There are few things in life which completely halt everything, occasionally your breath or heart. Serious illness, death of a close family member. A colleague of mine is separated and, luckily for her, her husband is willing to change and they are going to counseling. I mention that because I envy her. Why? She has the chance to really work on things, to truly see if saving their marriage is possible.
But why envy that? It’s not something that usually causes people to break out in green.
Today I got my finalized and filed divorce papers in the mail from the Judge’s clerk.
23 years of marriage. 5 kids. And a religion which believes that marriage transcends time and can last forever.
I envy my colleague because I can’t say I tried everything. I cannot stand blameless before my God. And that bothers me. My ability to try was stolen from me. As was my future.
I wasn’t mentally, emotionally, or spiritually capable of doing much more than simply breathing for years. One foot in front of the other, with blinders to anything not within the walls of my home. A decade and a half at least. I’ve been fairly open about my history of depression and anxiety, and how finding the right doctor who helped me fix a total lack of progesterone in my body changed my life. Literally.
But, by the time I had any kind of strength of mind, heart and spirit that would allow me to even see where my personal issues were, my husband did something that had me just giving up and deciding to hang on only until the youngest graduated. Not the best plan, nor the smartest choice I’ve made, but in a lifetime of marriage where every duty and responsibility and choice was mine (and not because I wanted it that way), being the only one seeing the elephant in the room (which wasn’t mine)—giving up seemed to be the only option.
So, is this where the papers come in?
I wish. It wouldn’t have been so gut wrenching.
No, after being lulled into a false sense of security that things were actually improving, almost exactly a year ago, in a conversation over the phone while I was on my way to a professional workshop, I was told by my husband that he’d fallen in love with someone else, and they’d told each other—out loud—those three words we hadn’t said to each other in a long time.
Blindsided hadn’t even happened yet. Let me explain.
Within hours of that phone call, he sent a text that said he was stupid and what he wanted had been right in front of him the entire time. He arrived home with ice cream and flowers and a big kiss and “I choose you.” I had no time to process the phone call, let alone this twist. So, I did what I do best, move forward with work and my children and pray the strings don’t come unraveled.
Even after a tough meeting in January with our Bishop, where it was clear my husband had checked out, I still didn’t believe we were unfixable. I still knew there was more we could both do. And I was still certain that God had not given up on us being and us. My intuition is almost always 100% spot on, even when it makes no sense and it wasn’t saying “Leave”. (And after doing a lot of soul searching and uncovering truth and answers, I feel a deep empathy for Cassandra of Troy. I get it.)
Fast forward to this past February when I see that name calling his cell phone, confront him and find out an entire paycheck I was expecting that weekend in our account was used for their apartment. And then, three days later, after granting him the ability to break the lease, let the “other” be homeless, and all kinds of technology blocking and monitoring on so we could work on our marriage, I still had to be the one to say “I think you should leave the house.” Which was answered with a shrug and “OK.”
The blindsiding part came about with such consummate lies that I truly saw, heard, or believed nothing was going on from May of last year (when they met) to February of this year. And, believe me, since last Fall, I tried tripping him up a few times. At midnight. After his medicine that knocks him out and makes him loopy. Even then, he was somehow able to keep the narrative up.
I mean, after 23 years, what other choice made sense, but to believe the father of my children, a man I met when I was 17 and married at 20? I couldn’t find a word of untruth enough to doubt him. But my soul and body went into a shell. And I hid. It’s what I do when I am overwhelmed.
The blindsiding part came when I discovered that most, if not all, of my children and two siblings knew what was going on, and did not say a word to me. My siblings went a step beyond and thought I was complacent about it. How am I supposed to trust that anyone has my back when they don’t? When my husband doesn’t? (ex now I suppose)
I am not a “Sunday Christian”, I live my religion daily as best I can, but this still has me just dying on the inside about trusting completely enough to 100% rely on someone I can’t see, when those I can, who are close to me, are capable of such deceit. I know God is real. I know Christ is real. But how can I lean on a shoulder I’ve never seen, when the ones around me have dropped me like undesirable garbage?
The blindsiding part came when I looked back at patterns, both ones I made and ones he made, and saw how truly little control I’d ever had, and how little he’d been my friend, a true friend. I held nothing back. Hid nothing. Kept nothing from him. I laid everything out, even when I hurt him. Every time begging, crying and praying that “This Time” he would listen. But a head nodding and “OK” and “I’ll do it.” and "I'll fix it." don’t count. And broken promises only mean I was never important enough to be worth following through for. Words alone have very little meaning to me because actions always have to back the words up. It’s always been like that.
Now, don’t think for a moment I’m abdicating my responsibility for a crappy marriage. I am not perfect, in any sense of the word, nor have I ever claimed to be. There’s no way to be left by someone you’ve trusted with your everything for 23 years, and NOT do a moral inventory of yourself and your life and your culpability.
There were moments I didn’t do my best. Everyone has those moments of selfishness, weakness, and pure “I don’t give a s---.” However, after taking 15 years and lots of doctors to figure out what was wrong with me, I know that many, many more moments during those 23 years were me being legitimately unable to do more than I did.
I was pregnant 4 times with my kids about 2 ½ years apart and had at least a dozen early term miscarriages—that whole lack of progesterone thing—and did everything...banking, household, maintenance, etc. until about 8 ish years ago when I said “Done” to some things so I wouldn’t end up in a nuthouse. Crazy overwhelmed isn’t strong enough. When I was unable to function, I hid in my home. Then when I was unable, or realized I could have but didn't, I’d feel even worse about myself, hated and loathed myself deeper than any of my family can imagine, had internal dialogues that started with “You are nothing and no one”...which spiraled into uncontrollable levels off and on for years.
Seriously, I cannot stress enough how vital progesterone is to the mental health of women. Think about your worst day, where you are irritated at everyone and everything and your mouth is not kind and your temper is short and you are just done. Now imagine that being the only thing you are capable of doing, no matter what. Now imagine that for years. That was me before progesterone. And I'm not making that up. I've compared it to someone who is bipolar finding *just* the right medication and finally being Human and Alive. It's THAT big of a deal.
Have I dipped down into depression this time? –snort– who wouldn’t after what happened to me? But this time, I haven’t sunk into oblivion, wishing to simply stop breathing in the middle of the night. I have been able to control my dip. Have I had other help, besides progesterone? Yes. But it’s what I found works for me, and only after I got my hormones straightened out.
I am not, by nature, a kind, loving, squishy type person. I am exacting and have high expectations (of myself too) and typically know exactly what needs to be done and in what order, so we can move on to the next thing that needs to be done. I hate pussyfooting and beating around the bush, and I am straightforward to the point where I’m sure I’ve insulted people even though my intention is usually to point out a fix to a problem. I have no doubt in my mind this, and a few other personality quirks, caused many problems in my marriage, but...really, who doesn’t have personality quirks or issues? It’s part of life, living, growing and the occasional visit to a shrink.
I can own up to what I did, but I can’t kill myself off for what was out of my control. And that’s the kicker. The place where I had so little control, even though I tried my damndest to control it all so there was stability for my children. There was one overwhelmingly apex behavior of his that was the driving force behind so many choices I had to make, and it was what drove many arguments, with me begging for him to visit any shrink to help fix it.
Just before I told him to leave, I asked him about this behavior, and why, for over 23 years of me saying the same thing, crying (which I don’t do) and begging, why wouldn’t he see someone and fix it—or at least learn how to control himself. His answer? “I didn’t think it was that big of a deal.” That one statement was more telling about how he viewed me as a friend, my intelligence, my existence as a woman and his wife than his cheating.
My Bishop told me I can’t be responsible for more that 50% of any problems in my marriage, but one thing I’ve learned, not all marriages are 50/50 and passive aggressive control can't be seen by most people. And not all marriages are what people see from the outside, the power play in public does not always reflect the truth of things on the inside and in private. A very small few ever looked beyond the outward "us" to see the inward, so I am 100% certain nearly everyone who knows us both in person have a definite opinion of “whose fault” it was. But a wise, and also divorced friend, said, “It takes two people to work on a marriage, but it really only takes one to destroy it.”
A few choices I knew I was making, I knew they would damage my marriage, but when the choice I am forced to make comes down to my spouse or my children, my children will win every time, especially back then when they were little. And if I have to place myself between anyone and my children, I will. And have. But looking back, what 23 year old really knows what damage the outcome will cause in the future? I certainly didn’t. (And no, to this day, I don’t believe I made the wrong choice, but really wish I'd had any other option.)
My children are my everything. All my choices, for good or ill, were for what I believed to be the best for them and for my family. (And still are.) As my three eldest have left home for college and life in other states, their worries and needs are more on the side, especially now that I have two underage minors caught in the middle of this debacle. They are not forgotten, still in my mind, thoughts, heart and prayers. I would still go up against anyone for them, but as adult children, their understanding (or lack thereof) is theirs to own. Their memories will not match mine, and of course, being children, they were not privy to the ins and outs of everything anyway (even if they think they know it all). So all I can do is pray for healing, understanding and eventually forgiveness to become a part of their lives someday.
So, what I am left with, besides a mess, 5 very angry children, and a future I once thought was mapped out, is a life that is up for grabs. I have a plan, of sorts, but it is far from certain and far from what I want. Or wanted. I have stability with my new contracted teaching position. But what I lost was so much more than I thought possible.
Not just my husband and family, but pieces of myself. My voices are gone, and it’s lonely in my own head. I’ve always, since I can remember being aware of it, told myself stories. While I drive. Falling asleep. Staring off into nothing. In the shower, entire scenes and dialogue. And that’s all gone. I’m hoping they’ll return, I’m not nearly done writing. I haven’t even really started. I worry that they won’t come back.
Many have gone through similar life altering events, but everyone’s timescale to “OK” is different. I am anxious to move on, forward, whatever, but until all the pieces that are broken and lost are somehow reattached and rearranged, the holding pattern it is. I know God has a path and a plan for me. I just don’t know where the entire thing is right now. I think I’ve found a couple of bricks, I’m just hoping that it’s the beginning of the road and not simply a dumping ground for waste and unwanted pavers.