Separation Anxiety

Last week, I wrote about the beginning of my relationship with my ex and how in hindsight, there were red flags and warnings all over the place.   Like last time, I’m not sure where this post will go.

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While we were dating, I remember one particular fight where he had gotten upset (I mean, really mad) that I had gotten a ride home from the university with a friend of mine.  Enzo was quite nice to look at and we became friends after I sat by him during research study meetings.  However, the more I had talked to Enzo, the more I knew I could never date him (he once asked me what to do after he scheduled three dates  in one night… definitely not my type!)  None of this mattered to my ex though, so I turned down future offers for a ride home and took the shuttle bus instead.

For the first few years of our marriage, I thought he was a calm person.  I learned, though, that his temper could flare and it wasn’t predictable, and it didn’t matter who was around.  We had a party for my dad’s 50th birthday at our house.  Things were going pretty well until one of my brother’s kids hung on the side of a drop-leaf table and flipped it over, sending several 2-liter soda bottles tumbling to the floor.  My ex shouted and cursed at the kid and everyone stood there awkwardly for several moments before my sister-in-law announced they were leaving.  Everyone else followed.  I never had another family gathering at my house.

We had our first son five years after we were married.  This brought an increase in short temper.  For a long time, he worked an overnight shift so he would sleep during the day- ever try keeping a toddler quiet all day?  As time went on, I noted that his temper became worse if he was tired, didn’t feel good or he was stressed about anything.  I still have a note my ex wrote me when our first son was six weeks old.  He was hurt that I didn’t trust him to be left alone with our son during the day while I was at work.

I managed to not recollect many instances of cursing or unreasonable physical punishment, probably because if I did, it would be hard to justify why I stayed.  I do remember many times stealing sideways glances at my parents after my ex would hurt, curse, or yell at the kids.  I could tell by clenched jaws and closed eyes that they saw/heard.  So, I tried to limit the amount of time we spent with them.

When our first son was three, there was an incident in public and I panicked when I saw a lady nearby stopped walking to her car and stared.  Our son had pulled my ex’s work jacket off the hanger while getting in the truck’s back seat.  My ex yelled/cursed at him and hit him with the hanger.  I told him to stop because a lady was staring and, thankfully, he did.

Why didn’t I leave?

I believe that marriage is (or should be) forever- for better or for worse, and he wasn’t a monster all of the time.  I rationalized that a son needs his father.

When I was pregnant with our second son, there were many times that I cried and apologized to my unborn baby and God because I felt I’d married the devil.  My ex’s anger and negativity had become almost constant and difficult to bear.  He never laid a hand on me, but I was always on edge- watching closely so I could step in if he got too rough with our kids. I grew frustrated with constantly asking him to not curse.  His response was that was how a childhood therapist instructed him to vent his anger.  So, basically, it wasn’t going to change.

Then there was the time when a friend from junior high was in town and I met up with her to visit.  I wanted her to meet my kids because it had been many years since I’d seen her.  My younger son was a little fussy, so my ex took the kids for a walk.  Kristy and I visited for another fifteen minutes or so before he came back and asked if we were almost done because it was “f-ing hot”. I was embarrassed by him (again) and with that, the visit with my friend was over.

In 2009, twelve years after we married, and when our second son was three, my ex had a major temper fit.  He ended up breaking a drawer of his nightstand and terrified our younger son with his yelling.  I stayed in the other room and cried, leaving his mother to deal with it.  (She was visiting because he just had thyroid surgery.)

She relayed to me that he told her his outburst was my fault because I was too “f-ing busy” (to do what he wanted me to do right then) and he was upset because I made more money than him, and he didn’t feel like he “ruled the roost.”  Oh, and the pain medication was the reason for his outburst, so he was going to quit taking it.  I was frustrated because the temper and anger was there before the medication.  He went to a few sessions of counseling, but that was it.  This was the first time I started checking into what our house might be worth and what my half of the sale might be.

But I didn’t act. I wasn’t ready to accept that I failed at marriage.  I wasn’t ready to let my parents know they were right.  I didn’t talk to anyone about what was going on because I didn’t want their judgment if I didn’t leave.  I felt helpless, confused and alone.

This was about the time I threw myself into writing fiction.

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In The Beginning…

Last week I wrote about prayers and blessings.  Now I want to go back and fill in some of the history because the past is so important to understanding the significance of today.  I’m sure it will take several posts for me to write through this journey, but it’s something I think I need to do in order to get to a point where I can forgive myself.

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I met my ex in 1995.  I had my sights on earning my bachelors degree the next year and waiting tables on the days I wasn’t at the university paid the bills.  My ex was five years older than me and the manager of the restaurant.  I think I found that most attractive about him- he had his life together (I thought.)  See, I had a boyfriend at the time and his life consisted of a lot of dreaming, but not much doing.  He had many ideas of what he wanted to do when he grew up.  Instead, he drank too much (like his father) and struggled to manage his finances.  I tried to help him, even helping him pay rent on several occasions.  At this point in 1995, I was simply waiting for him to break up with me.  Early in our relationship, he mentioned that every girl he dated broke up with him so I decided to give him the opportunity to do the leaving- but he wouldn’t do it, so I finally did.  (Things were so bad that when I invited him over the night I ended the relationship, he brought a book to read!)

Newly single, I began dating my ex-husband.  I was certain I found “the one” and nothing (or no one) could have convinced me otherwise.  I should have taken a step back and asked questions when the assistant manager asked me if I’d met his mother and when I said no, she laughed as she walked away.  I should have been skeptical when I started to see that reality didn’t track with the illusion (he owned a boat, leased a brand new truck, but still owed several thousand dollars on a credit card, including repairs on a vehicle he didn’t have anymore, and he lived with his mother.  Although, in my defense, he told me that he had just moved in with her to help her after surgery.  I thought that was sweet). I should have ran and not looked back when after a couple months together, he fought with my parents and called my mom a b**ch.  I should have thanked my best friend when she held me against my will before my wedding and tried to convince me I was making a huge mistake.  Instead, I ended the friendship.  I should have seen that the night he drank too much and didn’t remember driving home or leaving the unintelligible message on my answering machine wasn’t a one-off thing. I shouldn’t have written off a co-worker, Bonnie, when she asked if my fiance was a Christian. I said I didn’t know and she told me it should be the first thing I ask.

That conversation still haunts me.  Now, some people might think I’m crazy (maybe I am) but I believe Bonnie’s question was a warning from God; a final opportunity for me to wake up and see that it was all wrong.  I had grown up going to church with my grandparents, and on my last blog, I wrote about another instance where I believe God used a person to intervene in my life.  It was when my grandma talked about suicide and that it was God’s choice when we left this earth and not ours.  I was 15 and had been contemplating suicide for months.

During high school and college, I didn’t go to church and I honestly didn’t think much about God.  I mean, I always believed in the existence of God, but didn’t seek Him in my daily life (only when things were so messed up I didn’t know what else to do.)  I worked on Sundays because they were always busy with people going out to eat after church.  I distanced myself even more from religion and God as I saw the hypocrites  dressed in their fancy church clothes come into the restaurant and act like complete jerks.  Apparently kindness and showing love toward others got lost somewhere between the church sanctuary and rest of the world.  I still remember this man who was very rude and demeaning to me.  His wife tried to tell him he was being mean and his response was “she’s just a waitress.”  I wanted nothing to do with that.

Years later, I began to change.  I felt a vague sense of longing for something and decided to go to church again.

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I’ll stop here for now.  I have no idea what I will write next or how these posts will go, but will do one a week, probably on Sunday (I have a lot of buried stuff and digging is painful… I cried while writing this… but I think I have to unpack it all to truly let go.)  When I sat down to write this one, I planned start at the beginning of the divorce- nearly 2 years ago. I know one person was interested in learning more about my ex-mother-in-law… I will get there!  Just know, you’ve been in my thoughts and prayers.