Maybe it was me

I recently posted about the wedding I went to last weekend. You can check it out here if you missed it.

It was a bittersweet day, being the wedding of the woman who was a major factor in the disintegration of my marriage. While I blame my wife, not the friend, I find it difficult being around the two of them and I was really not looking forward to going. But knowing that my kids would all be there with their dates was exciting for me. Occasions when we are all together are rare and I savor them. All I needed to do was not get annoyed with my ex-wife as she fawned and obsessed over her friend, which proved to be difficult. I was surprised to learn that she would annoy me in an entirely different way that day.

It was an outdoor ceremony. The bride and groom were characteristically late and the crowd was settled restlessly on the row of chairs. I was sitting in the third row, next to my youngest daughter and behind my wife. We were making small talk with the kids and their dates and I was limiting conversation with the ex because that is how we get along best. She was making small talk with my oldest daughter and she blurted out, “Oh, remind me to tell you about my date the other night.”
I did a double take. Date?
I turned to my youngest and she gave me her best “Leave me out of it” look.
When my ex realized my reaction she changed the subject. I was floored.

Now, you may be thinking that I’m crazy, or just wrong to be annoyed. We’ve been divorced for a year, of course she can date. I just can’t believe she is. See, I was told when we divorced that she has no interest in a romantic relationship with anyone. That her friendship with Lisa was all that mattered to her. That made sense to me, after all she completely rejected me for Lisa.

If you think I’m joking, here’s a tidbit for you. Many years ago, when she still had a sex drive, we were getting busy on the sofa one afternoon when we were sans children. I was receiving ummm, oral gratification when the phone rang. It was the special ring tone designated for Lisa and when she heard it she spit me out and grabbed the phone. That’s when I knew it was over. And I was right, it was. To my knowledge, she spends every waking minute that she’s not working with Lisa. Any man that wanted to date her wouldn’t earn a time slot anyway. And with her obsessive issues, any man wouldn’t put up with that friendship any better than I did, it was indeed that bizarre

I was pretty upset most of the day. To my knowledge, she never shared her date story with the group. I kept it to myself but my youngest knew that I was upset and at the reception she and I talked. I reminded her that she once told me that if I was to date, she would be upset with me. So why isn’t she upset with her mother? She assured me that her mother doesn’t want a relationship. Hearing that, I again tried to figure out why it bothered me so much.

If you read the last post, I salvaged the day. I drank a couple of beers, I danced with my kids, I sang Karaoke with my buddies and had a decent time overall. I really enjoyed seeing my grown, wonderful children with their dates being the amazing kids that they are. It wasn’t until the ride home that I started thinking about it again.

It was so much easier when it wasn’t me. When it was only the inability to compete with an obsessive friendship. I have had to deal for the last 2 years with the recognition that I was rejected. It hurt like hell. I was a flawed husband, I did and said things that I regret. But I loved my wife and I would have stayed with her forever because I care deeply for her and feel obligated to care for her, to make good on my wedding vows. But again, I was rejected. The premise that it wasn’t me was small comfort. The fact that she is dating throws that premise to the wind.

Maybe it was me. I failed her. I lost her. I have managed to live without her but the idea of her with someone else disturbs me deeply. The woman who chased me since she was 16 years old, to win me over at 19, has moved on. And I, who thought I wanted a divorce way more than she did, have not.

We weren’t a great couple. But we were all I knew for 25 years of my life.

Forgiveness

I sat there, asking myself if I really drove 2 hours to listen to this.

“Ugh, this picture is terrible. “
“Do I really look like this?”
“I can’t post this!”

My ex had just finished taking some pictures outside with my daughter and now she was engaging in two of the many obnoxious habits that remind me why we’re not married anymore…bitching incessantly and playing with her fucking phone.

“Just delete them and do them again. How hard can it be, it was ten minutes ago?”
“Did I ask for your fucking opinion?” she snapped at me and left the room.
Face palm
Happy fucking Easter.

My daughter came to the rescue.
“Dad, it’s a holiday. She’s always nuts on Holidays, remember? I’m still happy to see you.”
She wasn’t lying. She was. She’s the best. And soon my youngest boy will be back from his girlfriend’s house and soon after that we will meet my oldest daughter and her boyfriend at the restaurant. Despite my oldest boy not being able to make it, which I was bummed about, I will have plenty of people to distract me from her.

I really hoped that the fireworks were over with her but that would not be the case. The dinner conversation was mostly fine, I enjoyed seeing the kids and the meal was great. But she dropped a couple of cracks during dinner about me that stuck with me for the last week. The first one was when she claimed I didn’t love her and wasn’t attracted to her when she was heavy, early in our marriage. I was floored. First, I have no idea how that subject even came up, and I was further incensed that it wasn’t true.

The second comment came when my youngest daughter said that I was a nice guy. The ex made a face. When pressed by my oldest daughter as to the reason, she said “he is now, not so much when we were married.”

I was annoyed at the first one, I was downright pissed off at the second one. My appetite was gone and I wanted to go home. I didn’t, of course, and the rest of the day was ok. I had a cigar with the boys, the daughter’s joined us outside and enjoyed the weather with us, and I largely avoided the ex until it was time to leave.

I do my best thinking while driving, but that particular two hours was spent fuming.

With regards to the weight comment, I never had a problem with her weight. I always found her attractive. It’s she who was never happy with herself and always struggled with her self-image (the selfie thing is case in point). It got to the point where she was so critical of herself she shut off the sex spicket for good.

The nice guy (or not, as it were) thing? I will admit that I had my moments but it was never unprompted and in my recollection pretty warranted. We began fighting in the second year of our marriage and by the fourth child we were struggling maritally and financially. Money destroys marriages and ours was no exception. Add to the equation her complete hypocrisy as she bought whatever she wanted yet bitched about my career struggles and dropping income…yea I’m not going to be so nice.

But I was quick to apologize. I tried to learn from it and genuinely worked towards doing better. I accepted fault as graciously as I could.

Until I realized I was the only one.

Towards the end, I can honestly say that I gave up on us and my only focus was to salvage my relationship with my children. As for her and I, we tolerated each other. When we finally divorced, we were passive and civil. We went our own ways and it really seemed as if everything was cool. I set out to reconcile my anger and one day I decided to just forgive it. I forgave everything. It would be trite to say that I forgave her in particular, instead I did it for me. To unload the terrible baggage weighing on my shoulders. To sleep at night. To move towards a place of healing and to become the man I’ve always wanted to be, with the benefit of a fresh start.

Forgiveness is not as easy as it seems. Ole’ Superman thought that by snapping his fingers and taking a super breath, he could wash years of anger and frustration and be done with it. But it just isn’t that easy. Her bullshit comments of that day made me want to scream at her,

“Do you have any idea how much of your bullshit I let go!?”

But it wouldn’t have mattered. I was a fool to think that it was going to be that simple. Such a volatile, tumultuous relationship cannot just die out like an ocean storm, there has to be the inevitable ripple effects on the shoreline. I may have convinced myself that it is all good and forgiven, but it is not forgotten, despite my wanting more than anything for that to be true. 

I can’t just forget being screamed at and told to “go and die of kidney disease.”
I can’t just forget sleeping on the sofa for 15 years.
I can’t just forget being nagged constantly about money when I was doing everything that my skill set, physical limitations and increasing illness allowed.
I can’t just forget being replaced by her best friend as a support network.
I can’t just forget being in a loveless, sexless marriage and how I managed to stick it out for ten year after the fire was completely out and still remain faithful when no man ever would do so.

It’s not bad enough that I’m broken to the point where I will never find love again. I also have to shoulder the burden of so many painful memories and constantly asking myself a endless series of “why’s” and “what-ifs.” I have to remind myself that I chose to forgive everything for me, as my way of handling and coping. I can’t speak for her. It’s beyond my control and it is naïve to presume how she is to handle it on her end. I need to be, and I am, at peace with my efforts in this approach.

The big question then becomes… why do I even care?

Song lyric Sunday

I have chosen to share with you this Sunday a song, a well-known song that you may have heard a thousand times. Pearl Jam’s Black.I share it as an homage to a love that I never had. One that I desperately crave.  One in which I am so happy, so awe-struck, enamored and smitten that in the throes of loss, I could write a song as powerful as this.
I dedicate the last paragraph, the one that disembowels me emotionally every time I hear it to my ex-wife. Some of my anger has subsided. I have knelt at the altar of painful accountability and have found myself looking at my marriage in a different light.
I don’t like failure. My divorce is just that. I committed to put in the work, to love for better or for worse. While I can point to several formidable moments that caused me to have contempt for her, I failed to recognize that I had a few myself. I wasn’t always a saint. I made several risky career choices with good intentions and poor outcomes. There were times I could have been kinder, more nurturing. A little more present. When we began to really fight I began to come home later, often a little drunk to offset the contempt and animosity in my own home.
It’s not all her fault and while I most certainly do not want her back, too much has happened and she doesn’t love me anymore, I wish more than anything that she will someday have the life she dreamed of as a wide-eyed young woman, yet to be spoiled by the realities of wasted potential and poor decisions.
I don’t know if I failed her, if she lost faith in me, if I failed to provide her the life she deserved or if it was meant to be that we would part ways after so many years together. After seeing the 100 or so pictures she posted online the other day of the old days with our friends and family I saw an awful lot of pictures of she and I looking happy. Real happy. If I didn’t know better I would call it love. But in the wake of our tumultuous demise I had forgotten those times, when the world was bright and our futures held hope and promise.
I dedicate this to her because, despite our ruined state I still wish the best for her. I wish that things had turned out different for us. May she find balance in her life, may she overcome her demons and ultimately meet someone who makes her happy. To find the type of love that inspires a song like this. In particular I dedicate the last stanza, which I have highlighted below.
Hey, oh
Sheets of empty canvas
Untouched sheets of clay
Were laid spread out before me
As her body once did
All five horizons
Revolved around her soul
As the earth to the sun
Now the air I tasted and breathed
Has taken a turn
Oh and all I taught her was everything
Oh I know she gave me all that she wore
And now my bitter hands
Chafe beneath the clouds
Of what was everything
Oh the pictures have
All been washed in black
Tattooed everything
I take a walk outside
I’m surrounded by
Some kids at play
I can feel their laughter
So why do I sear
Oh, and twisted thoughts that spin
Round my head
I’m spinning
Oh, I’m spinning
How quick the sun can, drop away
And now my bitter hands
Cradle broken glass
Of what was everything
All the pictures had
All been washed in black
Tattooed everything
All the love gone bad
Turned my world to black
Tattooed all I see
All that I am
All I’ll be
Yeah
I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life
I know you’ll be a star
In somebody else’s sky
But why
Why
Why can’t it be
Why can’t it be mine

the erroneous comment I wish I never heard about

“I overheard her say that she doesn’t love you anymore at the dinner table”

“Wait…what?”

“Yeah, I don’t know who she was saying it to, I caught it at the last second but she said it.”

I felt like I had just tripped over a wasp’s nest but I kept my composure as the words set in.

I was having a glass of wine with my mom’s boyfriend. He was telling me about the dinner he had the previous day with my mom, my ex-wife and my oldest daughter on Mother’s Day. They had all gotten together at the restaurant my son works. It was an impromptu get together. My mom and Dave went down to MA to decorate the family stones with flowers and my ex-wife had called her to wish her a happy Mother’s Day. When they realized they were in the same state for once they made dinner plans. I didn’t even know about it until they got home that night. Mom told me all about it. The next night, that would be the time of this writing, it was just Dave and I for a while. I had just asked him of his account of the dinner, particularly because it was the first time he had met my ex-wife and oldest daughter. He had all good things to say and I was feeling good about it. Until he said that line about my ex-wife’s comment. Two questions came to mind; why did she say this and why do I care?

He continued talking as we watched the Red Sox play the A’s. I became noticeably quiet. Eventually, he asked me if he had crossed a line by telling me. I assured him that it was fine, I was just taken aback. While I was unsure why he mentioned it, it wasn’t done out of harm or malice. In fact, he probably mentioned it because it resonated with him after being in a terrible marriage himself. The pressing question remained. Why is this bothering me?

I truly don’t understand why I am having such trouble with this. I was married to this woman for 22 years and for the last 12 I would have chewed my arm off to escape her. There were times when I actually felt that I hated her. Towards the end, we de-escalated into a tolerant phase where we put up with each other but there was no love. Eventually, there was clearly no desire to even try to recapture what drew us together in the first place. When we separated I was relieved. When she asked for a divorce I was ready. When the divorce was finalized I felt liberated. So why am I surprised to hear, second-hand mind you, that she doesn’t love me anymore? It could easily have been said in the vein of “We still care about each other but aren’t in love anymore” as she explained to my mother, or my daughter, or the fucking waiter…again why does this bother me? Do I still even love her?

I do love her. I’m just not in love with her. I love her because we raised four wonderful children together. I love her because I spent most of my adult life with her and there were some good times. I can’t deny them.

I have dreams, vivid dreams of her. I dream of conversations in which she reveals past infidelities. I have dreamt of being with her, in the present, still married and talking about how we “almost split up.” Sadly, I even dreamt that I had died and she wasn’t at my funeral. These dreams are so lucid, so vivid that Freud and Jung could come back from the grave and revive their careers. When I wake from them I find myself wishing she was in my life. Then I shake it off and remind myself that I really don’t want what we had any longer. Still, I am wrought with these conflicting emotions.

I am burdened by memories, racked with guilt, saddled with regrets. A mere matter of months ago I was bitter, angry and resentful of her. Lately, I look back at photos in which we were all smiles. I find myself asking where it went wrong. I find myself asking if I could have done better by her. I remember how much she once loved me and I ask myself if I drove her away, caused her to morph into the cold, detached person that she was in the end. Did I, in the course of exorcising my demons and finding my real self, push her away?

I asked my mother last night if she had heard the comment at dinner. She said she had. It was said to one of my son’s friends who works at the same restaurant. He had come over to the table and asked my wife where I was. She had told him that we were divorced and he was surprised. So, she explained it. She cares about me, but she doesn’t love me anymore.

There you go, I have my explanation. For the comment at least. I still don’t know for the life of me why the explanation stings so badly.

Dating in the modern world…

I’m an old-fashioned guy. In short, I look to a previous time for guidance in how I conduct myself. I have an eclectic approach, I’m not stuck in the past, but I do believe that previous generations possessed a code of conduct that worked and is lost on younger generations. I keep it alive because I’ve seen it in action, I believe in it and I do believe it is ingrained in me.

I suspect that I’m much older than most of my readers and I may be talking about an unfamiliar topic. For the sake of this writing, the old-fashioned values I cherish are as follows:

  • respect for elders
  • honoring your word
  • a firm handshake and direct eye contact
  • be tolerant and accepting of other’s viewpoints
  • holding the door for a lady

Did you double-take on the last one? Yes, I am a guy who holds a door for a lady. Not for a chick, a broad, a ho, bae, some strange or a side-bitch. A lady. And I will not apologize for this. I am fully aware that a woman can open her own door and I make no assumptions of dominance nor intend a lack of respect when I do it. It’s a nice gesture and I do it. I believe there are women, and a lot of them, that long for an old-fashioned guy. If they’ve never met one it’s about time they did.

Last night my mother opened a video sent her by one of her dating site connections. It was titled “Does this turn you on?” She opened it, it was a 74-year-old man jerking off for the camera. Facepalm…I thought an older man would be better than that. Mom does too.

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Dating has always been a game. Even though I’ve been in an exclusive, faithful relationship for 25 years I know that the game has changed. Dating is very casual. The conventional “relationship” has changed on both sides. Monogamy is considered an almost outdated construct. Sex is much easily obtained with a lot less effort and commitment. The way I knew it was a lot of work and few guaranteed results. Now, a man has to put in a bare-bones effort and is almost guaranteed to score. Women like hounds apparently.

I get it, it’s a by-product of the times. We live in a time where we are entitled to everything, hard work is not valued and instant gratification is awesome. We talk to each other through screens; we use text messaging to avoid conversation; we compromise our own integrity in the interest of cheap pleasure. There has to be something between my Grandfather’s day when a man “went a’ courting” his best gal and today’s man texting “‘sup bitch, wanna hook up?”

I don’t just want a woman that I can respect, I want a woman that respects herself. Sex is not a true victory, it’s just her letting a man into her pants. A true victory is when she respects you for how you treat her and she then lets you into her heart. Sex is great, but what are you going to talk about after?

I’ll continue to hold the door for a woman. I’m pretty sure when she’s done being offended she’ll find herself just a little turned on.

Weight loss

Today I found a miraculous weight loss program that can be accomplished in 2 hours. All you have to do is walk into an arbitrators office at the City Courthouse, answer a bunch of questions, agree to everything and sign on the dotted line. Boom! Divorced. I’m down 135 pounds. At least that’s how much I think she weighs, I haven’t touched her in so long I really don’t know.

That’s what I get for introducing her to a magic food that made her sex drive disappear 22 years ago…Wedding Cake.
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#what if? installment 1

This is my first installment of what I hope is a series of blogs on the what-ifs of life. Having addressed the topic of “If” in a previous post; “as if”, “if when”, “if only” etc., I realized that there were so many directions I could go.

Once I decided to explore this further, I mulled a bit over where to start. Given my heavy heart today, I will start with

“what if” we never got married?

I saw you yesterday. You look sad. That smile that once lit up a room is nowhere to be seen. Your best friend told me she is worried about you, that you may do something drastic. That’s not your style.

You are stuck on a rough patch. You are largely supporting yourself and our 2 youngest children. Money is tight. I’m not much help. You live with your best friend, the one that you picked over me as your number one many years ago. Despite her generosity in letting you live in her home, and despite your love for her, you have begun to fight with her and you are extremely unhappy. Without the scent of sour grapes on my breath, I ask you; shouldn’t she be the one to talk you off of the ledge? Yet she is calling me to tell me you are not doing well.

This may surprise you, but I never wanted this for you. I hate that you are struggling and I would do anything within my means to make this better for you.

It is bittersweet to think that I actually gave you an out before we began dating. Surely you remember the night we sat in my Mustang, staring at the lights dancing across the pond, just talking. We were about to start dating, openly talking about all of the complexities. I told you that I had personal demons, health issues, and limited earning potential. You didn’t care. You cared so deeply for me, there was so much pressure on me not to hurt you. It was a big step. Simply put, I told you, for your own sake, that I wasn’t good for you. I gave you an out. Do you ever wonder what it would be like if you took it?

Sometimes, when angry at you, I asked myself if anyone else would have married you. That is not to say that it is any great treat to be with me, or that you are not great in many ways. But you are difficult. You have admitted that you are bipolar, yet refuse to seek treatment for it. You are quick to anger, unreasonable and stubborn when you want something, and completely inflexible on some things. It’s fair to wonder how well another man would handle it.

As for me, I was no prize either and not sure I would have ever married. I was broken when we met. Reeling from a breakup, recovering from an accident, on “hiatus” from college and a functional alcoholic. I was stuck in a nowhere job, my vision extended no further than my next day off. Other than the occasional fling with a waitress, I wasn’t dating at all and didn’t want to. If I hadn’t met you for all I know I would still be there. You pushed me to finish school, supported me as I worked full time and carried a full class load. You saw potential in me. You thought I was smart and you believed in me.

Despite your youth, you were a little broken for your age. You had a contemptuous relationship with your mother. She was toxic in her lack of support for you. Despite claiming to have your best interest at heart she criticized all of your choices and no one in your life was ever good enough for you, and let’s face it, for her as well. I swear you married a pizza cook just to get back at her. You still have the same relationship with her today. It has always been a hard thing for me to watch.

Had you married someone else would you have a bigger house? A nicer car? Non-material things like fidelity, passion, honesty, fun, and laughs? We had all of those things once. Having had and lost is surely better than never having at all.

Had I married someone else would I have gone as far in my career? I pushed myself to the top of the heap out of financial necessity. but I still made it much further than I would have ever expected of myself. Or would I still work in the kitchen, stuck in a nowhere job that I didn’t know was nowhere until you pointed it out to me.

I don’t know if you would have had a better life had you not married me. I promised you that I would do the best that I could, but I was never able to assure you that it would be enough. It is of small comfort that I tried.

“What if’s” aside I do know that without our union, the world would be less 4 great children who are destined to do great things. 4 caring, smart, compassionate kids that, like me, are worried about you and want you to pull out of this. Even in divorce, I will never abandon you. Even though you have asked me for nothing in divorce except a promise to help if needed, I will always be there to give you whatever I have to see that you are provided for. “What if’s” aside, we did get married, I did promise to take care of you, and I will always want the best for you.