I was done. I quit.
I believe the exact terminology used was,
“We’re done! There’s nothing you can do. I’m divorcing you. Your daughter is living with me, and you can come see her, but I’m not going to put up with this any longer. I deserve a heck of a lot better than this. If you’re not going to put the work in to make me happy, then there definitely is someone else who will!”
Sound familiar at all? The battles over money, the stress over the kids, the months between a date night…it never ended. And I had no idea how I could be drowning in anxiety and overwhelm and the only thing that he could think of was playing a video game or going out with his friends.
My friends told me I could do better. My parents had that sigh of disappointment every time I shared how stressed I was working 80 hours a week and feeling like I got no help.
When I finally made that statement, it was two weeks before our daughter’s 3rd birthday party. We had a family trip planned and paid for to go to California, and I was ready to snap. And I did.
The clothes were thrown out of the house.
The words were fired across our living room. I brought up every dart I’d been saving and threw them at him one by one:
He didn’t make enough money. He never helped with the dogs. He was texting at dinner. He didn’t do the lawn. He broke my dad’s tool. He yelled at our daughter.
Every single thing between the beginning of our relationship and that fight was fair game.
He left that night.
He called 27 times that night. He called another 18 the next day and left 40 text messages.
“What can I do?” “I’m sorry babe.” “How can I fix this?”
Two weeks later we went to California and I “allowed” him to come with us. It was the most awkward trip I’ll ever take as my soon-to-be ex-husband stayed at my family’s house in the same room as me. We spent half the trip pretending we were still a family.
I spent the other half convincing my family that they should take my side in the divorce. Don’t do that. No one is going to rock “Team Bunny” shirts as you walk out of divorce court. I think at times we forget that the other person in this divorce is human, too. We forget that their family is still going to be your family no matter what you do.
My husband went back to spend time with his family shortly after I told him that we were over.
I stalked his Facebook as he was on his trip. I sent him texts to remind him that he shouldn’t be having any fun, enjoying himself, or doing anything but crying over his failed marriage. I couldn’t believe he was spending time with friends. I realize now that men and women handle grief differently.
I ended up provoking another phone fight. That resulted in him going out and drinking and spending time with an ex. As much as I was crazy angry back then, I look back now and ask myself, “What did you think was going to happen as you threw punches, told him it was over, and dragged him through the mud?”
In all fairness, he only became the man that I accused him of being after I pushed him so far away from me that he must have thought I never loved him. I’m pretty sure I even spat those exact words at him. “I NEVER LOVED YOU.”
It appalls me to think about the person I became throughout the separation.
He came back to Virginia and stayed with friends.
We spent the next 11 months rarely speaking and attempting to co-parent. As we’d pass in the child shuffle, I took the opportunity to glare at him with anger before speeding away. He bought a used car when I told him he couldn’t use any of my three vehicles any longer.
He never said a thing and never fought back at my comments, but he fought back tears as I presented him with separation papers.
He came to me one evening and begged for forgiveness. He asked for me to tell him what to do to fix this and put our family back together.
I gave him a checklist of seemingly impossible things.
I did my best to set him up to fail so I could further despise him. Then it happened.
11 months and 1 week after we had separated, he completed my checklist. And when I say he completed the checklist, it was not like paint the fence, etc. He joined the United States Army in order to comply with my demands. But I still wanted a divorce.
This realization made me think long and hard about who in this relationship needed to change. It clearly was not him if he did everything I asked and I was still that unhappy.
The next week, I started my own checklist.
I sat down and figured out what it was that I wanted out of life and who I wanted to spend my life with. I started seeing a therapist weekly. Before, I’d convinced myself he needed therapy and that I couldn’t afford it. Let me tell you something: therapy is a lot cheaper than a divorce.
I created a dream husband profile, wrote memories that I wanted, and prayed my little heart out. Then I realized, on paper, that I had described the relationship, the man, and the memories that I had. I was so unhappy that I had blamed another human being and refused to change myself. I’m not saying that my husband is perfect, but marriage is not about perfection. It’s about a promise. And that “for better or for worse” line is in those vows for a reason.
He moved back into our house 4 days before our 12 month separation anniversary. I didn’t ask my family what they thought or for permission. My dad said it best: “Actions speak louder than words. Instead of focusing your words on explaining how happy he makes you, just let everyone see it.”
I’m still married to that man today.
I truly know that we would not have the incredible relationship that we have today if it was not for the time I had apart from him. I admit that I take him for granted and pick on him. He’s not perfect, but neither am I. His crazy matches mine, and he loves me more than anything in the world.
Our daughter was disrespectful to me the other day and I heard my husband tell her, “Baby girl, you have to understand something. I love you very much. But I love your momma more than anything in this world. And if someone hurts her, even if that someone is you, we are going to have a problem.” It made my heart soar.
I’m probably one of the only wives that is so incredibly thankful for a divorce that almost happened.
If I could offer you one piece of advice for your marriage struggles, it would be this:
Focus on what you desire most from your partner, and provide that to them. Model what you want from your spouse so they can see and feel what you need from them. And model this for yourselves as well.
You can’t pour from an empty cup. So take care of you first, your spouse second, and the kids will learn how to love themselves and each other which makes everyone’s lives better.