Continued from Part 1
After I kicked my ex out, I was wounded emotionally; hating and distrusting all men. I was angry at life in general. I vowed no man would get close enough to me to hurt me like that again. I had always been a sexual being and hadn’t had sex (if you could call it that) since my birthday about 6 months earlier. So I decided that men would be good enough for sex but that’s all. I couldn’t fathom trusting anyone again enough to let them in my life fully.
At work I was known as a ball buster and had to be reprimanded several times about how I addressed higher ranking men. Luckily, the woman that helped me get rid of my ex knew the extent of my situation and had bailed me out a couple of times with anything being permanently on my record. She gave me some advice and told me that was the best revenge was to live my life and live it well. She set up an appointment with a counselor to help me work through it. I went to 2 sessions and then stopped. It was too fresh and too painful to rehash so I once again buried it. I lived in denial for a long time.
I met my 2nd husband (we’ll call him “Joe” just to keep it straight) the week my ex was moving out. He was a friend of a friend. When I first met him, I was not impressed by his good looks or his “aw shucks, ma’am” demeanor. I knew he was an asshole like all other men. As a matter of fact, the first two conversations I had with “Joe” involved me telling him to “shut the fuck up” and to also “grow up”.
When I moved out of base housing I moved into an apartment I shared with the same friend that introduced me to him, so I saw quite a bit of “Joe” over the next several weeks. Still not interested in talking with anything that had a penis, I all but ignored him when he came over. Then one weekend “Joe” came over when my roommate went out of town. We ended up talking and drinking most of the night and then had drunken sex when the sun came up.
“Joe” was a nice guy and I will admit it felt nice to once again have a man treat me like a woman and not a possession. We went out a couple of times (no sex, drunken or otherwise) but every time a part of me kept waiting for him to slip exposing his real nature and start treating me like he owned me. When he found out a little what I went through with my ex, he decided that he didn’t want to get wrapped up in that and I couldn’t blame him. Truthfully I was lonely but not looking for a relationship, so we decided to just be friends.
I began getting out with friends; drinking, dancing and partying. I always had something going on so I was rarely by myself for long. Then one night I was at a party at the river and ran into “Joe”. He and his friend were drunk and kept following my friend and me around the river. “Joe” asked me to take a walk with him and I agreed.
As we walked around “Joe” told me that he liked me a lot and didn’t care about what happened. He missed talking to me and in his drunken state told me he very much wanted to have sex with me again. He provided the distraction I needed so I didn’t have to think about what I’d been through with my ex.
However, as we started spending time together, things as innocent as him dropping a dish on the floor would trigger a memory. We got into our first argument and he grabbed my arm to stop me from leaving. I turned around and slapped his face and screamed for him to never do that again. He was shocked and I thought for sure that was the end of whatever we had going on. He let go of my arm and calmly said “Okay”. He began modifying his behavior based off of mine. I refused to believe that this relationship would go anywhere and last because I just wanted someone around so I wasn’t alone with my past.
Five months after that night at the river, I found out I was pregnant with our first child. After what happened with my ex I was extremely nervous to tell “Joe” and he actually found out when he overheard me talking to a friend of mine. “Joe” did the honorable thing and asked me to marry him. I laughed in his face and asked him why the hell I’d want to do that. He was hurt but he backed off and once again adjusted his behavior based on mine.
I wasn’t ready to once again be owned by another man. I wasn’t in love with “Joe”. I don’t think I knew what true love was and I didn’t trust my own judgment. I was still waiting for the other shoe to drop and for the real “Joe” to make his ugly appearance.
“Joe” suggested a compromise; that we move in together as roommates with benefits. We would split everything 50/50 and that way he could help with the baby. We talked in depth about it and he promised that if at any time it wasn’t working he would move into the spare bedroom and we would go back being just friends. At the time I didn’t realize how much of himself he was sacrificing for me.
As my pregnancy progressed, he became one of my closest friends and the only person I felt safe telling everything to about my ex. He was nonjudgmental and I eventually learned to stop waiting for the other shoe to drop with him. As we got closer to my due date I realized just how much he was sacrificing to be in my life. I had to admit to myself that I loved and respected him. He was my protector and allowed me to be just who I was and to heal. I wasn’t in love with him and at the time didn’t think I was capable of being in love with anyone because I still held back a part of me out of self-preservation. He knew we turned an important corner in our relationship and he broached the subject of getting married again. After many discussions and threats on my part we set a date.
After our eldest child was born, we married and moved back into base housing because he was still on active duty. He was chivalrous and old fashioned in some ways. He believed that when a child is young that a parent should be at home with him. He also believed that a man should take care of his family.
We made the necessary sacrifices so I could stay at home with the kids (we had a second child seventeen months after the first). After “Joe” got out of the military, he found a job working on the same base we were stationed at, so we stayed there renting a small apartment. “Joe” took on a second job as I went to school and could still stay with the kids. To everyone outside we were a happy family, but I was not happy at all and was dealing daily with my demons that would not go away.
I had gotten over the hurdle of trusting “Joe”, but I only trusted him with the kids and taking care of me physically but never fully with my heart. About three years into our relationship I started counseling. I began working through the shitball that was mine and my ex’s marriage. It was time to let go of the anger, shame and resentment. As my therapy continued the repressed memories started coming back to me, like the night of my 21st birthday. How could I have possibly not remembered that? It came back to me on my 25th birthday. Once again “Joe” modified his behavior after walking into the apartment to see his wife broken down crying with a toddler running around the house and the baby sleeping blissfully through it all. “Joe” fed the kids and put them to bed, then called the local Chinese delivery and made me take a bubble bath. We just sat on the couch not talking, but eating our take out, watching TV. I later found out he had lined up a babysitter for the night and made reservations at one of the best steak houses in town. He never did ask me what had me crying that night.
After that I felt on edge, never knowing when something was going to trigger a memory. I once again pulled away from “Joe”. I knew our relationship would never be anything more than what it was and for years it worked. I put all my effort into the kids and we had our third and final child in 2000. Eventually the triggers went away and I had successfully put almost everything behind me. My ex was rarely ever brought up and I was okay with my past.
We continued to live status quo and to everyone outside of our marriage we were happy and content. In 2008, “Joe” still in the reserves went to Iraq for a year. While he was gone, I was left to care for the house and kids by myself. I discovered that I liked that independence and that I was happier without “Joe” in my life 24/7. Don’t get me wrong, the year was hard and everything from a broken washer, a blown down fence and dealing with three children by myself had happened, but I hadn’t really missed him physically.
And on the whole, I was truly content with me for the first time in almost 20 years. I didn’t know how I would handle it when “Joe” got back but as long as we were still caring towards each other I was prepared to stay right where I was. We had three kids and a lifetime together. But for “Joe” being in Iraq had changed him as well. He didn’t see actual fighting there; he was embedded on a base and worked on the aircraft, but he heard the fighting and he saw the aftermath of it. He was no longer at peace and content with his life and I realized that status quo was no longer the norm. I believe he would have stayed married to me and I know I would have to him if either of us was content. We weren’t in love with each other, but had a marriage of friendship and respect. No one was more shocked than he when I told him I wanted a divorce. After a while he knew I was right.
We had gotten married out of an obligation and we both wanted more from our significant other than the half-life we were living. So at age 38, with $3000 in my account, I packed up the kids, a dog and whatever else I could fit in my car and came back to my hometown. I had no plan, job prospects, or a permanent address but I knew it was the right decision. It was what I needed to do but could I open myself up to a new life with my whole heart?
To be continued tomorrow…