When did it happen?
This is the question I get asked the most when people find out I am divorced. Sometimes I get a why or a how, as if these are things I can answer in a few simple sentences.
It’s interesting that others think I can explain the end of an eight year relationship, a seven year marriage, the end of life with the father of my children in five minutes or less. I know it’s just because people are confused. It’s confusing. People see me, a woman in her early thirties with three kids under six in tow, and they want to make sense of something that makes no sense.
Maybe people expect a simple answer because those are the stories we are so used to hearing. Stories where someone cheated or walked away, never to return. What most don’t hear are the many, many stories of heartache that happen over months and years. The broken promises, the failed counseling sessions, the anxiety of not knowing one day to the next.
The summer before everything fell apart I thought my life was pretty great. I was a stay at home mom to two amazing kids, pregnant with my third, and making friends in the community where we’d just bought a townhouse. Overall I felt like nothing could go wrong. I didn’t have much to complain about.
The beginning of the end started with small things. I noticed how much my husband had changed, his clothes, working out more, going out more. I noticed how distant he was. I noticed that he talked to me rather than with me.
I made excuses, it was his stressful job, it was the time in our lives, it was the seven year slump. What parents of small children feel super connected anyways, right?
Until the time came when I couldn’t ignore things anymore. What if he didn’t love me anymore? I went to talk to him, telling myself I was overreacting due to pregnancy hormones and that I would be quickly reassured that he did love me, that we had a family together.
What I got was the rug pulled from under me, a punch to the gut.
He looked at me with blank eyes and a solemn face and confirmed my fear. He didn’t love me anymore. I sobbed, my big pregnant belly heaving up and down. I couldn’t catch my breath. I cried so hard my face turned red and my head hurt. That should have been it, right? The end.
How I wish I had been strong enough to let that be it. What I did instead was make more excuses for him. I made marriage counseling appointments, plans for date nights, and plans for the future. After all, we were going to get through this.
What I really got were my hopes up and my heart broken over and over. I ignored the lies right to my face. I ignored the emotional abuse. I ignored the false promises. They say marriage is hard and it’s work. That keeping a family together is what’s important at all costs. That’s what I grew up hearing; those were the words of advice given on my wedding day.
The cost of trying to save my marriage, though, was me. I lost myself in an effort to save something that wasn’t savable.
I sacrificed who I was to my very core. When I look back now I am truly sad for the person I was at that time. I put my worth and dependance on someone who didn’t respect or value me. I put time and effort into someone that refused to reciprocate. Every time I begged and cried for him to stay I lost more and more of myself.
Five days after my last baby was born, my husband said out loud once again that he didn’t love me. His actions in the previous months had shown me that, but out loud, in the open, I was unable to ignore it. Again, the end right?
It was. But then a few days later he told me not to give up on him. Then a few weeks later he said he wanted to try but didn’t know how.
Slowly I stopped believing him. Slowly I started to do things that were just for me and my kids. One day I woke up and realized I had finally let him go. I looked at him and didn’t see my husband anymore. I realized that the person I loved most was me. That day I enjoyed the sunshine. I sang, I smiled. I looked forward to my future as a single mom with three little kids. Months after the first, “I don’t love you anymore,” and weeks after the second was when my marriage ended for me.
So “When did it happen?” isn’t so simple. Which answer would I give? The day my world changed. The day on the divorce papers. The day I let go.