Did you ever play a board game as a kid only to have the person you were playing against stand up in the middle and knock the board into the air? Well, that’s more or less what my ex-husband’s affair did to my life. Afterwards, I was the one who went about picking up the pieces off the floor, but I couldn’t find them all. So I packed what I could find away into the box and put it on the shelf. And now I have no desire to ever play that game again.
I had spent fifteen years in a good-girl-marriage daze and had three daughters to show for it when that game board went flying. And when I finally put the marriage away on the shelf, I felt both overwhelming anxiety and glorious relief. I felt so free… totally broke with three young kids and having my house foreclosed… but free.
It has now been almost 10 years since I left, and I can’t imagine anything more stifling than to have stayed in that marriage. I stand staunchly in solidarity with all the women who are in the thick of dealing with an affair or a divorce. I can still recall the gut feeling of dread and days of waking up not knowing how I would remember to breathe for another 24 hours. But for any woman in the middle of it, know this: I have done so much more exploring post-divorce than I ever would have done with him. And you will now start to realize how much of yourself you had given up for the marriage. I am whole again because I lost the marriage.
The demise of the marriage was just the beginning of the realization of just how many rules are out there: rules that I unknowingly still follow to a game that I no longer wish to play. I held onto the belief for years that rules were clear directions to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The more time has gone on, the more I have begun to break rules consciously, to question the “why” of them. I am still a good person, a most-of-the-time responsible mom, a relationship builder at my work. Breaking rules hasn’t made me evil, but often I still am often told rules that others think I should be following.
The first rule I’m copping to consciously breaking? “Let go of the anger so you can be good co-parents to the kids.” OH PLEASE. I tried to get over it. But my ex-husband gives me new reasons to be angry almost every time I interact with him. Do I badmouth him to the kids? No. But I do state my opinion and reasoning to the kids when we do disagree. And when he does something hurtful (like disinvite them to his second wedding)- I don’t pretend for a second that it’s okay. Why should I invest any more time in making him look better than he is? No longer my job, thank the Lord.
The reality is that I’m still angry and I suck at pretending. How the hell do you get over being screwed over? My new, coming-from-experience opinion is that if someone shows a profound disrespect toward me and all I hold sacred, I get to decide when to stop being angry. And I’m not there yet with my ex-husband. I will continue to be angry at the father who put himself, and still to this day continues to put himself, before the children we had together. He hasn’t learned how not to be a self-serving egotist- why should I have to be a saint?
Still being angry at him hasn’t made me an angry person. I do not live in anger every day. I’m a pretty happy person to the point of being silly. I am incredibly grateful for the life I have now. But I ain’t getting over it, at least right now. Women coming out of bad marriages need to find their strength, and that strength might only come by hanging onto some anger. Rather than being given rules about how to get your life back on the standard track, I’d rather hear stories about women who are like me: finding ways to wade through the trenches who long ago got off the mythical path to a happy ending. I relish that we live in an age and place where we have choices, including choosing to break rules that try to herd all women in the direction of docility.