I got married at an age when most of my peers were enjoying their first legal six-packs.
That sort of thing is commonplace in the small town where I grew up. No one batted an eye. I wasn’t itching to be a wife; I just didn’t want to break-up with my boyfriend or be “that cow.” You know the one that doesn’t capitalize on her milk? Nobody marries that ole heifer.
He asked, I accepted, and the deal was sealed in a rented Chevrolet Malibu at a drive through chapel in Vegas. No family, no friends, no dress, no flowers, no cake. It was completely devoid of joy, save the $10 commemorative Polaroid and post-ceremony dinner at Benihana.
Back home, we fell into a comfortable routine. I worked full-time, took night classes, smoked enough pot to sink a battleship and got into disco dust in my spare time.
Hubs took advantage of his work-from-home position as a web developer to party on while I was off doing my thing and kept at it when I got home at night. Weekends were dedicated to more of the same, but we also tackled home improvement projects, hosted barbecues, took day trips and dreamed about our future. Things were great until they weren’t.
Shortly after my 24th birthday, a nasty bought of Bronchitis sidelined me long enough to take inventory. Hubs had steadily become less reliable, and I was taking on more of the household responsibilities on top of everything else. He wouldn’t leave the house for days, sometimes weeks at a time, refusing to tend to the most menial tasks -- like getting up before noon or wearing a shirt or even a quick jaunt to the grocery store.
I voiced my concerns, but he truly believed that everything was on the up and up. We owned a house! We had retirement accounts! We were ahead of the curve!
Rather than push change on him, I was determined to lead by example. Sober up and set some goals. It didn’t slow him down. He picked up my slack and gained momentum.
The first sign of major trouble followed a skirmish at a party. Still steaming when we got back home, Hubs put his fist through the drywall, breaking his hand while he was at it. The next morning, I tried to get a handle of the series of events. Why was he so upset? What possessed him to take it out on the wall? He told me I should be grateful that the wall took the brunt of it instead of me.
At first he only threw things. That graduated to blocking my path out of the house and threatening to harm our pets. I wasn't a shining example of civility, either. Sometimes, I lost my temper and raised my voice. I wasn't above name-calling or resorting to "you always" and "you never." Still, I understood his behavior wasn't acceptable, but I didn't know what to do about it.
I don’t remember the first time he hit me or the argument leading up to it. There was plenty to argue about, though, and we did often.
He had a friend, a female stripper, who would regularly visit when I was out. (I'm not making a judgment on her profession or suggesting that all dancers are home-wreckers. Just saying.) I came home unannounced one evening, and Hubs burst out of bathroom in a tizzy leaving his lady friend in the shower. What? Wasn’t he allowed to have friends?!?! She was freshening up before her shift! He was getting her a fresh towel!
There was the office he leased despite not having an actual business or clients or a plan to cover the additional expense. Then, he quit his job on a whim without notice or discussion and ran right out and bought a used car out of our joint account. As a high school graduation present for our neighbor’s daughter. There was also the time he forgot to wear shoes to my grandmother’s funeral and a number of other embarrassing social incidents.
He didn’t make a habit of hitting me in the face or leave visible bruises. He made it easy for me that way. I only had to lie once, and it was a doozy -- a mountain biking accident. I had bruises all up and down my shins, my ribs, my back and even my breasts from going over those handle bars.
But unlike the wife beaters you typically hear about, he never once expressed remorse or promised to change. I knew he partied when I married him, and he had to dope to cope with the stress of my nagging expectations. If I would only ____________ he wouldn't be forced to _______________.
I shouldered the blame too, but I never I actually believed I was at fault. I didn't stay because I didn’t have a support system. And it wasn’t because I was afraid of what he’d do if I left. I stayed because he clearly had a problem. I was paying attention during the "for better and for worse" and "in sickness and in health" part of the program. I was standing by my man, God damn it.
There were weeks and even months when we got on fine. That’s what kept me going. He even did a bit of self-reflection, and Bhagwan Shree Rashneesh became his guru. Self-deflection would really be a more accurate term. The problem was I wasn’t aware enough. The problem was that I wasn’t a seeker. The problem was I wasn’t on the path. He read Eckhart Tolle; the problem was I wasn’t in the now. The problem was my pain body, my ego. The problem was he was an asshole.
He finally concluded he simply lacked the proper motivation to be a good and decent human being. Becoming a father would certainly turn things around!
My ovaries recoiled in horror at the prospect of bearing his spawn and the inevitability being a single mother. I took Hubs to his favorite restaurant to soften the blow (and to minimize the fallout by doing so in public) that there wasn't going to be a baby, not with him, not the way things stood.
Shortly thereafter, he began keeping a diary of the variety of ways I provoked him, outlining direct correlation/causation to his drug and alcohol intake.
We made it through our 5th wedding anniversary when my dad had a heart attack. Hubs didn’t want to go to the hospital with me because he was sure my family was suspicious that he was abusive. Without missing a beat, I said “Well, you are abusive.”
A look of shock passed over his face. He asked, “Do you honestly believe that is what has been happening?” I bit my tongue to keep mum. Yes, of course that is what was happening! It blew my mind that he could think otherwise.
At the point where there was no disguising I was a wreck, I reached out to Hubs' parents and friends about his substance abuse and increasingly erratic behavior. They weren't overly concerned and didn't even bother to speak to him, much less intervene.
I exposed bits and pieces to my girlfriends, but only enough to garner a bit of comfort. I knew that if I confided fully in anyone, I would have no choice but to end it. I did a lot fretting about what it would take and when I would be ready to throw in the towel.
One day, I returned from the salt mines to find Hubs passed out in the bathtub, his flaccid penis bobbing around in the filthy, tepid water. I thought it would really be a shame if he slid under... And that's when I knew it was go time.
I recited my speech and laid out my ultimatum. Rehab plus counseling or the door. Eerily cool, calm and collected he informed me that he wanted to do what he wanted to do, when he wanted to it, and was tired of being made to feel bad about it. He strolled out the front door, hired an attorney, and began divorce proceedings.
Just like that. Over. I was so angry. Angry that he didn’t fight for me, for us. Angry that I wasted my 20s with someone who explicitly and consistently proved to me that he was a waste. Angry that I was losing my home, in-laws, friends, and a big chunk of my identity. Angry that I had to be a divorcee. And angry that it was such an anti-climactic end.
Years later, I am still angry. But also grateful that he let me go. It was the most humane thing Hubs could have done, giving me my life back. I'm free to enjoy a happy and abundant life with a true partner who is worthy of my love and respect.
I didn't get what I wanted at the time, but I came out on top in the end.