I’ve asked myself hundreds of times, why didn’t I divorce the ex years ago. What was the struggle for me, a typically practical and decisive person in most other areas of my life. I had thought about divorcing him for at least a decade as my love, trust, and certainly respect for him eroded. (My self-respect had diminished as well.) Was it as simple as I wasn’t ready, as many people have offered as an explanation? Now divorced, it’s only with time and distance that some clarity is being clarified, but it doesn’t help the regret I continue to experience every time I think about the many years wasted in a marriage. I now see as four distinct periods: happy, less happy, not happy, and miserable.
My ex was not a “reader” (as he would say) but, nevertheless, his fanciful version of himself as a devoted husband and father was a highly fictionalized story. It was essential to the facade he concocted for his public persona. (He’s a person that reinvents himself repetitiously to accomplish two things – hiding himself from others and hiding from himself.)
As the years wore on, his bullshit was getting harder for me to swallow and my inner turmoil continued to build up to the point of constant anxiety. (Denial is a powerful, but exhausting emotion to sustain.) By the end of our marriage, contempt had developed into a pronounced language between us. It was becoming more difficult for him to keep me compliant in the story he was spinning and I went back forth between hurt and hate and back again. (Turning into a passive-aggressive person is not a memory I enjoy having about myself but, unfortunately, that’s what I became the last couple of years of our marriage.)
As long as I had swallowed his deception I was a wonderful, supportive friend, wife, and lover (his description). When I stopped, I was mean and a bitch (his description again), as he tells himself and everyone he knows. His lack of insight stayed true to who he always was, before and during our marriage, and has continued from the crap he tells our children, and was the reason any kind of marriage counseling was never an option (that and his open ridicule of the process).
Infidelity, financial malfeasance, addiction issues, and various forms of abuse will finish off a marriage, usually culminating into that final straw that lowers the hammer once and for all. People will try to funnel the end of marriage into simple terms like “I never really loved him/her” or “we fell out of love with each other” or my personal favorite, “we grew a part.” But those are feeble attempts to minimize complex situations into a few words that lack accuracy and are disrespectful to one or both parties. Also, when someone cites lack of communication as a reason their marriage ended, I would suggest deception had entered the picture, stifling any honest communication. (It’s amazing how many women find out after their divorces that their ex’s had other women all along, which explains a lot to them about the so-called lack of communication experienced.)
Why did I struggle with the decision to divorce the ex? The constants in our relationship including his manipulation and my co-dependency; abandonment issues on both sides and especially isolation because of relocating numerous times, keeping me off balance just enough to cloud my decision making. Concerns about my children having an intact family certainly entered into my struggle and I was worried about stability, especially financial, since I had also opted-out of my career a decade before like many women trying to care for a family.
Through the years, when I questioned him about our suitability to stay married he cried, cajoled, and finally accused me of being crazy (when I brought up suspicions that I now know were entirely true). Unfortunately, I did not trust myself and as my self-esteem worsened each year, I became more insecure about a future without him, thus staying out of fear and shear stubbornness. (I allowed his manipulation of me, but I would suggest his manipulation tactics were well honed. The person I finally caught him with, stuck it out for years waiting for him to get the balls to leave me and only got him out of default when I ended the marriage. She’s a worse idiot than me, but I still wonder if I should send her a thank-you note, or vice-versa, for creating that final straw.)
When the ex told me, after I filed for divorce, that he thought I would never do that he was certainly voicing what he’d experienced for 25 plus years. He had been successfully able to have his proverbial cake over and over again throughout our marriage, and had no reason to believe I’d ever take his fork away. Coming from a family of chronically cheating men, staying in long, very bad marriages is status quo. (When my ex’s niece told my ex-sister-in-law that I’d finally had enough and no longer chose to stay in a marriage with a liar and cheat, like her 50 year one with my ex-brother-in-law, she responded, and rightly so, “Well, she stayed pretty damn long.” Touche.) Even after I kicked him out, he thought I’d let him back in. But telling him I had told everyone what he’d been up to for so many years was the fait accompli; his embarrassment at the facade finally torn away was his final straw.
Through the years, as I struggled with the final decision to get out of a bad marriage, I would ask myself would I be happier without him than I am miserable with him, when I should have been asking myself these questions, Why do I deserve any amount of misery? What will really change if I choose to be a single mother doing 99 percent versus an unhappy spouse of a habitual liar already doing 99 percent? Do I want to look back on my life and feel regret about the time spent in a bad marriage?
This I know: once the decision is made, the struggle that’s built up to the point of not being able to take it one more day, ends. All the self-debate is over. Not to minimize the new challenges that have to be endured, because it’s a painful process ending not only a marriage but a relationship that was once thought to last forever. As unhappy as I had become in the marriage, I still felt devastated when I filed for divorce. But I found out, through the many sources I began to utilize to help myself, that the grief was normal and it does have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Even in the bargaining stage, when self-doubt is at it’s worse and some idealism about the ex occurs. I still knew I never wanted him in my life again. I just wanted the pain of extricating him and any idealism of our marriage over with.
I struggled to end my marriage and the optimum word here is struggle. No relationship should present so much struggle, including the all encompassing struggle within ourselves.