My Story Mondays: Divorce
Part One: Background, or, "How I Came to be Married in the First Place"
Check out The Quixotic Jedi's story over at The Quixotic Jedi
Growing up as the child of a Baptist minister, it was expected that I would, shortly after high school, meet and marry "the one". My job thereafter would be to pop out some kids, and spend the rest of my years tending house. Now, this goal wasn't stated explicitly...my parents would often respond to questions like, "What if I want to have a career?" or "What if I date a black man?" with the ambigous answer, "We're happy as long as that's what the Lord wants you to do." However, in the culture of my upbringing, many women who were over twenty-five and still didn't have a husband were considered "old maids" and we often wondered, sadly, what could be wrong with them.
I can say in all honesty (of course, hindsight is 20/20) that I was never one of those little girls who dreamed of having a wedding and a family. But, surrounded by pressures from my environment, I was on the hunt for a husband by the time I was nineteen or so. I felt uncomfortable with this search, but thought it was part of my duty as a good Christian girl, and SURELY, any discomfort was the result of Satan, gas, or my own spiritual shortcomings.
So then I met the man who was to be my husband in fall of 2000, during my sophmore year of college. I remember noticing him because it was October, and he was wearing a short sleeve t-shirt and mittens, which I found incredibly intriguing (I did not know then that this was less a sign of quirkiness, and more a lack of clean laundry). Since I had--quite foolishly--made a pact with God a few months prior that I would marry the next man that I dated seriously, I figured this dude was "the one" and proceeded from there.
(If God exists, I think he probably thought this idea was pretty dumb. In fact, if God exists, he should do a whole lot more smiting of dumb people. It would save humanity a LOT of trouble.)
My ex is a good guy. He is incredibly smart, and I owe much to his challenges to me over those next few months to think for myself as a (then Christian) woman. I knew that I liked him as a really good friend...but love? Marriage? Not really...and yet, bullheaded as always, I pressed ahead with the relationship. Again, even though eventually I walked my own body down the aisle, I felt a huge amount of pressure from my parents, whose favorite phrase was, "If it's the right one, it's the right time." I am sure they meant well (don't most parents?) but I don't think they had any idea how far a little LESS support would have gone in this case.
I don't mean to say that the entire relationship with my ex was awful. It wasn't...we always were good friends, and there was a certain amount of fun in looking for our first place and preparing to be independent from our parents. But I definitely found no joy in planning a wedding (that was to take place less than two years after I met the man). I delegated every last task to my mom and my sister, claiming that it would be easier for them to make decisions since I was still in my Junior year of college and busy with papers.
Fast forward to the wedding day. The whole week preceding the nuptials, I felt incredibly disconnected. There were times when I literally wanted to run away, but chalked it up to the normal jitters of someone whose life is about to change forever.
WAIT, WAIT!! I've mentioned before that I was a virgin on my wedding night, right?? Oh yes, that was another problem. I couldn't understand why I wasn't excited to have sex for the first time with a man I supposedly loved and supposedly wanted to bone. Maybe I thought that I wouldn't like it the first time anyway...at least, that's what all the Christian women in my life told me...that it would hurt, that it would mostly "be for him" for awhile until I got used to it, and that, after all, he'd always want it more than I would. I had one woman who literally told me that, as a good wife, I should always be available to "service him" and to just suck it up (literally?), because it'd only last five minutes anyway.
Holy shit, this is sounding worse and worse...
Anyway, recently, a good friend asked for my advice. She knows a young girl who is engaged to be married, but who has voiced some doubts. She asked me, "Do you wish that someone would have said to you, 'You don't have to do this if you don't want to?'" I replied, "Oh dear lord, I would have burst into tears and hugged that person and said, 'Thank you, thank you, thank you'."
I think I felt during that time that once I had made the choice to say yes to a relationship and an engagement, I was obligated to stick to it. Obviously, this sounds really misguided, but I definitely understand what people mean when they say they feel "trapped" in a relationship. I felt trapped by my family, my religion, and by my own lack of honesty with what I was really feeling.
I was married for five years, and my life changed forever because of my less-than-perfect decision to get married in the first place. Being "good friends" wasn't enough for me, and yes, I was the one to end things...on his birthday (oops! I'm bad with dates). Don't get me wrong...I learned a lot from my marriage, but I also learned a lot from my divorce.
But that, my friends, is a story for another day...
Tune in next week for Part 2: Marriage Misconceptions
Phew, that was a long one! Don't forget to read the Quixotic Jedi's story here.