My ex and I were polar opposites. He was quiet and put together, he was insanely intelligent and had big goals and always knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life. I was loud, unorganized, I had no time to think about things like a career and if it wasn’t on E! News or MTV I couldn’t be expected to know anything about it. He had every quality that I lacked and I was drawn to it and for a long time it just worked.
I loved him and adored him and from day one I put so much energy into the relationship, but I felt like I never got the same thing in return, I shrugged it off and dealt with it because he’s a guy and I had the understanding that that’s just how guys were in relationships. I started dating him when I was 19, how was I supposed to know any better?
Because I felt like I didn’t get the same in return I would take jabs and digs, but unfortunately the work he was putting in he thought was enough. We didn’t understand each other and were both too stubborn to have an actual conversation about it. I could never explain it to him, I didn’t even know how to put it into words but I always felt like I was fighting to keep his attention. I was competing with and fighting something or someone I couldn’t even see and it was all because I wasn’t getting what I needed. When he would try, it wasn’t the obvious thing I thought he should do and I was too stupid to realize it was a genuine effort on his part. We continued that way and were doomed before we even knew it.
He always talked about moving and I would get panicky. I didn’t want to move because my dad was always sick and I didn’t want to leave my family. He finally told me one day he was already applying for jobs and I was furious that he didn’t have a conversation about it with me before hand. We had already been dating by this point for 4 or 5 years. Our discussion about moving got so ugly and so heated I actually had to call his friend and talk to his friend about what my boyfriend was “feeling” because our communication was so awful! After a few hours of running in circles and involving his friend, he finally told me he wanted me to move with him and I said ok because I was too afraid to lose him. When you’re in a relationship you both make sacrifices and you can’t keep score, it’s a nightmare. But I still couldn’t help but feel that once again I was chasing after something I was never going to be able to catch.
I don’t regret moving, I actually think it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. The four years I spent in the Carolinas did more good for me than anyone will ever know. I grew up and came into my own and think that’s when I started to realize that I needed to stop neglecting myself, even if it meant my life needed to move in a different direction. Alone.
The day my dad died was insanely chaotic. When I finally received THE call that I needed to get on a plane I grabbed a bag and threw in a hoodie and a toothbrush. I refused to pack for a funeral. He dropped me off at the airport and went back home to pack and get the dog. We didn’t talk about when he was coming back to Ohio I had no questions, I couldn’t think. When I got to the hospital I called to give him updates, he told me he called off work and was packing for both of us and heading back. I remember being surprised and thinking it was so nice that he called off work, was packing for me and was driving back to Ohio that day. Why the hell would I have to think that?!
Later that afternoon my dad died. My ex met me back at my parent’s house and I asked him to spend the night with me. (Our parent’s lived about 5 minutes from each other.) Whenever we went home we never spent the night together, he stayed at his parents and I stayed at mine. I hated it and I hated that the day my dad died I actually had to ask him to stay with me! I was furious, I was livid, but every part of me was so exhausted that I just let it go, I couldn’t do it, I mentally could not process one more thing, and this was all nothing new to me, it was him, it was just him. It’s how it always was.
I would beg him to go to my nephew’s birthday parties and he would never want to, I would beg him to come over my house for Christmas Eve (it’s the only day my family really does anything big) and it was like pulling teeth. I would get him to come over but he’d be antsy the whole time and never stay too long. My family would make comments or ask why he would leave so early and I would always defend him. If I was sick and wandered to the couch in the middle of the night he never checked on me, if we fought I would only sleep on the couch to see if he would come and get me. He never did, I always checked on him, I always went after him, he never came to get me. When I was teaching, we were always required to go to prom and graduation. Every year that I taught I was always the teacher that flew solo because my significant other refused to go with me, and year after year it became easier and easier to lie about his whereabouts. Each year I would continue to BEG but he would only get mad and then I’d shut up. Except my last year teaching, instead of attending prom I opted to stay the night before and help decorate. I didn’t want to do it anymore, I didn’t want to attend another work function alone. I was tired.
From there things only got worse. Our sex life was nonexistent. My neighbor would brag that her and her husband were having date night, they were just going to rent movies and cuddle on the couch. I remember I rolled my eyes and wondered what it would be like to be married to someone that actually wanted to be around me. Cuddling didn’t happen in our house and when I would ask him to plan a date night he would say, “I’m not planning anything because you hate everything and you’ll just bitch.” And it was another blow to my ego and then I would act like the bitch he told me I was.
We moved back to Ohio and we went out with friends to a Cavs game. We got out of the car and he was 10 steps in front of me while the other two were walking hand-in-hand.
“Why isn’t he walking with you? Does he always do that?”
Without hesitation I confirmed to my friend that he did always do this and it was probably the first time that I gave a hint to anyone that it bothered me. He always walked ahead of me, I would always run to catch up and sometimes I would have to pry his hand out of his pocket to hold mine while we walked, and then he’d say something like, “Do we really have to hold hands?” And that’s how our entire relationship went, he was always 10 steps ahead and I was always running to catch up.
I had started to write again and each week I’d go out and grab drinks with a girlfriend and we would just write. And she knew, she knew something was happening because she’s a writer and she analyzes and she knows that when you develop characters bits and pieces of your personality and life go into each one. Nights I’d go out with her we’d both end up drunk and each week I’d go home and I’d have the courage enough to attempt to kiss my husband. As usual, he’d push me away, but the rejection didn’t hurt as much when I was drunk. I’d grab beers, run upstairs with the dog, throw on the rap channel and we’d work on our twerk. I’d finally crash in the bed and stare at the stars wondering what it would be like to have a new life. When he would finally make it to bed I’d tell him to hold me and he’d begrudgingly throw his arm around me for 2 minutes before he’d ask if we were done. Each time it happened I’d end up crying myself to sleep. I’d wake up the next morning, grab a rag and scrub the mascara stains out of the pillow case. By the end of it I stopped caring about cleaning up the makeup, he never noticed. I had a husband, we spent every moment together and I was completely alone.
I was tired of being called a bitch, I was tired of acting like a bitch, I was tired of being sad, and above all else I was tired of fighting for someone’s attention. The day came when I came home from another night of writing and drinking. I attempted to kiss him, he pushed me away. I went upstairs, locked myself in the bathroom and started texting another guy. I was officially checking out.
He left with his dad and some friends to go see the Master’s tournament and I couldn’t wait for him to leave, I resented him, I hated him and I knew in my head that I was done. I went out with my friends and got loaded, they knew I wasn’t right and they also knew there was nothing they could do. I started texting the one guy that was giving me attention and I made him meet me out. I was a physical and mental wreck. He took me home with him, I couldn’t drive. Every part of me knew it was wrong but I didn’t care, I just wanted someone, anyone, to tell me I was worth it, that I was worth so much more. We laid in his bed and kissed and cuddled, that’s it. I had completely forgotten what it was like to feel wanted, I kissed a guy and he kissed me back. My marriage was over.
Our entire divorce was done over text. I couldn’t wait, I kissed another guy and I knew it was done. I was done, we were done, 11 years of everything we built, I destroyed. I couldn’t do this to myself and I couldn’t do it to him. When he came home I told him everything, I told him about the guy and I told him that it finally felt so good to feel wanted. He told me he didn’t blame me, he drove me to do it.
We went to a marriage counselor that week and she asked me what I wanted out of my marriage, I said attention and affection. She asked him where those fell on his list of priorities and he said at the bottom. In my head I laughed, I wasn’t even mad. I knew it, this just wasn’t him to be overly affectionate and I was forcing him to be someone he wasn’t, it wasn’t fair to either of us. He loved me, he loved me to death but he didn’t know HOW to love me. And there’s a huge difference. And I know from everything I mentioned above he probably sounds like a huge jerk, but he’s not. He’s just not the super affectionate guy that I wanted him to be, he’s not wired that way, or maybe he just didn’t click with me that way, I don’t know. After that single session I knew it was done, we were beyond repair. We went home that night, poured a drink and divided up our house.
We talked and he told me he’d change, he’d forgive the fact that I kissed another guy and he would be the person I wanted him to be. I said no. It took me over 10 years to figure out I couldn’t fit a square peg into a round hole. I felt bad and I felt selfish for even making him try to be someone he wasn’t and I felt bad that I neglected myself and lied to myself about what I really wanted out of my relationship. I only ever wanted him to make an effort, and when he told me he wasn’t letting me leave him, as usual he did absolutely nothing to stop me. And this time, this only time, I didn’t want him to do anything. It was too late. I had no plan, I had never been on my own, I had always been taken care of, I had to find a place to live, I didn’t even know if I had enough money to live on my own, but I walked to the edge of the cliff and jumped anyways. Sooner or later my wings would have to come out.
After it was all said and done I had time enough to look back and reflect and I’m not mad. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about him. People want me to talk about him and they wait, they wait for me to call him asshole, they wait for me to say he’s worthless and I never will. I’ll never say any of those things because he loved me the only way he knew how and I loved him the only way I knew how, and it didn’t work, we never met each other halfway. It sucks realizing after so much time that you really can’t change a person, but it’s ok. The relationship wasn’t all for not. We traveled, we had fun, we both learned from each other, and I absolutely love the person I am now. I would be none of what I am today if it wasn’t for everything I’ve experienced in the past, so how can I regret it?
I took so much for granted, and I swear to you I wasn’t innocent. I’ve had more than enough time to think about all the times he said I was bitch and all the times he told me I was a negative, miserable person. And you know what? He was right. I swear to you there were moments he probably should have just called a priest because I promise you the devil was alive inside of me. But, after much thought I figured out I was so mean and negative because I was hurt. I was incredibly hurt and I didn’t know how to say it and I didn’t know how to fix it. I wanted him to fix it but he didn’t know how to either. We never figured it out because we had no idea how to talk to each other. We’d let it all build and build and build and we’d move in circles, he would hurt me and I would hurt him and then we’d forgive each other but we weren’t even sure what we were forgiving each other for. Because we couldn’t talk about it, we avoided it and it landed us in divorce court.
A guy I worked with was getting married and it was right when I got divorced. He wanted to know if there was any advice I could give, if there was anything he could make sure he did or didn’t do. “Don’t ever stop communicating. You have to talk about all of the things that you love and hate no matter how uncomfortable it makes you feel and you HAVE to listen to each other. The day you stop communicating is the day it’s over. And do little things to make each other smile.”
Sometimes I wished I would have told him that even though I hold the Guinness Book of World Records for killing plants I would have liked to have been sent flowers. That some nights I wish we could have just stayed up in bed talking about nothing and everything all at the same time. That I didn’t want any more purses and shoes, I wanted notes and texts during the day. I wanted cute, silly, funny things that just let me know I was on his mind, and I never got any of it. If I did get those things it was because I had to tell him that’s what I wanted, and then I hated it when he did do it because I felt like it wasn’t genuine, it was forced. I felt like if he knew me he should want to do those things for me anyways, so why wasn’t he? Which was maybe unfair on my part, but that’s how I felt. I needed an emotional connection, that’s how I feel close to someone and he didn’t need that and I didn’t get it.
I’m happy. I love my life. I wouldn’t change a thing. If you met me three years ago, you probably wouldn’t believe I was the same person. I finally feel like I’m me, I can breathe and I am doing every single thing that I love in life and every single thing that makes me happy. I feel wiser, stronger and I feel like the death of my father and my divorce have given me a unique perspective on life at such a young age. Life really is too short, and maybe it took watching my father die for me to realize there’s only time enough in life to do what makes you happy.
Either way, time’s a wastin! Give the person you love a tighter hug and give your friends an extra hi-five. If you’re married or in a relationship, sit down tonight and talk! Talk about anything- which characters from movies or books you would be, places you want to visit, foods you’ve never eaten, fears, dreams, what you like about each other, or play real life Hunger Games- it’s insanely entertaining. Maybe don’t do that, one of you has to kill the other in the end and I can see that getting really ugly, talk about anything else though! Just turn the TV off, put the kids to bed and only be concerned about each other. It’s challenging, life gets in the way. But you HAVE to make time for each other. Oh, and when you wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and say, “I like me.” Don’t ever forget about yourself!