It was my choice and it turned out to be the worst day of my life and the best day of my life.
Sitting in a crowded restaurant with my husband, celebrating my 43rd birthday, the conversation turned to his new job offer. He had been “courted” by an out-of-state company for close to 2 years. Now, the offer was on the table. He wanted to accept. I did not want to move.
He was hesitant to even bring it up because he knew it would likely “ruin” our celebratory dinner. But, amidst the hustle and bustle of the busy restaurant, I listened to him describe the offer. I knew this was an important conversation; and I felt an inner twinge, an intuitive knowing, that it was a birthday present. I just had no idea of where this gift would take me.
All along, I had said I did not want to relocate and leave my extended family, friends, career and the life I had lovingly built. But, I also said I would consider moving if the offer was sweet enough.
Well, now it was everything he wanted and not at all what I wanted. What was I supposed to say? I spoke my truth and said, “No, I don’t want to go.” Little did I know those few words would literally change my life.
Even though he had said he would not relocate without me, he could not come to terms with my decision. In our 8-year relationship, I was always the one to give in to his charming, manipulative manner. He had a way of getting others to do what he wanted and I was his chief target. But, this was one time I was not prepared to give up what I wanted and needed.
I had already given in on many major decisions in our lives, including whether or not to have children. I was (and still am) a wonderful stepmother to his 2 boys from a prior marriage. However, I had always wanted children of my own. In spite of this, he played upon all my fears and insecurities and continually drew me away from that choice.
In all fairness, and in retrospect, I made the decision to be with him and not have biological children. So, I accept my responsibility for that choice and recognize that now. But, at that time, I felt I had caved on several major decisions and agreed to his demands. I was not prepared to give up anything else for him.
This decision did not come easy. It was a painful process of analyzing the pros and cons and getting bombarded with feedback from well-meaning family and friends. My parents did not want me to leave and laid the guilt on me during the decision making process. Friends wondered why I wouldn’t leave my career and life to relocate with my husband. A good question …one I asked myself over and over.
And, while I’m a master at mental masturbation and obsessive analyzing, the truth was plain and simple. I did not want to go. Intellectually, I knew that, to stand by my man, was the right thing to do to “save” my marriage. Yet, I couldn’t wrap my mind around going.
All the while, my conscious mind reasoned (or a better word would be prayed) that our love was strong enough to survive this fork in the road. I could visibly see that my husband was sinking into a depression and was full of anger towards me. He was struggling to come to terms with his feelings that I somehow betrayed him because I didn’t want to follow where his career path was leading him. He shut me out and started processing his position. His interactions with me markedly moved away from love, towards resistance and indifference, into meanness and finally separation.
But, having claimed the role of the Queen of Denial, I became attached to the idea that our love was special and could survive the storm. So, I stuck my head in the proverbial sand and pretended it would all work out. While, simultaneously and desperately, I pulled out all the stops.
In addition to the normal routes of marriage counseling and pleading for intervention from close friends and family members, I began to perform a variety of acrobatic leaps through each imaginary hoop that I set in front of me and from which he benefitted. I, also, obsessively worried and interpreted any and all “signs.” I grasped onto any indication that things might be improving. But, there were only flickering, fleeting moments for faith and hope.
Once again, I felt an inner twinge, the intuitive knowing in my soul, that my choice had caused a huge crack to open up in our marriage. Teetering on the edge, I kept right on walking towards the dark abyss and plunged head first into a dark night of the soul. The evolving events would leave indelible imprints on my spirit. But, I am a living cliché. It is the darkest before the dawn; and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
After five nightmarish months, trying to salvage our relationship, he moved out permanently. During those months, he had moved in and out three times and would literally breakdown in tears; crying that he didn’t want this to happen but he couldn’t help himself.
At one point, I even acquiesced and said I would relocate…anything to save our relationship. But, in his uncanny wisdom, he said it was too late; and that I would be better off without him. He was right. But, it would take a long time for me to understand the truth of his words. (Caution …BIG RED FLAG. Always, listen to someone when they say they are not good enough for you or you are better off without them. They are trying to tell you something significant.)
Meanwhile, I learned he definitely had moved on when he moved out. He, conveniently, hooked up with another woman named “Carol.” How painful is that? Not only did my husband immediately leave our relationship emotionally and physically, while I was holding onto the romantic notion that our love could conquer all, but he gets a new squeeze that shares my first name. This news was quickly followed by the service of divorce papers. OUCH!
My life definitely appeared to be spinning out of control as I still was having trouble accepting the doom of impending divorce. But, as each week progressed, his actions propelled me forward. Gratefully, I am blessed with good friends and family that supported and guided me as I was dragged, kicking and screaming, into my own future.
Although, some not-so-good “friends” also felt the need to offer their own type of support by sharing information that he had cheated on me throughout the marriage. I was more than devastated. I felt like a stupid fool on top of everything else. I really don’t know for sure what he did or did not do. But, with lots of introspection and counseling, I came to terms with the fact that his cheating was not really about me personally. It was more about his emotional makeup. It seemed to be a fulfillment of his needs, through shallow encounters, as he was unequipped for the deeper intimacy of a true soul connection.
This is how I know he was right in saying that I was better off without him. I was ready to go to a higher level in our relationship. But, he could not get there. And, I could not get there with him.
The day that changed my life was really the best day of my life because my choice helped redirect me on my life’s path. I remember thinking that this is now my time. I spent the next nine years living on my own. Not only did I learn how to do minor home repairs, but I learned how to better love and accept myself and others. I planted a garden; I populated my home with pets; rediscovering my connection with cats and dogs; and relishing the joyfulness of their unconditional love. I renewed my relationship with a higher power and delved deeper into spiritual teachings. Consciously choosing to live a life of compassion and kindness, I refocused the desire to have kids in my life into volunteer work with children living in foster care.
There were many sleepless nights, painful probing of past decisions, new relationships to explore, limits to release, and dreams to pursue. I continually rediscovered my truth and set about learning to be the best possible me. Yes, it was my choice that led me to a better place – a happier place; a new appreciation for life and all it offers.
And, my choice also led me to a marvelous, new marriage filled with loving kindness, support and mutual respect. I have grown to be grateful to my ex-husband for unknowingly providing me with this opportunity. And the recognition that, the day that changed my life, was both the worst thing that ever happened to me AND the best thing that ever happened to me. So, remember, while it may not always feel good; life is good!
Publishing Editor’s Note: Carol’s raw, honest and hopeful story weaves through her marriage and on to a new life. This is Carol’s first submission and I know you will enjoy her work. Please take a moment to read about this amazing lady on our Contributor’s Bio Page. You can reach her at the end of this story in the comments section or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The photo was supplied by Carol and is a perfect fit as bridges lead us from one place to another.