They say every little girl dreams about her wedding day, but I never did. Until of course, I grew up and developed a low self-esteem and a string of unhealthy relationships. Even then, I wouldn’t really dream about my actual wedding, but more that there would be a person that would actually want to marry me. I was a newly sober alcoholic with seriously bad taste in romantic partners and no idea what healthy boundaries were. Enter my ex-husband.
We met at an AA meeting in Hollywood. I was captivated by his shy smile and the fact that he rode a hot pink fixed gear bike like me. He was left heart broken by his cheating fiancé less than two months before we met, but I didn’t shy away. Call it divine timing (or the opposite), I attracted a man with an equally low self-esteem, coupled with a mistrust of women and a generally bitter attitude towards the world.
In hindsight, it was probably not the best sign for our future that we spent a solid four hours watching tv on our first “date.” We were both so fragile and unsure of our places in the world; we clung to each other like we were the other’s only hope. Only hope at being loved or validated. I don’t think either of us actually wanted to be married. We just wanted someone to want us. So naturally, we moved in together after two months. Unsurprisingly, it did not go well.
We spent most of our time at home, forgoing fun, friendships, and general well being. We were so co-dependent. I was desperately unhappy, attempting life without anti-depressants for what seemed like the millionth time. I didn’t mind or even notice that he didn’t have any friends and never wanted to leave the house. I was so caught up in my own misery that I didn’t notice his.
After three months of crying nonstop, I finally relented and went back to taking Prozac. Within a few weeks, I started to feel a little bit better. We were so relieved, we decided to get married and move to Atlanta. We both blamed our relationship problems on my depression. Now that I was back on the pills, life would be great again, right?
Within two months of being married, I knew I made a terrible mistake. I was out one night with a group of new work friends when one of them asked me how married life was. I nearly burst into tears at the question, but managed to muster up a fake smile and blink away the tears. It became clear that my new husband had wanted to escape his life in LA, but hadn’t given any thought to the life he would build in Atlanta with me.
As I grew healthier and stronger emotionally, he became more and more depressed. I made steps towards improving our relationship, offering to go to counseling together and find individual therapists, but he was unwilling to make any changes. Plus, his depression manifested as anger, which was difficult to be around and extremely oppressive in nature. I was afraid to be myself around him, afraid of his judgment and cruel remarks. We became estranged quickly, not sharing any of the same values or life goals.
I can see now that I was too wild for him. My free-spirited nature made him uncomfortable and therefore controlling. When we were first dating, I heard a man talking about his girlfriend, “I love my wild woman,” he said. I was so jealous. I knew I could never have that with my ex-husband, not even in our happiest times. He wanted an edited, tightly constrained version of me and the longer we were married, the more I started to rebel.
The rebellion started innocently enough. I enrolled in a women’s studies course to gain a little of my own power back, and partly to see what he would say. Would he call it stupid? Would he berate me for being interested in feminism? I was looking for a reason, any reason, to finally take the plunge and leave him. The final straw wasn’t one specific thing, more like a collection of moments. A series of red flags I was finally willing to notice and deal breakers I had overlooked for too long.
I told him abruptly that I was leaving, packed my bags, and went to crash on my sister’s couch while he moved out. I didn’t care where he was going. I didn’t want any money from him, or the car we purchased together. I just wanted out. I wanted the freedom to be myself without fear of judgement. I wanted a partner who actually liked me as a person, not the idea of me, or just my appearance. I needed someone to accept me fully– my wild past, my lesbian friends, my fluid sexuality. All or nothing. No regrets.
What happened next is nothing short of a miracle. I felt so good and so free. I actually loved myself, really loved myself, for the first time in my adult life and I wasn’t willing to settle. I met my husband, Pasha, six weeks later. He is everything I ever wanted in another human being and more.
We met online on OkCupid. I was ready to start dating, but really busy with work and school. He was in town working on a tv show, and ready to move on after his own separation. My opening line? “Hi, my name’s Megan and I’m getting divorced.” I had no pretenses, no expectations, and no feelings of lack I was trying to mask. I was purely focused on having fun and being myself. Even my dating profile read, “I am looking to have fun. I CAN’T STRESS FUN ENOUGH.” We fell in love immediately and never looked back.
I don’t regret marrying my ex-husband. I hope he’s happy and I wish him well. I am grateful for the lessons we taught each other, and for the ability to move on from the pain we both caused. But we weren’t right for each other. We got married out of desperation, to not be alone, to not be rejected or left behind. We didn’t come together as emotionally stable people with a shared vision for the future. We were scared and lonely, and that can never be the foundation of a healthy relationship.
All marriages take work and effort to stay intimate, to remain in love and on the same page. But people change and some marriages end. Divorce can be heart breaking, but not as tragic as leading a life that’s repressed. Life is too short and too long to be stuck in an unhappy marriage.
I know that if we had children, our situation would have been infinitely more complicated. My heart goes out to any parents struggling in their marriages. My parents fought for years before they got divorced. It was rough, but they both ended up with people who they are more compatible wth.
We all deserve to be and feel loved. Sometimes we get lucky and sometimes we have to start over and try again. Either way, it’s going to be alright.
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