I’ve been trying to think of a clever way to start this part of my life’s tale but I came up short. To be blunt, I’m exhausted thinking about writing this. Just as you’re likely exhausted at the thought of reading it. Divorce. Blech. What can I say about divorce that hasn’t already been said? Nothing. What advice could I give? Honestly … nothing, except be wary of who you marry but that’s been said a gazillion times already. And those of us who have been divorced were likely choosing a person because we believed they WERE it. In fact, I was married after being in a relationship for 6 years. I was very VERY wary. And still here I am … divorced.
I have no insights for you. The only ones I have are my own and they are for me and my life and I’m not sure I understand them fully either. Quite frankly, if you read this you might end up hating me by the end. But I came here to tell the truth and so the truth I will tell.
It’s strange — the only people that understand divorce are the ones that have gone through it and almost every single situation is unique and different and yet also exactly the same. We all nod as if we understand each other but we don’t. The only thing we understand is that we are divorced so we understand that divorce happens and it’s terrifying and awful and sometimes necessary. We may or may not understand the other persons reason for divorce but we will not judge because we did the same thing and we know what that judgement feels like. We all fell prey to the same ‘traps’ everyone warns you about but to be honest, those traps are just the risks of love and they exist for every single person, even those marriages that make it. So could it have been avoided? I’m not sure. Because the trouble with truth is that you often don’t see it until that lightning bolt moment when you do. And love is blind until you see.
I’m trying to think of the importance of this part in my story, the relevance. In some ways it’s the MOST relevant thing about me. At 31, I was married, with a newly remodeled home and a husband who was starting a new business. A few months later I was separated and embarking on a new life as a single woman. I had been with Jay for 8 years. 8 … years. I could sit and spend months untangling this relationship and the nuances. Reliving every good moment, every bad one and all the moments that didn’t matter. But … would it serve me? Would it serve you to do that?
I also don’t know exactly how to abbreviate it either. But I will try. To start off, it wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t mine either. And yes it was also both of our faults.
Now that that is out of the way … I met Jay when I was 23. I met him online. I had never had a boyfriend and had only recently lost my virginity when I met him. Here’s the sad part. I had very little to no self esteem and truly thought no one could ever love me. I had nothing to prove the contrary. No boy had ever taken an interest. In fact, some guys were extremely turned off at the thought of me (weird teeth, no boobs, general awkward-ness) liking them, which is so very damaging to a young girls self confidence. I struggled with insecurity from an early age (I know, yawn) but when that insecurity combined with the shelter of the church, my social anxiety and insecurities only amplified. Instead of developing an awareness of who I was through various relationships with the opposite sex, I avoided them altogether believing that men might either a) lead me astray or b) hurt me deeply. I lived in constant fear of rejection … to the point it almost paralyzed me.
In that way, Jay was a gift. Like I said we met online and our relationship started with long personal essays (which I adore) and phone calls. He took an interest in me, he was willing to commit to me, even though we were long distance and so completely different from each other. We began to build something together. For the first time in my life I didn’t feel alone and I clung to him fiercely. And he clung to me as well. Jay was a good man. Smart, funny, ambitious. He had a very strong work ethic and pushed me to be better at my career. I respected him a great deal. But there were issues … issues from the very beginning that I only recognized after it was all over. Reasons why we never felt connected. We were the opposites in so many ways and at a certain point we began to treat each other poorly. Then it just became a habit. Oh we weren’t always bad to each other. And our ‘bad’ wasn’t volatile or violent … we fought, yes. But mostly we were just … inconsiderate to each other. Biting. Unkind. We let our egos get in the way. I didn’t realize that all these little inconsiderations would one day add up to a breaking point, but they did. They surely did.
To be truthful, to be completely transparent or as transparent as I can be, I have to say I did not handle things ending in the right way. And I was the one that wanted to end them. And this is where it gets messy. This is where you might decide you don’t like me.
I am a cliché. Something happened after I turned 31 and I had an a-ha/Eat Pray Love moment. I realized that though I thought I wanted a marriage and a house and maybe even kids one day, the deeper reality was I didn’t. Or, more tragically, I didn’t want THAT house, that marriage … And the floor dropped out beneath me. My heart had been so unhappy for so long and I had never stopped to analyze why. I kept making choices because that’s what you do. You grow up, you get married, you buy a home.
Earlier when I said it wasn’t either of our faults but it was both of our faults, well I meant that. But for the longest time, I took the full blame of our relationship ending. To be honest, I DO deserve the lion’s share. And I take it on. But with time, I have come to realize the reason I didn’t want that marriage, that home, that life was because of things that had been set into motion at the very beginning of our relationship and they were both of our faults. The ways we loved each other weren’t healthy. Not just in how he treated me (which I won’t go into in this article) but in how I treated him too. We had good between us, yes, but we had a lot of bad habits. And eventually all those bad habits became a mountain of garbage and indifference and even cruelty between us.
And here’s where I come fully clean … it took me a bit to get up the nerve, but this can’t be a tell-all if I don’t tell-all right? One of the things that opened my eyes to my deep unhappiness was also a cliché … I met someone. I am not proud of this … Jay and I had been so far apart and we were so lacking in love and desire for each other … that when a man showed up and made me feel desired, sought after, sexy and wanted – which if I’m honest I’d never truly felt in my relationship with Jay – it was healing water for my scorched, dry soul. There’s no way to make this not terrible though. What I did was shitty. That is the truth. One thing I will say, I told Jay about it almost immediately. I had been texting this guy and flirting and being inappropriate for about a week when I realized I wanted to be physical with him and it clicked for me that the part of me that was bound to Jay had been severed. I wanted to be free. This guy I was texting and flirting with wasn’t ‘the one’. He wasn’t even someone special. He was a catalyst for my deeper, truer heart. I told Jay. It was awful. Heartbreaking. I felt disgusted with myself. I felt like a failure, unworthy of love.
After I told him I wanted out, we didn’t go to counseling. And to this day, that is my one major regret. Not giving us the time to properly end what had been a fruitful if unhealthy relationship. I cared about him deeply, I loved him, I chose him for 8 years, and yet, I was so burnt out by the time I wanted to leave that I had nothing left to give. There was so much of me that I had yet to uncover and I was selfish and couldn’t fathom being in counseling talking about the past when I was so ready to embark on my future. It wasn’t fair. It was cruel in a way. And I would never advise someone to follow suit.
I don’t believe the 6 months of counseling or ‘trying’ would’ve changed the outcome but it would’ve allowed us to show respect to the relationship we shared. I didn’t give us that. And it is something I truly regret. It is something I hate about my past and it was my choice. And honestly? I needed those 6 months to process what I was choosing. The guilt I dealt with once I’d finally left was fierce and took WAY longer than 6 months to work through. But in that moment, that moment when I decided to leave, I felt like if I didn’t jump immediately I would never leave and the rest of my life would be lost to me. So … I took the leap. It hurt, I got bruised and I also bruised another.
When I think about Jay and how I ended our relationship – no matter how many problems we had, no matter how cruel he could be – it still grieves me. Yet in my core I know that the choice to separate was the right one.
So that’s my story. I couldn’t think of a clever opening and there is no clever ending. I am divorced. I was in an 8-year relationship, filled with highs and lows and love and pain and indifference. He was my friend and my partner and I learned so much about myself from him. I could’ve told this in such a way as to paint him as the villain … there were certainly things he did that broke me while we were together, but in the end I made the choice to marry him and I made the choice to leave him. There is no villain, there’s only life and all the mess of figuring it and ourselves out.
I was a child when I entered that relationship and I was a child in the way I left, but through it and because of it and during the aftermath of it I became an adult. Or adult-ish. Maybe we’re never really adults – maybe we’re just bigger kids still trying to figure out our path to happiness with the least amount of injury to others.
I do not regret the relationship. I do not regret leaving. I do regret how I left. But …you don’t know until you know right? And love is blind until you see.