There is no one reason why we stay. There are so many factors involved in weighing our choices. Our upbringing, beliefs, morals, religion, pride, fears, determination and our own self-love are all just a few of the factors that weigh in on our choices.
My parents were together until death parted them in 2007. They rarely fought, had a healthy marriage over all from what I could tell. The one thing I took the most pride in growing up was that we were not from a broken family. I was the youngest of 4. The eldest of my siblings was my sister. Up until the time I experienced infidelity in my marriage, she was already on her 3rd marriage. My eldest brother was marrying his second wife, and my other brother, the one I am closest to, was divorcing his 3rd wife.
Watching my siblings made me question why they got married in the first place. From my perspective, they did not appear to value marriage, but instead viewed it as the next logical step in a relationship. If you cannot see yourself being with someone for the rest of your life then why are you marrying them; better yet, why are you with them for any length of time at all? It wasn’t just the value of marriage they were lacking in; it was the value in themselves. It took me years to acknowledge the flaw in my thinking.
We were not raised to be talkers. We did not share our feelings and desires openly. We were not shown affection growing up. We were raised with rough-housing and sarcasm as our only means of expressing our feelings. My parents did not talk about how they met and fell in love. We grew up on the fringes of an era where as children, you do not speak unless spoken to. There were no heart to hearts with our parents. The values passed on to us were the ones we assimilated through our daily existence. When it was time to discuss sexuality, my sister got the talk, my brothers got a book to read and I was forgotten. We were never allowed to watch movies with any type of nudity up until about puberty I’d say. Our abilities to learn how to form relationships became solely based on the limited relationships we witnessed and the inaccuracies of programming on TV. I am not judging the job they did as parents, I can only say attest to how it affected me and my views about my body, my mind and relationships.
As a teenager, there was a young man who was sweet, gentle, tender and very thoughtful. He wanted to know what I was thinking and feeling and he wanted to give me the world. All he ever wanted from me was to be a part of that world, but I rejected him. Everything he represented was foreign to me. Instead, the man I chose to marry wasn’t tender. Sex was sex; it was never ‘making love’. The man I married and gave my devotion to was the polar opposite of the man who truly loved and appreciated me. Oh he was kind and thoughtful at times. He worked hard, provided a decent life up to a certain point, but he was never in tune with me. We never connected on a deeper level. our relationship was superficial and it was comfortable to me. He never asked me about what I was thinking and feeling and I never trusted him enough to offer that part of me and yet when I asked myself if I could see myself being married to him til death, the answer was yes.
Three years in to the marriage he began an affair with a younger woman. In retrospect he showed all the classic tell-tale signs, but it was going on for a month before he told me he had a one time slip up and had gotten the girl pregnant. The reality was that they had been seeing each other every chance he had gotten and it continued for another 2 months after he told me about the pregnancy. He wanted me to believe he wasn’t still seeing her. He wanted me to believe he had chosen me and that she meant nothing to him. We had no children at this time. In fact I was already having feelings of inadequacy because I wasn’t getting pregnant despite 3 years of using no form of birth control. Now she was pregnant. He started talking about wanting to move back to his home state of California. I didn’t want to go because as much as he hated it here in my home state, I hated it there in his. Despite that, I stood by him and made our plans to move.
Why didn’t I just leave? In my mind the answer was simple. He was my husband and she could not have him! As I am writing this sentence I am struck with a thought. If he had come to me and said he wanted a divorce because he wanted to be with her, I would have let him go. In my mind I wanted him to be happy and if she made him more happy than I did then that’s where he belonged. As long as I believed he wanted me, I was going to fight to hang on to my marriage, even after I realized they were still together; even after I realized that the real reason he wanted to move back to California is because she was already planning to move there with the baby.
Through the heart-wrenching feelings of not being good enough, through the nights alone because he was ‘out with friends’, through the sleepless nights spent praying, through the feelings of being unwanted and the self-loathing, through the crazed nights hunting him down and feelings of being out of control, I stayed with him, because he was MINE! Then one day my prayers had seemingly been answered in a very dramatic way. He was in a very serious car accident and nearly died. At that time I believed he experienced an awakening of sorts. From his hospital bed, he called her and told her it was over; and this time it was. There was no pregnancy…I do not know if there ever was, but no child came of it.
After that he did almost everything I needed him to do to help me heal, except for talk about it. He did not understand that I needed to know why it happened. I very much blamed myself and assumed the marriage was lacking in some way, but in his mind it was over and done with and he didn’t want to talk about it. It wasn’t until that last year we were together(13 years later) that I got the answers I was seeking, as well as some other truths I did not know before.
He was struggling with addiction to meth and had begun attending N/A meetings. At these meetings he met a newcomer and apparently members of the group give out their phone numbers so that they can call on each other in times of struggle. I started to see the old pattern re-emerging. He kept bringing this woman’s name up in conversation and from what he told me, she was clearly showing her interest in him. So when I questioned him about what he was doing to shut her down, he made excuses as to why he wasn’t. That is when all the old feelings and questions came bubbling up to the surface again and he actually talked to me about what he was thinking and feeling back then. It was from this discussion that I not only received some closure, but I also had the fog lifted away from my eyes. You see, after all these years since he had made that phone call telling her it was over and to never speak to him again, he actually had no memory of making that call. He was in the hospital at the time, not even 36 hours since having major surgery from his accident when he told me he called her to break it off. 13 years later he told me with confusion in his voice, that he has never known why she suddenly never spoken to him again after his accident. As I sat there processing this new information, I suddenly realized he had never changed…not really. The only reason the affair ended was because she respected his request and not because of any revelation on his part.
I never once blamed the other woman in this situation. She was 19 at the time and had a troubled past. He made the commitment to me so if my home was wrecked it was our doing, not hers. The marriage ended because of his meth addiction had taken over our lives in a horrible way and also because I had given up the belief I had been hanging on to; the belief that he could beat it, he could change because he had done it before. When I realized he had no memory of breaking ties with her, I realized that he never really chose me at all and I also realized that he was never going to win his addiction to meth. For whatever reason, he is powerless to change and I had long since outgrown him. It wasn’t until he finally let me go that I was able to move on. Just like all those years ago when I fought tooth and nail to keep what was mine as long as he said he chose me, I was now able to let him go after he finally told me I should. I never looked back or went back after that.
Less than a year later, God saw fit to show me the true blessings of love. He once again placed that same gentle, sweet man back in to my path and this time, I accepted his love and gave mine freely. I now know what true love is suppose to feel like. I now know what it feels like to make love to a man who truly treasures you. I wonder why I settled for so much less all those years ago. Even though I feel my ex never matured or evolved over the years, I know I did. I learned a lot through my years of being with him and I have 2 of the both beautiful and intelligent daughters that a parent could wish for. I hope he finds real love. I still want that for him because the truth of it is, I would not be where I am today if it were not for my 1st husband. He may not have been the man I was meant to live the rest of my life with, but he was the man I was meant to be with at the time.
So my friends, if you take anything at all away from this story, please let it be that we all get there in our own time. It cannot be forced and it cannot be on anyone else’s terms but our own. So speak kindly and offer guidance if you can. We already feel stupid enough as we muttle through this life lesson, please don’t make it worse on us.