My ex-husband and I have been in each other’s lives longer than not. We met within days of my turning 14, when he was 15. We dated briefly in that going-together-but-can’t-go-anywhere way, then broke up in similar, stupid high school fashion. We did manage to form a friendship over the next six years and started dating again after we’d each broken up with our respective significant others.
By the time I turned 40, our marriage was in dire straits. The life we’d built for twenty years was unraveling. After almost two years of battling each other and trying like hell to reconcile the neglect and damage we’d each inflicted, DH announced in the middle of our marriage counselor’s office that he was done.
Even though we were each so battered and bruised from the fighting, I kept trying to convince him to go back to marriage counseling. We had too much to give up now—a home, assets for our not-so-distant shared retirement, two amazing sons. Plus there was all the history. How could I possibly walk away from the first man I’d ever loved, from the man who’d helped me battle fertility issues and fight like hell to bring those beautiful babies into the world? How could either of us choose to let go of the laughter and the tears and the love we’d shared for over half our lives?
We stopped sleeping in the same room. We barely spoke to each other. The tension in our house was palpable. But somehow I hoped beyond hope that he would wake up and realize what we were about to lose, that he would realize how inane it was to just abandon our life together, no matter the damage we had caused.
If only he would commit to the work, give me a reason to do the same, I was sure we could overcome all of it and come out better on the other side of this exhausting tension.
We would sometimes still talk late at night, one of us questioning the other about our issues. Our marriage counselor had commented that DH and I had great communication, even if our skills in other areas were sorely lacking. We were able to make our points and tell each other some pretty naked truths.
Unfortunately that sometimes meant our discussions could become heated and emotionally and verbally brutal.
In late September of 2012, three months after we stopped sleeping together, one of those arguments began late at night. I don’t remember what started it. I remember where he was and where I was, pacing through the den and the kitchen while he sat in his recliner, berating me. I remember thinking that he would eventually wear himself out and go to sleep, if I let him talk long enough. I was also trying to pacify his anger, to keep his voice quiet and not wake the boys.
“If I had it all to do again,” he yelled from his plushly-padded throne of recrimination, “if I could rewind it all and hit pause, knowing how this movie plays out, I wouldn’t hit play again! I would just make it stop and never have started, no matter what good came, even if it meant we’d never had the boys!”
That was when I knew we were done.
All of the heartache, all of the damage, would never have been so much that I wouldn’t wish my children to have been born. Had our lives played out differently, had we married at a different time or never married at all, I would have something different. Other children might have been just as wonderful, but I can’t and don’t want to imagine my life without my incredible sons.
I realized in that moment that the man I’d loved since I was 14, the man I’d chosen to father my children and had intended to share the rest of my life, was gone.
Within a month, I’d asked him to move out of our home. It took more than another year of battle to finally end the marriage. I grieved the loss of dreams and intentions, slayed cruelly by the same hands that had once reached for each other in the dark and in the light.
I have moved on, though there are certainly still ghosts that haunt me regularly. DH is still angry and battling his own demons. They’re no longer mine to manage, but I still somehow seem to get the brunt of their lashing sometimes.
I don’t know that I’ll ever forgive him for either the words or the sentiment of that night. I don’t know that he’ll ever forgive me for my own crimes. But I have forgiven me for my failures, which is all I ever really had the power to do. I can’t get caught up in what might have been different, how it might have gone better for me, because all of those choices led me to this place in time… the place where I am rebuilding my life with my two fantastic children.