When you spend a certain amount of time trying to not deal with something, it will present itself to you in a repackaged format so that you can learn the same lesson. And might I add? The lesson gets worse every time you try to dodge learning it.
But time also does a lot of things as far as perspective is concerned, and that’s the direction in which I want to steer this blog post.
Brace yourselves for this: this will get personal. And it is in one part for my own cathartic purposes to put this down, but in another, I am writing this to also right a fair few wrongs that I have done. Because I know how easy it is to find info, I feel that if I have to own my misdeeds, I may as well do so outright. I have no problem with admitting when I was in the wrong.
Read on, if you dare, and if you’re not comfortable finding all this stuff out, I understand.
I’ve always been a big proponent of listening to your gut. My firm belief is that, bluntly put, every single person in this earth has the same ‘sixth sense’ that tells them when something’s amiss. The same thing that lets you know when someone’s lying, that you’re in a place where you shouldn’t be, when your – or someone’s – relationship is doomed for failure, is known as a million different things in a million different cultures, but can be summed up as just the gut feeling.
This past Thanksgiving Day would’ve been my twelfth wedding anniversary – that is, if I were still married. I can say this now honestly: if there’s anything I would’ve changed in my life, it would’ve been going through with it in the first place. Not that it lasted long, as I’m celebrating my decade of being legally single next August, but the lessons that I did learn from that entire episode of my life, I could’ve learned a different way.
And I will also say this, twelve years later, that I own a fair bit of fault for getting into it in the first place.
I will first own this: I knew it was going to fail from the start. I knew it most clearly when I was with one of my bridesmaids in the hair salon, getting my updo in place. I knew while I was in the chair that it would be a horrible idea for me to go through with it. Except… the guests were on the way, everything was paid for and ready, and I was in the damn stylist’s chair. And K. said to me, “I think you know, right now, what you’re about to do.”
I should really thank K. because, when the marriage hit the skids as I sensed in that moment twelve years ago it would, she was the one who stood up and told me to stop fucking things up. It was not an easy thing to hear, and it was definitely something that I deserved. She said, outright, “I don’t support your decision. I don’t like what you’re doing. You need to stop.”
She was right. And even if she and I don’t speak anymore – time took us in very separate directions, for reasons not related to this – I say that in that moment, she showed herself a real friend just in that gesture. She showed me that she cared – even if it meant saying something I didn’t want to hear and didn’t want to acknowledge. I have to give credit where it’s due: she was a real friend to me, and at the time, I screwed up spectacularly and, as a real friend always would, she stood up to me and said “No!”.
For that, I’m grateful, though it took me at least another year before I could acknowledge it, never mind appreciate her for saying it to my face.
I made the decision to get married for all the wrong reasons, even though looking at my wedding photos, you’d never suspect it unless you knew how to look. If anything, I’ve always been adept about hiding what was behind the scenes. And at the time, I certainly did not think that any of the reasons I had for my ex were invalid. Was I happy? God, yes! At the time, I was, and I would’ve fought you down vociferously if you tried to tell me otherwise – and I have done so on several occasions. But I was also young and dumb enough to think I could defy the odds, and so caught up in being in what seemed to be a great romance, it didn’t even occur for me that it may have been too good to be true. I was 19, lacking in both maturity the real world department, and thought I could take on the world, as many 19-year-olds are apt to think.
Here’s the thing: the law of averages and basic practical psychology make exemptions for no one. Of the lessons that came out of that marriage, this was the single strongest one. When something doesn’t add up, there’s no amount of chicanery that can make it add up. Such it is in mathematics, and very similarly it is in relationships. If it doesn’t work, there’s only so many formulas that can be used before you see that it doesn’t work.
I can’t blame my ex completely for the way it was. Much as I would love to, I can’t; it’s unfair to him. It was my idea to go for it and get married, and in part it was because of 1) my own state of mind and 2) me genuinely believing it was going to work – foolish, yes, but I believed it at the time. Sheltered kid in college, bad home environment – everything about me back then spelled an easy mark. He wanted to use me and toss me aside; I thought it meant something more, and hadn’t thought to look past the surface.
Perfect storm for a bad decision waiting to happen.
I have to give him credit where credit is due, though: I did not make things easy for him. I was not the easiest person to deal with. Full time college student, working, and depression on top of that was not easy. And I grant him points for dealing with that. No, seriously: when you look back and firmly see that you too were A Problem, you do have to give the props to the people who dealt with it at the time, and own that yes, you did put them through that.
For me, the breaking point of the entire deal was when he began constantly talking about getting me pregnant. I make no bones of the fact that I don’t want kids; even back then, I told him I wanted none. More than once. His favorite thing to tell me was, “You don’t know what you want.” “You’ll love it when it’s here.” “You don’t know what you’re saying”. “You’re delusional.” What does that sound like to you? Gaslighting, you say? Ding-ding-ding, we have a winner.
That was my primary reason for leaving. There were other things too: slow and deliberate isolation from my friends, frequent accusations of infidelity because I had friends online and offline (the accusations were baseless, to note), plus he never transferred billing responsibility for a couple of utility accounts, which almost resulted in me almost being sent to collections twice, my credit score took a nosedive… But honestly, it’s the mental fuckery that did me in. I do not take kindly to someone trying to convince me I’m less than sane because of what I think and feel. My depression issues didn’t make it any better. However – major however – do not ever, ever make me question my sanity.
If anything, I should thank my ex in the regard that the experience with him was exactly what I needed to jump-start my way to growing a spine. Because no matter what my brain chemistry may have been like, the one thing I have always firmly known, and what kept me going, is that I was sane and I knew exactly what my thoughts and feelings were. I knew what I felt was valid, and thanks to my crim-justice major and studies, I soon understood what was going on around me was very far from normal. Leaving him was the one of the best things that happened.
It also taught me that no matter how good something seems, if it’s too good to be true, it always is. If someone’s smile never reaches their eyes, no matter how happy they claim to be, they’re not happy. And if you see everyone around you nodding and smiling and saying yes and going along with you, the person you should really listen to is the person who’s standing up and saying, “No” because they give enough of a damn about you to stand up to you.
To cycle back to the original point: thanks to our instincts, we always know what the end result is going to be; what we’re not aware of is the path that we will take to get to those results. I knew the relationship, in and of itself, wouldn’t work out. What I did, stupidly, was not listen to that instinct, and instead plunge into it headfirst. Worse, it was my own idea to get married – and me being in love was maybe 45% of the reasons why. The other 55% were my own inexperience, an unenviable home situation that I was desperate to get out of, and insecurity that was only aided and abetted by the previous. Perfect storm for a bad decision waiting to happen.
And know what, I’m owning it. I can blame my ex, but I’m as much, and in some ways more, at fault.
You may have seen me mention that I have been single for nearly a decade, and not just in this entry. That was a deliberate decision in the aftermath of it. I took a very hard look at myself and asked: should I really go down this road again? The answer was no. It took someone being in the same space as me for me to reaffirm that I crave solitude and require it to recharge. It took me being married to fully realize how deeply I loathe being tied down in any way, shape, or form. And it took me someone who tried to slowly isolate me from my friends and family to understand just how important my friendships are to me.
My decision to remain single is not just for my benefit, but for the people whom I do love, who are in my life. They have been there from the beginning, and frankly, in any area of life, they will come first. I just plain do not want to put them through that again.
It was an experience, to say the least. Some parts I’m glad for. Others, it took me a damned long time to own up to.
I may regret the way I learned the lessons, but the lessons themselves? Never. Would I repeat it? …Eh, probably not.
I will say this as a closing, though: the one thing I am most grateful for is hearing five little words that made a whole lot of difference:
“You can always come home.”
And if someone tells you those words, mark them. Mark them well and remember them, because this is your safe haven when you need one. Whether or not you think you need one doesn’t matter. What matters is that it’s there. That, in and of itself, can be all the difference in the world.
Having been through a quagmire, I will always offer a safe haven, to the best of my abilities, to anyone who needs it. If you need out of a situation, I will pull every string in my network to make it happen.
You can always come home. Even if home is just “away from where you are”.
Love you all.