maybe for him to consider my perspective. Because maybe my half empty glasses are just having a different opinion than his. Anyway, it’s a work in progress. Bringing God into it is the answer I suppose. No. (Smile) I know it is. He is the only one who can break down my walls and fill my glass. And know and answer my prayers.
I guess my biggest prayer would not be the white picket fence anymore and He’s already blessed me with the two healthy kids so I know my glass is more than half full! And maybe I still would like the… “happily ever after” but a biggie for me would be…. that just for once, someone would say. “I’ve been thinking about what you said the other day, and I understand now.” On that day… my glass will be spilling over!
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