We would have been married 26 years today–26 years. I remembered finding out after our engagement that your mother had said, “They’ll never make it.” We used to laugh about that. She’s gone now—dead and buried, and so are we, or at least our marriage is. I really thought we would make it. I did. I fought hard. I did; you didn’t. This day, this potential day of celebration, makes me think of another day. I don’t remember the date, but I know it was spring and I know it was 2006. It was the beginning of the end and for some reason, it came back to me today:
“I feel like I don’t want to be married to you anymore, like I don’t love you. We aren’t friends anymore.” My heart was pounding, I was so nervous to say what had to be said and then it was done. I had picked our favorite, local hiking spot to tell you. I’m not sure why; it just seemed appropriate. You appeared to understand—finally. I have to admit your calmness shocked me. What I didn’t know then, but would discover later was that you didn’t believe me; you didn’t grasp the gravity of my words. You simply did not understand what 20 years of “us” had done to me. The love I had once had for you had been diminishing over time. You had chipped away at it for 20 years and one day I realized it no longer existed, at least not in the way it had years before, and I was mortified.
That day, up in the hills, seeing the beauty of that place, as we had so many times before, together; we were now observing it separately as we had other things in recent years. I thought by verbalizing my feelings, or lack there of, the spell would be broken and love would flourish again, but when you responded with, “I can understand how you could feel that way,” in your calm, “oh here we go again,” tone, I knew it was the beginning of the end, and I felt so very alone.
I would come to find out later, as we drove home that day, you believed nothing had changed. For me, everything had. In your mind, I was going through “a thing.” Over the years I had suggested, then requested, and then finally pleaded for us to get counseling. Over the years I told you I was scared for us, afraid we would end up divorcing, and sometimes you would take it seriously, but there was always an excuse, and you kept telling yourself we didn’t need help; we were fine. I don’t even think you noticed when I stopped asking altogether.
Later, you would look back and see, finally see, but as is the case with many spouses, it was too late. Tall and handsome, you thought I would never leave you. You believed you were the best thing that ever happened to me, and that as single mom, with not much to offer, I was lucky to have you for a husband; I’d be crazy to let you go. You made a fatal mistake; you underestimated me. You never thought I would grow strong, secure and independent and I would grow weary and walk away.
Yes, it would have been 26 years this past Saturday. That day in the park really was the beginning of the end, but over the next couple of years the twists and turns my life would take, would try the most resilient. Divorce is not for the faint of heart. To do it right, for lack of a better word, is even more difficult, but it can be done. When I looked back on my ex-anniversary day, I thought about how badly things could have gone, and they actually did start out on that path, but didn’t, in the end. Most people view divorce as failure. Divorce doesn’t have to mean failure; it can mean success. I’m not a victim of divorce. I am a survivor.