I still remember where I met my former wife for the first time – we’ll call her “Abby”. We’d agreed to meet at a 7-11, of all places, in Old Orchard Beach here in Maine. I stepped into the store after it didn’t seem like she’d show up, and I called her number from the payphone inside. She apologized for being late and said she’d be right there. When she stepped out of her car, I remember thinking that she was pretty. We introduced ourselves and then discussed what the night had in store for our first official date since we’d met on Match.Com
The date was pretty low-key for the most part. We went to Old Orchard Beach, even though it was winter, and we bought some fries and walked on the beach for a long time. We talked and she told me how her family was always pressuring her to get married, since her sister and her mother both had been with their high school sweethearts and had been happily married as early as possible. We finished the night by going to Portland and getting ice cream in the old port. It was a strange date, for sure, and though I’d had fun – it was only one date. I figured if we dated more in the future, I would get to know her better. The second date didn’t come, not for a while anyway.
On the day she was supposed to call me for our second date, I got dressed up and went to hang out at my workplace for support from my work friends at a pizza place. She never called, and I tried calling her to no avail. The next day, I went online and she had left a message for me saying that she had met another guy, someone who lived closer. She asked me why she should date me and not him. Confused, I explained that we had only been on one date and that we still didn’t know each other well enough to make any sort of grand-standing statements about why we should date one another. I should have taken this as a sign for the future, but time erases all things.
In any case, Abby started dating the other guy. A co-worker of mine at the time saw what effort I put into the date and sat with me the night before, and before too long she and I were dating. So Abby and I both went our separate ways for a time, but stayed in touch on social media. According to Abby, she had been sort of watching me from a distance and seeing statuses on MySpace about how much I cared for my co-worker girlfriend and she had regretted getting with the other guy, who owned his own business and never had time for her.
Fast forward to when our relationships both ended (my girlfriend had entered the coast guard, and when she got out she cut all ties with anyone she’d known previously) and Abby offered to buy me drinks on my birthday. I agreed, and thus began a whirlwind of dating and getting closer to her. We weren’t together terribly long before we were engaged. She had already bought a house back before we were together, and so I came into the traditional home life I’d always wanted in a serious relationship.
We were not without our problems. I had extremely low self esteem, and Abby was a beautiful woman. She did side modeling and had graced the back cover of two issues of a popular swimsuit magazine on some alcohol ads, though the images were composites of her and other models who were already under contract. She had been in an extremely controlling relationship in the past, and so it seemed to me that she was exploring her newfound freedoms to do whatever she liked, whenever she liked. I had to do a lot of self regulation to ensure that I didn’t let jealousy or anger come between us, and sometimes it got the better of me. Any time we’d go out in public, I inevitably had to endure men making lewd comments about her, and a few times it even became physical. I’d always been made fun of in school, and had never considered myself “attractive” so to find myself in this new way of life, putting everything on the line to be with this woman who was very stunningly attractive, was very different for me and put me out of my element. Still, I worked very hard and after a couple years I was better with everything on that front.
She, on the other hand, wanted to live two lives – or at least that’s how it ended up being played out. One life was that of a wife and a home maker. The other was that of a party girl and someone who didn’t have any marital shackles around her metaphorical ankle. She wanted to go out every weekend, get tattoos with any of her spare money, stay out until three in the morning at shows with other friends all the time. These two lives did not mesh, and so we were both unhappy after a while. I was unhappy because it was not the life I signed up for. She was unhappy because I had issues with some of it.
We tried lots of things to mask the unhappiness. But real life has a way of bringing problems into the light. We had financial troubles. My job had always been a line of contention between the two of us. When Abby first met me, I was a shift manager at a pizza chain and she made at least three times as much money as I did at her job. When I decided to move in with her, I left my store behind (though I loved it there) and moved to a larger store but was soon after fired, which put immediate strain on the relationship. However, the reasons I was fired were not entirely my own, and so it was more just bad luck which she was somewhat understanding of. Not long after, I was hired as an assistant store manager at a convenience store chain, moving up in the world in terms of pay and respect. But, the new responsibilities and my extended time at my job left her seeing less of me and left me with lots of stress. Well, when we eventually did get married, it sort of eased things up a bit. It relaxed the tension we had. It opened up new lines of communication. We felt that we finally accomplished something, at least I did, as a couple.
It was a beautiful wedding. We were married in the Evergreen Cemetery in Portland, Maine – ironically in a graveyard, but also ironically right next door to where I work now. Our family and friends showed up and everyone seemed to have such a great time. I felt like I was on top of the world. Though we’d had problems, every couple I knew had problems. Yet someone finally chose to accept me for who I was. We went from the site of the wedding to the reception hall in a nearby motel. We all danced, drank, and it was literally the happiest I’d ever been in my entire life.
We left the next day for our honeymoon in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I had never really traveled before and so it was wonderful for me to experience another part of the country I’d never been to. When we returned, life resumed for a little while as normal, and better than expected. I worked on our house with her father – whom I’d adopted as a sort of surrogate father figure. We went to family functions, we had fun and went to shows with friends. Then, there was an unexpected pregnancy and neither of us knew it. She used birth control, but because we weren’t extra careful – Abby was pregnant and then immediately lost it. She told me one day after she’d visited the doctor. Things were never the same after. We never really talked about it in any healthy sort of way, like a responsible couple. I was shocked about the whole thing, and felt terrible. To this day, I’m still not sure how she felt about it because she never confided in me. I eventually just let it go and figured she must have discovered some sort of outlet for it. Perhaps that is one of my biggest failings as a husband. I should have forced a talk, or at least tried harder. But I was trying to give her space in an already rocky relationship.
She started becoming moody. I started becoming moody. My job was weighing on me. We got a new car, and the car ended up being taken by a repo man. Our two dogs simultaneously got cancer and eventually had to be put down. I quit my job and started working at a coffee chain because I wanted to go back to school. It all seemed to happen really fast and really ugly.
At one point, a year before we finally split up, Abby’s best friend “Gabe” – whom she used to date – visited from overseas where he lived. We let him stay at our place a night or two, and use Abby’s car since he was back in the US without any wheels. I found a text Abby had sent Gabe on her phone when I was looking for his number in order to call him about Abby’s car. The text said she still loved him, and then since I already found myself looking at her texts, I found other texts where she played me up to be a monster to her friends and family. Texts to her parents, her girlfriends, her male friends. It dropped me to the floor, literally. I confronted her about it and she disappeared for three days, leaving me in the dark while she hung out with Gabe and her family – excluding me.
That was the beginning of the end for us. Eventually, I finally managed to get her to go to therapy and counseling with me, but it did little good. She had already made up her mind. A year later, she wanted out and we split up. I ended up in the hospital with severe panic attacks that in one case even led to a full-body seizure. I found myself also in the psychiatric ward of another hospital, forced to wear the pajamas and everything. I had a drunken fight with one of my uncles. She got into trouble with the law. We were a mess. Eventually, I just couldn’t take it anymore and I told her I was moving out early. I helped her pay her mortage and then even though I had barely had time to save up money to leave, I paid two months worth of rent in order to move to my new place.
After that, I was broken on many levels. I had no car (aside from a beater I took on in order to pay a loan her parents had taken out, which died as soon as I paid off the loan), no belongings, no money, no credit. I’d left my new dog, Ludo with her – because she at least had a stable home life and I had no idea if I was even going to have a place to live, let alone be able to take care of my dog. I lost everything, including her family and many of our mutual friends who I had come to know well after six years, and even some of my own family for a while.
The official separation happened sometime in late 2010, closer to 2011 – and two years after that in June of 2013 we were officially divorced. We’d both had some time to calm down and explore ourselves since our initial separation, so when we finally divorced we grabbed some coffee and she finally let me vent about how I’d been treated. She had wanted to be friends, but I explained that we couldn’t, and so we parted on as good terms as possible and now occasionally contact one another if we are sent a piece of mail or find something in our own belongings that belongs to the other.
I recently contacted her regarding some old photos she said she has for me, and I had some of her old things as well – and I learned that she is engaged again. Though I wish her the best, the news hit me in ways I didn’t expect. It reminded me of my failings as a husband, about how long it has been and how even though we weren’t meant to be together – there is that “what if” factor. “What if” we had been able to work it out? I was with her for six years, and that is no small amount of time for me. I feel like I learned some things, but that it may be too late in my life to apply those lessons in any practical way. Instead, I am left with debt from a wedding that never worked out, a life that is moldering in the ground, and little prospects for a “meaningful” future, at least in the traditional sense. Will I ever have kids? Will I ever re-marry? I don’t know, but to see her already about to re-marry has sort of reinforced the idea in my head that she was never hurt as much as I was by our broken marriage.
All I can do, all anyone can do when their marriages fail – is work on the self. I just hope that I can prove to myself that I am not a failure, that I am worth something. That my identity and self-worth does not rest on a failed relationship. It is, of course, easier said than done.