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.”
Rob and I scheduled our honeymoon for three weeks after our wedding. We were flying to Moscow for a few days and then getting on another flight and heading east to Yekaterinburg, Russia. Seems kind of random, no? Well, there was a reason we were making that particular trip.
The summer before I met Rob, I started the process of adopting a daughter from Russia. By the time I met Rob, I had only completed the home study and received approval from the Office of Homeland Security to bring a child into the United States. When Rob and I decided to marry, we also decided that we would take a “wait & see” approach with the adoption. If we got a referral for a child, we’d review it together and decide if it made sense or not. And we both sort of forgot about it because it was taking so long anyway. About a month prior to our wedding, I got a phone call from my adoption agency. They had an almost two year old girl for me to look at! We received photos and a medical record. The tricky part with this adoption is that she was living in the toughest region in all of Russia to adopt from and it would take three trips to bring her home. Rob and I decided that we would take our honeymoon in Russia and go meet this little girl. We would know right away if she was “ours” or not. We started our adventure by exploring Moscow. We hired a tour guide and got the official version of the main attractions, and then spent a few days exploring on foot by ourselves. It was my third trip to Moscow and Rob’s first. We loved it and discovered one of the best Italian restaurants I’ve ever been too—Mama’s. We stayed in a boutique hotel in a swanky neighborhood and it was awesome. Moscow is an amazing city—beautiful, unique, fascinating and historically significant. I love Red Square and St Basil’s. The shopping is phenomenal if one is a multi-millionaire or better. And, dangit, we didn’t get to see the Bolshoi but, oh well, maybe someday.
But the next phase or our trip was most significant- Yekaterinburg. In Russia (or at least the parts that I’ve visited), the sun almost never sets. It’s trippy. We were flying at 2:30AM and watching the sun set and rise just a few minutes later. I’ll never forget that image. We landed at the airport ad were met by our driver/translator and immediately went to our hotel. Later that day, we were driven to the orphanage to meet “Vika.”
Yekaterinburg is where Tsar Nicholas and his family were executed during the Bolshevik Revolution. It is in the Ural Mountains on the Asian side of Russia and one can literally stand on with one foot in Europe and the other in Asia, which Rob and I did. Yekaterinburg is an enormous city that has much Western investment and money pouring in. Great shopping and restaurants, but it is definitely still old world Communist Soviet Union. The sidewalks and infrastructure are crumbling, many of the government buildings and parks have little to no landscaping, yet there are beautiful glossy new buildings going up fast. We had time to explore quite a lot before we headed to the orphanage, which was located amongst an enormous block of old and dilapidated apartment buildings.
Our first meeting was “interesting.” Vika froze up when she was brought into a big room filled with toys and had two strangers staring at her. Rob hung back while Vika sat on the carpet in front of me. She started sucking her thumb, covering her eyes, and rocking herself back and forth while she cried. I gave her space and started playing with building blocks. After maybe 15 minutes of this, the crying stopped and she started watching me, then playing with the building blocks.
After she was a bit more comfortable, Rob and I took her outside to the playground area. On our way out, she allowed Rob and I to hold one hand each and swing her back and forth. At this moment, I felt such overpowering peace and optimism. I loved this little girl, I was amazed at how cool my new husband was, and I had tremendous hope that my decision to marry this man wasn’t maybe such a big mistake. This could work! Oh, Lord, let this work.
When we got back to our hotel, I looked at Rob and asked the big question: “So, what do you think? Because she’s adorable but I could go either way. You make the decision because I can never have this come back to haunt me.” And I meant it. I was going to do everything to make my marriage and new family work and however that played out, so be it.
“Let’s do it,” Rob said.
My heart stopped. “Are you sure? Do not do this for me.”
“Yes, I’m sure. She needs a home and we are going to give it to her. You and I will be great parents,” he said.
And I started crying right there at the lunch table. It hit me how lucky I was to have Rob. Everything would be OK between us. It had to be. I didn’t deserve this guy who I didn’t love. He was good, kind, honest and selfless. Come hell nor high water, I was going to make this marriage work and I was going to be happy. Rob looked at me with such love and adoration in his eyes and I felt so very, very small yet optimistic. “I don’t deserve you,” I said. Of course, Rob had no idea what I really meant by that statement. How could he? “You are such a great person and please be patient with me, ok?”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
And I just cried. “I love you,” I said. I didn’t love him but I felt love for him. I respected him and was so hopeful that, together, we would have a great relationship– we would be each other’s best friend, advocate, and companion. We would be parents together and we would find happiness, purpose and meaning. And that was a great thing, right?
We flew home a week later after spending several hours each day with Vika and exploring more of Yekaterinburg in between. And when we got home to San Diego, we moved forward with adopting a beautiful and spunky little girl. Over the next nine months, we embarked on an annoying, long, expensive and frustrating paper chase in order to complete the adoption. And during those same nine months, our marriage started disintegrating. Because one can “pretend” to be anything he wants to be, but sooner or later the real guy emerges. And when that started happening, it was a disturbing and bizarre thing to witness.