When I was in my twenties I married a guy that I’d dated for 6 years. I didn’t really give it all that much thought at the time. Getting married is just what you do after you’ve dated someone for a long time, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong.
I quite literally woke up one morning and came to a realization: I did not love the man to whom I was married. Not only did I not love him, I actually didn’t like being around him. I realized that on nights when he was going to be home (he worked two jobs so wasn’t home several nights a week) I’d work late, or I’d go for coffee with girlfriends. I also realized that when I was walking home to our apartment, my heart would sink if I saw his car.
I knew that if I stayed with this man that I’d be stuck in a life of servitude. He was the type of man who would rarely do dishes or clean the apartment. He never cooked and didn’t do laundry often. He was the kind of guy who wanted a wife who was like his mother; someone who’d take care of him while he sat on the couch watching hockey with his hand down his pants.
I also knew this man would never change a diaper, never tend to a needy child and probably never be an involved dad.
The answer to why I married this man is long and complicated. The important part is this: I left him…rather I asked him to leave. Not long after my realization I sat down and told him that I didn’t love him, that no amount of counselling would make me love him and that I wanted a divorce. Sounds harsh, I know. But I didn’t want him to leave with any hopes of us getting back together. I didn’t want to lead him on or make him think there was a chance when I knew, absolutely and positively, that there wasn’t. I didn’t love him. I don’t think I ever did.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t take marriage and divorce lightly. I made a huge mistake. The kids ask me, “but why did you marry him?” I don’t want them to think that you just marry and divorce like it’s no big deal. I never wanted it to be a secret that I kept from them and so I do my best to explain it in an age appropriate way.
The break-up was fairly simple. We didn’t own any property, we didn’t have any kids; we didn’t have much of anything for that matter. I kept the apartment, most of the furniture, the rusty old car and our debt. He took the new car, the computer and the T.V. “They’re just things” a dear friend told me. And she was right. Things could eventually be replaced, debt could be paid. My well-being and my happiness were still intact and my life was all mine.
We had been married in the Catholic Church so after my divorce was final I went through the process of having the marriage annulled.
While I have wondered and agonized over why in the world I married him in the first place, I am, in many ways, grateful for the experience. It was very much an exercise in self discovery. I came away from the marriage a changed person.
When I was still with my Ex a part of me had always felt like I had ‘settled’. Everyone does, don’t they? They settle for a partner that isn’t right for them, or that they don’t love. Or they settle for someone because their family will approve. I just thought it was what you did. Nobody finds the perfect partner, right?
I also used to think that I didn’t need a man to be happy – that no man was ever going to make me happy. That I was going to be happy all on my own, god-damn-it. If I was going to be happy it was going to be because I felt happy, not because somebody else made me feel that way.
Well, not long after I left my Ex I got a promotion that I’d been dying for at work and it helped me appreciate my strengths. It made me think of Stuart Smalley “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!” And I thought, “I deserve to be happy. I deserve good things to happen to me!”
I felt so free and strong. I felt like I could do anything or be anything. And I knew that I would never, ever ‘settle’ again.
Not very long after I left my Ex I reconnected with an old high school friend. Within a few months we were talking about marriage and kids. We eloped exactly one week after I got my divorce certificate.
My husband is the kind of guy who does more dishes than I do, does more than his fair share of housework and is a completely and totally involved dad. He changes diapers and does everything that I do with the kids (breastfeeding being the only exception). And oh ya, I really love this guy. No, I’m not a fool and I’m not living in a dream world; he’s not perfect and we certainly don’t agree on every single issue. Our marriage has its ups and downs just like most, but I did not settle this time. And I still don’t think that I need a man to be happy; but I do think that it’s okay if a man makes me happy.
One day I was chatting with another mum in the school yard and somehow my husband – who is no stranger to the school yard – came up in the conversation. She told me I was “lucky” to have a husband like him. I told her, “Luck has nothing to do with it. I chose him.” Then there was an awkward silence. A forced laugh. I think she thought I was a snob. But listen, I married the wrong man once; I wasn’t going to make that mistake the second time around.