It was twenty years ago today. Not the kind of anniversary you want to remember. It's not something I dwell on at this time every year. In fact, the day usually breezes by without me even noticing. But this year is different simply because it's the 20th one. The anniversary of the day she said she's leaving.
Leaving the marriage was something she had wanted to do for a long time. She had been trying to alienate me, hoping I would initiate the divorce. She had rejected my every attempt to make her happy. Of course, how could I? She didn't want to be happy.
Neither one of us knew how to communicate well with the other. Which is kind of funny since we both have degrees in mass communications. The more emotional she got, the more rational I felt I needed to be to balance things out. She could talk endlessly about anything and everything, except us. When she fell silent and I'd ask what was wrong, I couldn't get her to open up.
She often twisted my words. It got to be so bad that I didn't want to tell her anything of any consequence. The worst, and most memorable, twisting came after she left. I wrote her a letter asking her to try marriage counseling with me again. I poured myself into that letter, telling her how broken-hearted I was, that I felt I had lost everything except my soul. In refusing to do counseling again she said in a highly critical tone of voice, "Maybe that's the problem. You've got nothing to lose."
Only in hindsight did I realize that the twisting of words was part of a pattern of baiting me, trying to get me to turn against her, to stop loving her, to get me to walk away from the marriage so she wouldn't have to feel so guilty.
It may sound like I'm demonizing her. But I'm not. Because deep down I know I am almost as much to blame for the break-up as she is.
I've always been reserved about showing emotion, and perhaps she got more emotional trying to counterbalance me. Relationships are synergistic. Each person's behavior both affects and is affected by the other person's behavior. It's impossible to say who started what because their origins can be innocuous and from long ago. Besides, what difference does it make? When a tornado is on the ground, no one cares about how it formed.
She once claimed that I take her for granted. Her proof? Because I don't look at other women. What? She said I didn't look at other women because I think I can get whatever I want from her and don't need to look at them. That was so crazy, I was speechless.
I didn't feel like I took her for granted. I was committed to having her as my wife and being her husband. But I had already "won her over" and it did not occur to me back then that maybe she expected continual pre-marriage courtship behavior. What was a natural and unconscious change in my behavior might have affected her. With our natural inability to talk things out, neither one of us knew why the other was acting the way we were.
At that time I saw her baiting as attacks. My usual response was to try to end the conversations for my own self-protection. And I didn't go back to them later to clear the air. But, she might have taken my behavior as uncaring.
Have you noticed that I used words like "might," "maybe," and "perhaps" a lot? It's because I really don't have any definite answers. And I never will. Even after all these years, it's still unsettling to not know why we divorced.
A marriage can end in dozens of ways. For most people, it will leave emotional scars. Do you really want to go through life like that? Getting right with your spouse may be scary, painful, risky. But the alternatives, living in an ever-deteriorating relationship or getting a divorce, are bleaker and more painful.
Make the right choice. Imitate God and choose to love. Love is not just about a feeling. It's also about action. Learn to talk and to listen. Think about how you affect your spouse. Ask how he/she sees your behavior. Don't get angry or upset if you don't like the answers. And don't clam up.
Remember, it's a matter of perception, of how you come across to one another. Be gentle. Ask for forgiveness. And choose to forgive so you can love the one you're married to more.
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