First of all, let me preface this by saying that I didn’t intend to write this post. In fact, I struggled to find anything else that I could write about – preferably something lighthearted and funny. I was determined not to write until I had something pleasant to post. But I would sit in front of my computer and each time, a version of this post appeared. It demanded to be written. My soul insisted that I process this sometimes overwhelming emotion and pain – that I talk about it instead of bottling it up and letting the depression fester and become even more toxic. So, if you are feeling particularly happy today and want to stay that way, if you are sad today and can’t deal with more melancholy, or if you are just tired of hearing the saga of the breakup of my marriage – feel free to close the page now.
This time last year, I was with Doc in Paris – on a once in a lifetime, 30-day European trip that our children gave us to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. Today, our marriage is over and Doc is living elsewhere. I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around it. How does someone go from one such extreme to the other in less than a year? In fact, it was less than two months after we returned from our trip that Doc states he made the decision that he did not want to be married to me anymore – because I had the audacity to become upset when he, without discussing it with me, spent over $500 on a Christmas gift for his father instead of the $50 limit we had agreed on.
As I tried to tell him at the time, it wasn’t so much the money that was the issue – it was the fact that he had, once again, made a unilateral decision without including me in the process. Weren’t we a partnership? Shouldn’t we be having discussions? Talking about our wants, needs, and desires? Didn’t he understand that when he cut me out like this, it was a painful rejection?
I imagine that when I expressed my anger and frustration, Doc didn’t perceive my hurt or rejection at all. I imagine that he only saw my anger and viewed it as an attack – just another attempt of me trying to control him. More evidence that I was never happy with anything he did.
I’ll probably never know what Doc was thinking or feeling at the time – he didn’t share it with me then, or for the next four months before he finally announced his decision to leave me, or now. Instead, he withdrew and spent more money – nearly $10,000 over those four months – on a second motorcycle, guns, and road trips – again, never discussing any of it with me beforehand.
It wasn’t that we were blissfully happy this time last year – there had been trouble in our marriage for years and years. We would go to counseling and things would get better – but then, as neither one of us really worked on our issues or changed the way we interacted with each other, the relationship would deteriorate again. Four years ago, I finally decided that I couldn’t go on like this – I wanted to figure out why I was unhappy with myself, my life, and my marriage – and I wanted change. I wanted my relationship with my husband to be intimate, loving, and dedicated. I wanted to fix things.
At first, Doc seemed on board – he came to counseling with me, he went through the motions, he attempted to interact with me in the ways the therapist suggested. But it seemed to me that he would become frustrated that our relationship still continued to need work, that I was changing in so many fundamental ways – and demanding that he also change. For all of my work on myself, I still didn’t get the fact that I couldn’t make Doc work on himself. I assumed that he would want to do the deep, dark job of figuring out why he acted the way he did and how he could change to make things better. To make things worse, I still had issues in expressing what I was thinking and feeling – it was just too scary to open up so much and to be so vulnerable. When I tried, and things did not go well, the rejection was just too painful – so I would still withdraw. And so did Doc.
In the beginning of September of last year, after a summer of Doc’s physical rejection and emotional detachment from me, I sat down with him and initiated another hard conversation. I was distraught and frustrated that it was always me who had to start these conversations. Why didn’t he care enough to come to me? Why was he seemingly content to sit back and let the relationship die? I told Doc how unhappy I had been, how discouraged I was that the relationship had, once again, been allowed to founder. I couldn’t go on this way – I needed him to want it as much as I did. I needed him to get counseling, as he had said he would in the past. I needed him to work on his own issues. I gathered my courage and told him that, if things didn’t change, I couldn’t go on much longer. I explained that I was willing to give the marriage my all – to really work on things until the first of the year – but if things didn’t dramatically improve, divorce was on the table. With tears flowing down my cheeks I asked him, did he want to be married to me anymore? Doc assured me that he did want to be married to me, that he did want our marriage to be stronger, our relationship better. That he would call and find a counselor the very next day. He told me that what HE needed was for me to show him I loved him more – to be excited when I saw him at the end of the day – to really want to be with him. I agreed – I would do that.
I asked Doc about his new counselor in the days and weeks after that conversation, and each time Doc told me he hadn’t found anyone yet. By the time we were set to board the plane to go to Europe, my heart was already breaking. It seemed apparent to me that he had just said the words he thought would appease me – that he really had no intention of working on himself or the marriage. Once again, with pain and perceived rejection cutting into my heart, I withdrew. Oh, we did have some great times in Europe! We saw some wonderful things and we seemed to reconnect at times – but towards the end of the trip, I had fallen into a deep depression. A depression that was made worse because I was in Europe, celebrating 25 years of marriage to my husband, seeing places I had only dreamed about seeing – shouldn’t this be a wonderful time in my life? Shouldn’t I be happy?
The depression continued through the holidays, and then anger replaced it for a few months once Doc started buying his toys and cutting me out of his life, and finally I realized that my anger would not help or fix my marriage – and I reached out to Doc, attempting to engage him in conversation, to stroke his back or spoon with him while we were in bed. But it was for naught – he did not respond or reciprocate – and as I know now, it was already over…I just didn’t know it yet.
What I wonder now is if it was over before Christmas of last year? Did he ever have an intention of finding a counselor or working on the marriage? Did he just use our anniversary and our children’s hard-earned money as a convenient reason to take a trip he had always dreamed of – even if he was forced to take it with me? Did he even love me at all this time last year? Was it all a lie, even then?
I probably will never know – I guess it doesn’t matter now. Answers won’t change things, answers won’t turn back the clock, and answers won’t make him love me. But it’s hard – so hard to know that this time last year, I had a husband. This time last year, we were climbing the Eiffel tower, walking along the Seine, eating Nutella crepes and chocolate croissants, making love in our tiny hotel room. This time last year, I still had hope that he would love me enough to try, to make our marriage better than ever, to stay with me, grow old with me.
It’s going to be a tough month – every day I can’t help but think of where I was this time last year, what I was doing, the things I was seeing, and who I was with. But, I know I’ll get through it – and then Thanksgiving and Christmas after that – until a day will come when I don’t think about him and where we were this time last year.