I still remember the day that I first realized my ex-husband and I were not meant to be.
The most embarrassing part is that we weren’t even married yet.
I had just moved back to California after living with him in the United Kingdom for a year. I’d come home in August, and he was flying out to join me in October. When I pulled away from the little house we’d shared, I cried, wondering how I would live without him. We set up a blog that we could both post to, thinking that it would be the easiest way for us to communicate, and that then we’d have a record of our love letters from that period of separation, floating around in cyberspace, for the rest of our lives.
On or around September 12th – the midway point in our two months apart – I posted to the blog and told my then-fiancé that I was starting to realize I could probably live without him. In fact, I told him, as I was going about my daily life, going to work and the gym, spending time with my family and my friends, there were times that I almost forgot I even had a fiancé. I was totally comfortable, confident, and fully myself, without him around.
I didn’t tell him these things to be malicious. They were my honest thoughts and feelings at the time, and, at the time, he was the person I shared all my thoughts and feelings with. If anything, I was surprised and proud to feel independent, because when I’d been living in his country, sans car or job or friends, I’d felt horribly dependent, and I hadn’t liked it at all.
Of course, his reaction was heartbreaking. He called me crying, we talked it out for hours, I apologized and took everything back, and the next day, I deleted the post. Which is really fucking frustrating, since I would love to read it now, four years later, now that I know how the story ends. (And yes, the blog is still active and public, and no, I’m not giving out the link. I at least owe him that much respect.)
I don’t think posting my feelings to a blog was meant to be backhanded; I think it was my way of ensuring that I would say everything I wanted to say as clearly as possible – I’m always better in writing – without being interrupted. But then, writing has permanence. Had I not deleted the post at the time, I would be reading it right now, marveling at either a) how stupid I was for not realizing the marriage was doomed, or b) how bitchy I was for the things I’d written, or c) both. And that would be humiliating, kind of like reading the rest of the entries and seeing all the baby-talk and pet names has been humiliating, and how, if my ex ever thinks to check that address, he will see that he wrote, “If I’m wrong about this, then there’s no point in me ever feeling certainty again in my life, it would all just be a joke,” and then he will be humiliated as well. (Okay, okay. Respect for his feelings aside, I had to get one in.)
But since I’ve learned next-to-nothing in the last four years, I have to tell you that the reason I’m bringing this up now is that there was a moment yesterday when I thought about doing the exact same thing, the serious-talk-in-blog-form thing, to Doug.
See, Doug is younger than me, and in many ways still has growing up to do. I knew this when I signed up for him. In fact, I loved it about him, because, aside from the baby-talk, my ex was all stupidly ready to be a responsible adult at 24, and it had made me feel old. I loved that Doug, in contrast, made me feel younger. He still does, and I still love it.
But there are times when it’s frustrating. Like when Michelle and I were trying to tell him how to get ahead at work, by “playing the game” a little with the managers, and his walls of defense shot up immediately and could not be budged. And I couldn’t help but think, “Hey, isn’t this my life you’re affecting, too?” Thankfully, Michelle articulated my thoughts for me: “If not for yourself, then do it for her, because you love her and she deserves better.” For the next few days, I just kept repeating these words to him: “Do good, get raises, make money.”
That, however, is just a slice of the big picture, which is that sometimes I’m not sure Doug sees the big picture. Here I am on this journey, figuring out what I want out of life and what I’m going to need to do to get it, and sometimes I honestly can’t tell if Doug is on the journey with me, or if he’s just along for the ride. I feel like every day, here I am trying to better myself in some way – the braces, the therapy – and that he is actively ignoring everything unpleasant about his own life, defending himself against would-be-helpful criticism, and just hoping that the pieces will fall into place for him: dog, house, job, wife, babies.
I’m probably making this sound more immediate and more black-and-white than it actually is. Like I said, I was frustrated while it was all whirling around in my mind on the flight home last night. But at least Doug’s not hearing about it via blog, like my ex-husband did – even though I’m putting it here anyway, he already knows. Because this morning, I stepped out of my written comfort zone, and I talked to him about it. I held onto his upper arms, looked him in the eyes, and told him: “I want you on this journey with me. I want you to write down your goals, like my parents did, and then – and this is the important part – I want you to write down how you’re going to achieve those goals.”
“I will,” he said. Then, “Can we do it together, on the computer? We can make, like, a his column and a hers column?”
He took me in his arms then, and said into my ear, “I love you. You’re perfect for me, and I’m going to marry you, and I’m going to be better for you. I promise.”
“Okay, but can you do those things in the opposite order?” I asked, grinning, then squealed as he tackled me onto the bed.