When your marriage unexpectedly ends, you lose the dreams that you had for your future. You know that the divorce will kill the years of holiday traditions that you anticipated, the summer vacations that you imagined and the retirement dreams that you talked about in your room when you lay on your pillows in the dark.
It’s not the loss of my future that I mourn approximately 18 days from the day that my husband told me that he no longer wanted to be married to me. Futures are made of ethereal stuff that is easy to blow away with one breath and rebuild out of equally fragile materials later. But in addition to losing my future, I have also lost my past. I felt it crumble away when I heard the words, “Twelve years ago I married my best friend, and I hoped that one day I would fall in love with her.”
I wish I could go back in time and find a turning point, the point at which I could say, “This is when everything went wrong.” Ironically, I wish that I’d had a role in doing something wrong. If I had, I could take some responsibility for the failure of my marriage. With responsibility there is power, and a feeling of some control. Instead, I discovered that nothing I assumed to be true was ever true, and that the wrong turns were taken even before my marriage began. My future was taken away, and then the past as I thought it existed was obliterated. I had no power to stop it from happening.
Deceptions of this magnitude are not black and white. I can understand that in some ways it was not entirely intentional. Within that choice to deceive me was a large element of self-deception, and when I am feeling more charitable, I can almost find myself feeling that someday I can forgive and move forward while having a civil relationship with my ex-husband. However, I know that the lying was, at least part of the time, self-serving, premeditated and intentional. At times, it was done with the arguably noble intent to keep from hurting me or our children. At other times, it was done out of cowardice and fear, and it was motivated by self-preservation above all else.
In many ways, his torment has ended. Mine has only begun. I’ve accepted that I am not having a nightmare, and that this newfound Mordor-like landscape is actually my new life. On some days, I wake up wishing that I were dead. I don’t know how I’m going to summon the will to get out of bed. Fortunately, when I don’t see many reasons for living for myself, I choose to live for my kids, even if living is not much more than making the choice to get up and fix their breakfast.
At other times, I am consumed by rage. I’m angry because the man who led me to believe that he was the love of my life was nothing more than a fabrication, and I’m even more angry that I will never have the power to exact justice. You see, it’s easy to congratulate the person who has broken out of his prison and accepted himself as he was born to be. Many will applaud his newfound courage and express compassion for his years of self-denial, and I think, to some extent, they should. He deserves support as he navigates his new way of being.
But what deserves equal acknowledgement is that his choice to construct a fraudulent life for so many years, and then to desert that life brutally and without warning, has left behind unspeakable collateral damage. I do accept responsibility for the conscious decision that I made to give my trust against what perhaps should have been my better judgment. Trustworthy men have been few in my life. I thought I had outwitted history and that I would never repeat my parents’ mistakes. Unfortunately, in this game of roulette, I played black when I should have played red. And now, the time has come to pay the house for that choice.
I know that someday this will look survivable. With the past irrevocably destroyed, and the future impossible to see, I focus my attention on the present. My job for the months ahead is to get up even when I don’t want to, to work although I have no motivation and to figure out what will constitute my new life by doing the next thing at hand. That, and to eventually, in some way, find the capacity to forgive. Not for his sake, but for my own.