I’m sitting here, late at night, writing the story of my marriage for my attorneys. I’ve done this before, but it was a long time ago, soon after the Separation. It was before I went through hundreds of hours of therapy, before I started telling my story to my friends, before I had two years away from my husband and the whole messy situation that was My Marriage.
Now I have a new perspective. As I write down this awful story tonight, I feel compassion for myself for the first time.
About six months ago, I went to a church support group for Separated, Divorced, and Widowed people. I have to confess, it wasn’t my cup of tea. The raw pain and grief was too overwhelming for me, especially when it came from people whose relationships had ended so long ago, sometimes years ago. I much prefer to go out with other recently separated and divorced women and drink too much wine and laugh and commiserate and overshare and laugh about online dating and moving on. However, at the church group, I sat next to a man in his eighties. His wife had died. He didn’t waste words: he was sad, he was lonely, he needed to find new friends and new things to do.
And then a young woman on my other side shared her story. Someone married her for money and a green card. It left me speechless — other people’s grief tends to do that to me.
But the elderly man simply looked at her with compassion and bluntly said “You were conned. He was just a con man.”
He stopped there, but I imagined that the next words from this man from the Greatest Generation would be, “It wasn’t your fault. It’s good he’s gone. Now you can move on with your life.” To him, things were that simple. She was conned. But she survived. Which was good. It didn’t need to be a life sentence.
Tonight as I read though the story of my marriage, I realize I was conned. I married someone who pretended to be someone he was not. He didn’t just fool me. He fooled everyone. People thought he was fabulous, brilliant, funny, sweet, a devoted husband who was madly in love with his wife. And possibly some of this was true once. But later on, whenever I got close to the truth of who he was and what he was doing, he manipulated me cruelly, blamed me for all his problems, and kept me in a constant state of fear.
I was conned and controlled.
How did someone like me let this happen?
I realize tonight that I let myself become isolated towards the end. I grew up in a place where divorce was barely accepted and was considered a huge, colossal failure. People where I grew up weren’t supposed to fail like this. So I kept silent out of shame, and I stopped sharing the truth about my marriage.
I now know that if I had confided in my closest friends, and in my family, they would have helped me. They would have listened. I wouldn’t have become the fearful and isolated person I became for a while. They would have told me to leave my husband.
It’s heartbreaking tonight to write my story. In the past, I would cry because I felt like such a fool. And I would cry because now my children won’t have the perfect intact family. And because I was such a failure for getting divorced. But tonight I cried for myself and how I went into my marriage with the the noblest of intentions. And filled with love and hope and joy. As a dear old friend told me, “You brought your Full Self into the marriage, right from the beginning.”
I cry because I was fooled by someone who pretended to be someone he wasn’t.
As I went upstairs to look in on my sleeping children, I could only think one thing: I never want them to feel like they are failures, and I never want them to feel like they can’t share their truths. Tomorrow I will sit down with each of them and tell them that they can tell me anything, anytime. And I pledge not to get impatient with the stories I sometimes hear about recess football game injustices or how one of my children doesn’t believe they get enough Hershey Kisses from their teacher. I never want them to think that their hurts and worries shouldn’t be spoken out loud, and received by someone who loves them and cares.