If you’re a Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash or Waylon Jennings fan like I am, then you know of the super-group called The Highwaymen. Consisting of Nelson, Cash, Jennings and the stalwart songwriter/dreadful singer Kris Kristofferson, the group had a string of hits back in the late 80s and early 90s. I recently went on a trip with my friend, who had their greatest hits album on her ancient iPod. I loved hearing those songs from my childhood, so I downloaded a few of them when I arrived at my destination.
I’ve enjoyed listening to Waylon Jennings croon, “Angels love bad men, that’s how it’s always been.” It’s a great song with cool chord changes. I’m not sure if the premise is true, but the song made me think about the mistakes I’d made in the process of marrying my STBX (soon-to-be-ex). The most obvious mistake has been corrected, as my gaydar has been permanently and painfully recalibrated. I can also think of a litany of other mistakes: setting my cap on one person instead of looking at multiple options, agreeing to a wedding that I didn’t enjoy and believing that every person has one special soul mate.
But so what? I can’t jump into the Delorian, fire up the flux capacitor and tell 20-year-old Jackie to rethink her choices. I made the smartest choices that I knew how to make at the time, and I chose the path that I thought was healthiest. In the book The Paradox of Choice, author Barry Schwartz talks about maximizers and satisficers. Maximers always want to make perfect choices, and they find themselves paralyzed by the buffet of options that they face. Satisficers, on the other hand, tend to be happier, because they make decent choices instead of perfect choices. They make decisions more quickly, and they tend to be happier people overall.
As a married person, I did my job. I made my decisions with integrity, using the information that my STBX chose to give me. I treated him well and created the most loving home that I knew how to create. I kept my vows and loved as completely as I knew how to love. When the man you thought was your life partner rejects not only you but also your entire gender, falling into the trap of blaming yourself is very easy. “If I’d been thinner, if I’d cooked dinner more often, if I’d been a better housekeeper”—all of those things have gone through my mind (and they sound frighteningly traditional, don’t they?). However, I’ve come to realize that it isn’t my fault. I was given incomplete and sometimes totally false information. The relationship was built on half-truths and therefore had no chance of succeeding.
I’m no angel, and in spite of his extraordinarily selfish actions, my STBX is not entirely a bad man. The decision to commit to spending your life with someone is one of the most important choices we ever make. I worry not so much about the existence of good men as I worry about my own judgment. Will I make the right choices for the future, or will I find myself totally deceived just like the first time? I don’t know about the future, but I do know that even though I can be knocked down, I can also, like those inflatable clown punching bags, keep returning to an upright position. And as my beloved Highwaymen sing, “I’ll be back again…and again…and again.”