There were a number of the standard reasons: we were young when we got together and grew in very different directions; we had very different ideas about running a household (he thought I should do it... alone); he was selfish and self-centered, and I allowed him to be and then resented him for it; he joked about the many priorities he held over me (his guitar, his Bronco, his dog)... but it was no joke; he was a mostly disinterested father; I had fallen out of love many years earlier; blah, blah, irreconcilable differences, blah. But none of that was the real problem. Without all that, we would've been doomed anyway.
We shouldn't have gotten married in the first place, and we both knew it. We both knew it before we got married.
So, why did we get married?
I shouldn't speak for The Ex. I don't know how he would answer that question. But he is a creature of habit, and I suspect his decision to marry was based on comfort.
Comfort, that beast. It played a role in my decision as well. I met him through two of my best friends, who just happened to be his younger sisters, and we started dating the summer after I graduated from high school. We moved in together during my sophomore year of college. He proposed during my senior year. I was no longer in love with him, hadn't been for a couple of years, but I was used to him; was used to our life together. And we were still good friends.
There was a part of me that thought that was enough; a part of me that thought that was all any couple really had after a certain number of years. I was too old to believe in fairy tales.
But there was another part of me - the part that preferred the nights he went to bed early; the part that always took the long way home; the part of me that was actually paying attention - that knew we were making a mistake. That part of me would wait until The Ex had gone to bed; would wait until I was flipping through the pages of a bridal magazine; would wait until I found a picture of a dress, a cake, a center piece worth clipping, and then whisper calmly and matter-of-factly in my ear: "You are not in love with him." I would look up for a moment to quietly study the bedroom door behind which he lay sleeping. And then I'd go back to flipping through the pages filled with happy, smiling, women and happy, smiling men whose happy, smiling families threw tulled bags of rice and blew soapy bubbles.
The closer we got to the wedding, the more often that other part of me spoke up: "You are not in love with him." But I was scared. Who would love me if not him? How would I ever meet anyone else? I was terrified that I would be alone forever.
Looking back, I'm forced to chuckle a bit at myself. I was 23 when we got married. I wasn't exactly racing towards a spinster's fate.
But I was alone. I'd gladly allowed most of my high school friendships to languish and neglected to replace them. The Ex was my friend, and it was easier to borrow his friends than to make new ones of my own. The friendships I developed during college were mostly insubstantial; casual buddies at best. And so here I was facing crisis, with no real relationships of my own... except for the one I wanted to break.
And to make matters worse...
In the year leading up to my wedding, nine people in my family either died or came near to it. NINE. I lost three uncles to cancer, another had an aneurysm, one grandfather was diagnosed with cancer and the other suffered a series of heart problems (both died shortly after the wedding), my mother was undergoing treatment for breast cancer, and my father was sinking further and further into his addictions (he was dead two years later). That's eight. I don't even remember the ninth. It's hard to keep track of that much death.
I was alone, through my own doing (a mistake I will never make again). I was terrified. And people kept dying. So I got married.
But not before I tried to call it off. I gave the ring back and everything. (Which was kind of silly, because "we" bought the thing with MY money, but I needed the gesture to make it feel real.) I tried. But it was a weak attempt; one I was easily talked out of. The Ex suggested that our problems were a manifestation of the past year of death; that things would get better just as soon as people stopped dying. And I wanted to believe it. It was easier to believe it.
I simply did not have the emotional strength to leave him at that point. I needed him. (Plus - how ridiculous is this? - invitations had already gone out and flights had already been booked and I couldn't stand the thought of being responsible for disappointed guests with useless tickets.)
And so he slipped the ring back on my finger, and we were married a month later. Through the entire ceremony I giggled the kind of giggles that mean a woman is losing her mind.
Later that night I stood in a hotel room, surrounded by crickets thanks to a groom's man's prank, and studied him quietly as he lay passed out on the bed, the voice still calm and matter-of-fact in my head: "You are not in love with him." The crickets chirped and flicked their bodies against the window. And I cried, knowing that the window didn't open; knowing that we were all trapped.
We were together for five years before we got married; married for four; separated for one. Ten years all together, and I can only honestly claim to have been happy for four of them. (And that includes the one year of separation, which, in all brutal honestly, was probably the happiest of them all.)
Still, I don't regret my bad decision. We truly were good friends for many of those years and he was the one who held my hand through the two biggest events of my life: the death of my father and the birth of our son. And then, of course, there's that: our son, The Kid, who makes that one bad decision the single best decision of my entire life.
Tune in later this week for the conclusion (I think) of this three-part story: Breaking the Camel's Back: The Straw that Undid a Marriage.
After 6 years of life as a single mom and 2 years of life as one side of a long distance relationship, I shacked up with the man of my dreams. And then we promptly had a baby, just to keep things interesting. Read more.