I had not seen my ex-husband in over a year when he walked up to me on a sparsely-populated subway platform last Wednesday night. For three stops, we made polite, businesslike conversation. If you saw us, you probably thought we were casual acquaintances.
None of this is preventing me from shaking just thinking about the encounter, six days later. Before my world got rocked so profoundly, I’d been scanning coverage of Kim Kardashian’s divorce debacle for hints of what went wrong, looking for material for the story I intended to write. Mostly, it seemed, people found her predicament funny. And I confess that my first instinct was to post a “Who gets the ass-ets?” joke to Twitter. But I couldn’t hit publish, not as someone who also got divorced after a relatively short time (three years, not 72 days, but still, much sooner than I anticipated things ending).
Instead, I pitched this story about it to xoJane and promised it to them within days. Hours after they approved it, I saw him. And I have barely been able to compose a complete sentence since.
Kim blamed intuition on Australian TV for the dissolution of her 72-day marriage to New Jersey Nets player Kris Humphries. I feel her. When else is your gut more accurate than when you’re in a serious relationship? You may listen to it less, but never is it so finely tuned.
I knew my own short marriage was rocky. Every cheap plywood door in my apartment bears the imprint of my ex-husband’s fist. My psyche bears the imprint of years of insults. I knew he was cheating on me even before I found the evidence in a Facebook chat he left open on his laptop one day.
She was 15 years younger than me, worked in a hair salon and had aspirations of becoming an actress. He had aspirations of teaching her how. They slept together in the back of our car. She thought I knew, or so she said. And maybe I did. But intuition is hard to put into words, and too often it’s ignored altogether.
Maybe if I had left my own marriage after 72 days instead of 1,206, I could have spared myself some pain. I was so desperate to be in a relationship, to not have to put myself out there anymore, that I put up with things to that shock me to this day. I don’t recognize the person who found that Facebook chat, or who was physically threatened by my ex’s brother over a business dispute and then asked by his family to put it behind me, or who was told not to make a scene in an ER during a miscarriage (and subsequently tried not to cry or pass out), or had a cop approach me after a particularly brutal and public verbal fight on the day of our engagement photos and ask if I wanted help leaving him.
A good relationship makes you feel empowered. You should be magnified by your presence in a couple, not diminished. I was virtually invisible, a fragment of the person I was before I met him. I let him control my relationships with friends and family, my career, my personality. I let him tell me I couldn’t dance, I shouldn’t sing, I should quit my job because I wasn’t running the place.
And still, all I see is that I failed.
It’s easy to mock Kim for her E!-laborate wedding spectacle, to compare the length of her union to the time of Taylor Swift’s VMA acceptance speech including its interruption by Kanye, to clutch your pearls and ask what of the future of the K name -- but it remains that a marriage is over. Impending divorce just is not funny to me.
My short marriage was black mark on my permanent record. A few months after my ex and I separated, an acquaintance excitedly told me that I should have a “divorce party.” I was shocked. Never once had I thought of celebrating the breakup of my marriage, and I told her as much.
My ex was a disaster, and together we were a disaster, but for me, the divorce, not the marriage, is the real disaster. It always is.
While I have no idea what’s going on in Kim's head, I'm an avid watcher of the Kardashian TV empire, and E! has portrayed her as the sister most concerned with her image. And it’s getting wrapped up in image that makes it so easy to get lost in a relationship.
When you are so concerned about how the world sees you and your relationship, you forget to ask how YOU see you and your relationship. When a new relationship starts, you have to give yourself checkups. Is this relationship making me happier, or is it making me less happy? And that’s what it comes down to. If a relationship is not improving your life, it’s not worth your sanity.
When I was screwing up the courage to leave, an older man in my office told me out of the blue in the elevator one day: “Sometimes relationships just don’t work, no matter how much time you put into them.” He was right.
When my ex approached me on that subway platform last week, I wanted to run away. But then I remembered -- I’m happy now. For the first time in years, I was able to talk to him and feel like myself. And I hope Kim Kardashian is happy on her own, too. She deserves it.