How the heck did I end up married to a man I didn’t love and then allow him to abuse me? Good question. I write my story in an effort to try to understand it myself. Welcome to the series, “Marriage Hell.”
My path to marriage began with my ex boyfriend, Tom, the guy I really loved and the one who got away. When Tom and I broke up, I was devastated. I was nursing my shattered heart when I met Rob. Within a few weeks of dating, Rob asked me for a commitment. I said “not yet.” I was dating other guys and I told Rob that he should, too. He had been separated for just six months, after all (though I learned years later that Rob had only been separated for a few weeks and had lied to me about it). In my opinion, jumping from one relationship to the next is a sign of a really wounded guy in need of therapy, not a new girlfriend.
The first sample of Rob’s explosive temper came not too long after we started dating. I was at his home when he got a call from his ex wife. “Rob, I’m happy you’re dating someone new, but you have kids so please take it slow,” she said before Rob cut her off in a very loud booming voice (a voice I soon came to loathe): “I don’t give a fuck what you think!” and he hung up on her. “Sorry,” he said to me in a sheepish voice. “I learned that communication skill from her.”
Overall, things were going well with Rob. Still, I felt no fireworks and never experienced any butterflies. And then one day out of the blue, I heard from Tom. My heart stopped. We talked and a few days later, we went for a run on the beach together, got some pizza, and went back to his house where we showered and Tom serenaded me on his guitar. I was melting. I was still madly in love with him. When I got home, there was Rob. Attentive, kind and thoughtful Rob. A few weeks later, I saw Tom again. We went to dinner and then, on our way home, opened up my sunroof, blasted Bittersweet Symphony by the Verve, pushed the driver’s seat as far back as it could go, and made out like crazy under a full moon. It was something out of a movie. I never wanted our time together to end.
The next day, I looked at my phone and there were several texts and voicemails from Rob in a panic. Where was I? Why weren’t we together? His ex wife had cheated on him and he just couldn’t handle it if I did that, too. It broke my heart. I promised myself that I would never see Tom again. I went over to Rob’s home that evening and cooked dinner later fell asleep in his arms as we watched TV. It was sweet. This is real, I thought. At that moment, I picked Rob. He was my future; Tom as my past. I committed to him. It was finally official: we were in an exclusive relationship. The next morning, I got a text from Rob: “Good morning. I love you. How’s that?” It took my breath away. I couldn’t reciprocate yet, I said, but give me time. Seriously, what was wrong with me? Why wasn’t I in love with a man who was so kind and good to me? A few weeks later, Rob and I gathered up our children and we went to Mammoth Mountain to go skiing. On that trip, I decided that even if I didn’t love Rob, it was time to tell him that I did anyway. Maybe if I said it, the feelings would follow. Certainly I felt lovingly towards him and that might just be good enough. And that set us on a collision course for marriage.
One Sunday afternoon, Rob and I were at his sister’s mother in law’s home. As we were sitting at a table and eating a late lunch, he said, “Marry me in August.” I was speechless and thought he was joking. He wasn’t. I got to thinking that if I married Rob, I would have what I always wanted—a kind husband and a family. I might not feel the crazy love that I felt with Tom but perhaps that was a good thing. A marriage built on friendship and kindness was a fantastic foundation for a solid relationship, no? Maybe this is how it should be. Nonetheless, I felt I had lots of time to figure it out. I was fine with a nice long engagement and if it didn’t work out, we would break up.
Except it soon got much more complicated. Just weeks later, Rob and I attended an open house just for fun. The home was actually perfect for our family. “Let’s make an offer!” Rob said. I loved buying homes and besides, it was just an offer. Let’s lowball it, they’ll never accept it anyway, we thought. Except they did accept and the next thing I knew, I was buying a house with Rob. I had “accidentally” escalated our relationship faster and more permanently that I anticipated. Since I was the one with the liquid cash in my bank account, I wrote out a check for $45 thousand while Rob cheered and I was in a daze, numb from shock and a creeping sensation of horror. My “boyfriend/potential fiancé some day” became my fiancé NOW. Oh my gosh, what have I done?
Rob was excited every day. Almost jumping up and down giddy. He wanted to go ring shopping. He booked us on a trip to the Bahamas to celebrate and get officially engaged. We took my daughter, Morgan. Despite the upcoming trip, I was sick. I couldn’t sleep. I took a bath one night and had a complete and total panic attack. I had to back out. I could NOT DO THIS!! I called Rob, barely able to breathe. “I need to back out. I can’t do this. I don’t want to break up (truth was, I sort of did. I didn’t want any of this) but I don’t want to buy this house. It’s too expensive. It’s too soon. I’m not ready. I love you (not true) but I can’t do this right now.” I was nearly hyperventilating. I started crying. “Calm down,” Rob said in his soothing voice. “It’ll be OK. Things always work out.” “No they don’t,” I said.
“Lizzy,” he said slowly. “It’s too late to back out. If we do, we will lose the entire $45 thousand dollars.”
“I don’t care about the money,” I said. And I really didn’t. I wanted my old life back. I wanted to hit the “undo” button on my computer and go back to the day I met Rob. But my life wasn’t a computer program.
And I was on a train careening to marriage and I felt powerless to stop it.