Let’s start at the end. I have been married and divorced 3 times. My hope is that it doesn’t offend you and you continue to read this post and stick with me.
I’m sure I’ll always have a fight within me that feels like the Scarlet D is forever emblazoned on my chest and/or simply loving myself and fully understanding how it all came to be.
The thing that I can never, never say enough is this – divorce is painful.
Respect that pain.
Don’t use it against anyone.
There are a lot of us that stumbled through life, not only career-wise, but with relationships too, looking for the love that we never got at home. I never received any guidance either. So, there’s been a lot of baggage to unpack. As for my relationships with boys, it’s not that I wasn’t allowed to date. I remember one instance of going out with a guy and my father speaking to his dad. I have no idea what was said, but I’m sure it was on the lines of keeping me chaste. I knew this happened because in school, his friends made fun of me. I was humiliated and vowed to never go on a date while I still lived at home. I absolutely believe that the only thing that my parents were concerned about in my regard, was that I not embarrass them. NOT get pregnant! I didn’t understand this until recently and it definitely colored my future relationships.
When I left home, I met my first boyfriend and he became my first husband. I don’t remember ever being in love with him, even though we said the words. We were married for 17 years. We had 4 children and they are great. But we’re talking marriage and divorce here. I remember sitting at the kitchen table, probably 5-6 years before the divorce, telling him we needed to talk about the issues in our marriage. He ignored things and kept living his life in the manner that suited him.
I’ll tell you a story. When he had a 10 year class reunion, about 6 years into our marriage, there was a party at one of his classmate’s houses on a Friday evening. He got drunk and openly made out with a fellow female classmate. Yes, right in front of me.
I likened the end of the marriage to a dead plant. Sometimes, the plant above the ground looks dead, but there’s still some life in the roots; Something is salvageable. This marriage was completely dead. I felt dead inside, too.
I was single for 9 years after that marriage. During that time, I met someone and fell in love for the first time. That didn’t work out. I had another relationship that didn’t work out either. He was an alcoholic and a gambling addict. He drank every single night. I met my second husband and we were married for 10 years. He was an alcoholic, too. I knew it before we married, but buried it. He wasn’t a daily drinker, so it was easier to rationalize it. He controlled me and was cruel to my kids. When I divorced him, it felt like I could be myself again! Now I understand how little he cared about me and who I was. But I also molded myself to fit what I felt he wanted. I endured 10 years of alcoholism before I had the courage to get out. I liken those 10 years to a roller coaster ride. I loved him when we had good times. I didn’t love him when he was drunk or being an asshole to my children.
My 3rd husband was a previous hometown classmate of mine – kindergarten through high school. He contacted me through a dating site and classmates.com. We had good times in the beginning. We thought it was so cool that we were classmates! We both had cold, unloving mothers that were still alive and living in our hometown. I think we bonded over a shared feeling of growing up without a loving family. Our birthdays were 3 days apart, so we joked that we probably were in the hospital nursery together.
The thing is, our mothers and fathers were very different, and our upbringing was not at all alike. Yes my parents were cold, but his mother was mentally ill and mean. My family was charming compared to what he and his siblings endured. When we visited our hometown, we had to lie to her in order to visit my family. She wanted her son all to herself and she completely controlled him. I witnessed her telling her 60-year-old daughter “I hate you and wish you were never born.” Everyone walked on eggshells around her.
In this marriage, I also know the things that I did wrong. I know if I had recognized these things and behaved differently, it still wouldn’t have made things better, because I would have been right back in the same situation as before – molding myself to fit someone else’s expectations of me and burying my identity. He had told me that when he left home at 18, the only thing that mattered to him was to create a loving family. He did a good job. But he was crushed when his wife of 32 years left him and his dream of the perfect family was shattered. For me, I saw that I was so far down the line of his priorities. His children first, then his mother, then his brother, his work, etc.. I really didn’t matter all that much.
I loved him deeply. When he asked for a divorce after less than a year, I fell apart and the pain lasted a long time – years.
Divorce is pain. If you’re the one getting dumped, it’s one big hurt all at once. If you’re the one leaving, the hurt can simmer for years before. Remember that. Very few people get through it unscathed.