As of the end of August, my short-lived marriage came to an end. We had barely made it past the 1.5-year mark when I realized things weren’t going as planned. I wanted a partner; he didn’t want to be a partner. I worked 10-hour days; he napped and worked 10-hour weeks. I gave him an ultimatum; he ghosted me and cheated on me. From a psychological standpoint, the way he responded to my ultimatum made sense, but in the matter of respect and human decency, his behavior solidified that any chance we would have at being friends after the fact, was destroyed. I’m not friends with men who cheat on women.
While the weeks and first few months that followed the end of the relationship were some of the hardest of my life, as each morning I woke up wondering how the hell it all came to this, I slowly began to recognize our relationship for what it was: Two people who loved each other, but two people who also wanted different things. In the beginning of our relationship those different things didn't seem so different, because love tends to make people blind, but after a while the differences were too much, and even if he hadn't cheated, the relationship's shelf life was going to expire anyway.
But what happened after all the drama, screaming and yelling, and passing of blame ended, was complete and total understanding of it all. Here are seven unexpected things that happened when my marriage came to an end.
1. I Took Responsibility For My Mistakes
One of the biggest complaints I’ve received, from not just my husband, but the majority of guys I’ve dated is that I want more for them than they want for themselves. If only I had a dollar every time someone said that to me, I’d be well on my way to retiring by the time I’m 40.
While I find this statement to be annoying, it’s the truth. I pushed my husband to want more for himself when the reality was that he was content with what he had; he had no desire for more. So I took responsibility for pushing him too hard, so hard that I think, in some ways, I drove him away. Although, in my defense, I do think an adult person should work more than 10 hours a week… but maybe I’m old fashioned in that thinking.
2. I Was Proud Of Myself
I want to say that I love my husband. I will always love that man in ways that words will never, ever do justice. But, and I thank previous relationships in my life for this, I decided I needed to put myself first. I know that might seem cruel and against what some believe a marriage is supposed to be, but when I realized that we weren’t on the same page, I started to emotionally check out. I wanted to work and travel and focus on my career; he wanted me to give up New York City, move to Paris permanently, and be a stepmom — something I told him wasn’t going to happen. I loved him and loved his children by default, but I wasn’t about to give up my life, the life I had created, for him or anyone. I loved him and let him into my life, but that didn’t give him permission to change my life so it fit what he wanted.
3. I Realized We May Have Jumped The Gun
My husband and I were engaged six months after meeting each other. Although we wouldn’t get married until a year after we met, I do think we needed more time to know each other better. When you first fall in love, you only show the good parts of yourself and, in turn, you only see what you want to see in the person you love. All the rest of it, the complications, the reality of what life will be like once you come back down to Earth off that cloud, are so far from your mind so that when you marry at the height of your love, which we did, you've yet to experience reality together. Which, looking back, was probably necessary to make the marriage last in the long-term.
4. I Developed A Deeper Understanding Of What It Means To Have Ambition
It’s one thing to have goals, but it’s a whole other thing to actively pursue those goals. Yes, my husband had goals, many, many goals; goals he had his whole life but never actually put into motion. I, on the other hand, actively pursue my goals. I’ve wanted to be a NYC-based freelance writer since I was a kid. I schmoozed, I networked, I pitched ideas, I had ideas rejected, but I kept moving forward. And voila! I’m writing in my underwear at this very moment, just like I always wanted, and I get to work with some of the greatest female editors out there. I worked hard to get here and I deserve to be here because of it. I learned to appreciate what I had even more thanks to him.
5. I Wouldn’t Allow Myself To Be Labeled A Victim
When I wrote about my husband’s ghosting, then the realization that even before that he had cheated on me, I refused to call myself a victim nor would I let anyone else use that word to describe me. I was not, nor have I ever been a victim. I took a chance on love, it didn’t work out, he cheated, and I’m back in the city I love doing what I love. Yes, it sucks, but it hardly qualifies me for victimhood.
6. I Stopped Blaming Him (Sort Of)
From the beginning, my husband made promises that, although he thought he could keep, he just couldn’t. We were very much in love and when you feel that way you do promise things that may never come to fruition, because you’re so enraptured that you can’t imagine not having that person in your life — I get that. What I also get, even more so, is why he cheated. He was married to a woman (me!) who wanted him to pull his life together, not for me, but more so for himself and his two daughters.
So, because I loved him so much and wanted so much for him, I spent several times a week pleading with him to just make an effort at procuring a more stable job, maybe working more hours at the part-time job he did have, or even pursuing his own music — this was what I wanted for him. And while I was at home pointing out all the positive changes I thought he should make for his life, someone, 28 years his junior, walked into the bar where he worked and told him he was the most talented man she’d ever seen and he was going to be a big star… and that’s exactly what his fragile ego needed. I was the tyrant wanting him to better himself and she was the young woman who looked at him as if he were the next Paul McCartney. As a man who needs such reassurance, I couldn't entirely blame him for falling for her. But I could blame her for falling for a married man... and I do.
7. I Realized There Are More Important Things Than Love When It Comes To A Successful Marriage
I didn’t put love on a pedestal the way my husband did (and still does). While I love love when I’m in it, and know that it’s a great feeling and yadda yadda yadda, I know that love doesn’t make a marriage, or any relationship, for that matter.
While love is definitely an important part of it, what’s even more important is equality, partnership, respect, ultimate trust, and the desire to meet your partner halfway. Relationships, at least in my mind, can’t exist on love alone. It would be wonderful if they could, but sadly, reality doesn’t allow such things. My husband, in all his gorgeous romantic ideas about the world, has yet to figure that out. And honestly, I hope he never does. He’s happy in that delusion, just like I’m happy over here on the other side. (Cue the Adele.)
Want more of Bustle's Sex and Relationships coverage? Check out our new podcast, I Want It That Way, which delves into the difficult and downright dirty parts of a relationship, and find more on our Soundcloud page.
Images: Author's own; Giphy(7)