My First “Quarterly” Reflection

15 06 2012

I suppose throughout the course of any epic journey one should stop, take a moment, and reflect.  After dates with twenty-five different men, this is one of my moments.

I still remember THE moment, the moment minutes after my husband and I had returned from the airport.  My husband had been gone for three weeks, one week in Mexico for work, another two in Colombia with family.  We had just arrived home, and suddenly, I realized he wasn’t wearing his wedding ring.  I still remember where I was standing, where he was sitting, what he said when I asked him where his ring was.

“Yeah, we need to talk about that,” he said casually.

It only took a second for a heavy feeling of dread to lodge in the pit of my stomach.

“While I was gone I was telling my family that I was getting a divorce.”

Funny how he had not mentioned it to me.

I don’t think I really heard the words.  I mean, I guess I did, but my mind felt like it was swirling, and I was trying to grasp the meaning of the situation.  It was almost midnight, my husband and I had been getting along lately, talking on the phone frequently while he was in Colombia.  I had gone and picked him up from the airport.  I had driven forty minutes out there and back at eleven o’clock at night, and now he was saying he was getting a divorce.  From whom? Me?

I was in shock.

A strange thing had happened while he was away on his trip.  My wedding ring had cracked.  The underside of the ring, the palm side, where it wears more heavily from daily wear and use, one day suddenly cracked all the way through.  I won’t lie.  I thought it was a sign.  I didn’t want to believe it, but all the signs were there.  This one, however, the cracking of my wedding ring, that seemed like certainty.  I knew it was over.

There I was, standing next to our entertainment center. He was sitting on the couch, telling me he was getting a divorce.  Not that he was thinking about it, not that he was planning it, he was just doing it.  Period.

I felt betrayed.  I suddenly pulled my wedding ring off of my finger. I had continued to wear it despite the crack.  I suddenly pulled it off, shook it at him and said, “my ring cracked while you were gone.  It’s probably not even metal. It’s probably a fraud, just like our marriage.”

I slammed it down, hard, on the top of the DVR as he shrugged off my statement.  I felt mocked.  I turned around and fled to the bedroom.  I cried all night.

The next day, I twisted my cracked wedding ring into a serpentine shape and threw it in the garbage.

They say that divorce is like a death and that the first stages of grief are shock and denial.  I had been in denial a long time despite the cracks in my marriage.  Although I lived with them on a daily basis, I didn’t want to see them.  I wanted to cover them with spackle and pretend they weren’t there.  I am not a quitter.  I was a wife, and I was going to be the best damn wife I could be.  I would not quit.  There was absolutely no way I was going to be the quitter.  No way.  We would go to counseling; we would evolve as a couple; but we would not quit.

Denial.  I thought I had enough fight in me for both of us, but that’s not how relationships work.

The truth was, deep down, I knew he hadn’t loved me for a long time.  In fact, I didn’t think he had ever loved me. That was painful.  It’s painful still.  Things had been said, cruel, hurtful things, meant to sting and torture.  I had chosen to deny their meaning.  I cloaked my sorrow in red wine and swore that I would not be the one to give up.

So, when my husband decided to quit, it really pissed me off.

Fucking quitter!

That was about a year and a half ago.  The shock and denial have been replaced by other emotions, sometimes anger, sometimes sadness.  I’m no longer in shock, and there’s no longer any denial that my marriage is over.  It’s over.  Dead.  No going back.

So, regarding these first twenty-five men I’ve dated, what have I learned?

Well, I’ve learned that denial is a dangerous thing.  The denial didn’t start when I said “I do.”  No, it was there all along.  Yeah, STBex had been charming, but there were always signs that I might be making a mistake.  I had chosen not to see them.  I just wanted to be married so badly.  If I had any words of wisdom for young women out there, it would be that things don’t get better just because a man decides to put a ring on it.  I had made excuses for my husband’s bad behavior because I loved him.  I’m not willing to do that at the expense of my health and sanity again.

What it has meant for me in dating these first twenty-five men is that I’m not willing to make excuses for a man anymore.  Barring some catastrophic life crisis, it is rare that people change, and my pre-marriage naiveté has been replaced by the wisdom that marriage is hard work, not a fairy tale.  The problems that exist in a relationship before marriage will only intensify once you depart the wedding ceremony.  Marriage has to be a partnership or it will never work.  You can’t drag the quitter along with you.  Life is hard enough without dead weight.

I’ve questioned the sanity of my therapist many times over.  It seems like a dangerous prescription in some ways, telling a person to get out there and date, not knowing for certain what she will encounter.  However, each new date has been a chance for reflection.  Although I’m reflecting on where I’m at today, after these first twenty-five, I realize I’ve been reflecting all along.  I’m still learning what I want, but, now, what I know I want, what I know I need, is to just continue dating.  I don’t want a boyfriend.  I don’t want a relationship.  I don’t want anything serious.  I just want to go on the occasional date.

Most of my friends have a dating rule that they will not have a relationship with a someone who is divorced for less than one year.  Just speaking from my experience, I now believe this is a good rule.  Sure. Everyone is different.  I’m sure one’s mental state is deeply impacted by whether he or she is the person leaving or the one being left, but divorce is a drawn-out process, both legally and emotionally.  It doesn’t seem fair to drag a new person into that mess before I’m really ready.

I don’t think I feel bitter.  Uncompromising maybe, or even a little bitchy sometimes, but not bitter.  A couple of my friends have started to encourage me to keep my dates around after I’ve written about them, but I don’t really see the point.  Besides, maintaining my blog fodder was never supposed to be part of the deal.  One of my friends warned that if I don’t watch my tone in my blog posts, there’s a chance future men won’t want to date me.  I’m okay with that too.  I don’t write to be mean or spiteful.  I simply write what I feel in my core.  My theory is that someday, when I am ready to really date again, maybe when I’m 80, there will be a guy who really gets me.  He’ll have a job (or a retirement account).  He won’t be a compulsive texter.  He won’t be emotionally or physically abusive.  He’ll understand my sense of humor.   He won’t be a quitter.  But most importantly, I won’t have to make excuses for him.  I won’t have to be in denial about our relationship, and I won’t have to tell myself stories to spackle over the cracks.  If cracks form, they will be like the ones found in the glaze of antique porcelain or in the skin on the back of an old person’s hand, formed by time, wisdom, and endurance, the cracks of someone, or something, that hasn’t quit.

Photo here.




2 responses

18 06 2012

Yep, you’re right. When the time comes and you’re ready, the right one will be there. And he probably won’t be wherever you expect him to be. It’ll make a great story someday.

18 06 2012

…and, the irony is, I probably won’t meet him online.

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