Sacrificing for Serenity

Just how many times have you given up what you wanted so badly because the process of getting it was becoming harmful to your life’s purpose? Just how many times did you let go just short of that break though “a ha” moment because you were too weary to hang on and hold out any longer. For me, it’s been exactly 6 times; 3 girls, and 3 men.  I’ve spoken about the girls before, but that happens.  Sometimes friends take a different turn in life and it’s too dramatic of a turn for you personally.

In romantic relationships, I used to be that girl that overlooked obvious flaws in the men that I loved, hoping to “love” it all away.  I was pretty superficial and as long as the attraction was there, I secretly hoped and made it my mission to privately work on the behavior.  I thought that that as long as I role modeled the type of behavior that was conducive to a healthy, loving, supportive relationship – we would get passed any “behavior” that was counterproductive. For a while, it worked, but in the end, it cost me my sanity…and a marriage.

I’ve never really spoken publicly about my marriage and it’s demise. This isn’t because it’s painful, it’s mostly because I wanted to forget that it happened. But I can’t, because it did happen. Legally, there are documents that verify it’s existence, and spiritually there are about 250 people that witnessed the entire event.

February 15, 2003, that day was magical, it was every little girl’s dream realized; the princess gown, the flowers, the gourmet cake, the country club reception, and my prince at the end of aisle dressed in his Marine Corps dress blues. He was romantic, tough but with a heart of gold.  He knew the importance of rose petals leading to a home cooked dinner. He never forgot a birthday, an anniversary, and in the beginning, he was a true gentlemen. These were the thoughts that went through my head as I walked down the aisle. I pushed the thoughts of his financial irresponsibility, his lack of direction, and a million other negative things out of my head. Despite the pit in my stomach, I proceeded to get married. A Catholic/Marine Corps wedding that took place in between two snow storms, I had taken it as a sign that the snow has stopped long enough for my guests and the limos to pass down the back country roads to the church I was baptized in.  Maybe if I had time to think things through, I wouldn’t have married him or waited until he returned from Iraq.  But he was amendment that we get married before he deploy for this war.  I pushed forward and accepted the ultimate responsibility, for once we said our vows, and we passed under the shiny arches of the swords of the Marine Corps detail, I became a Marine too.

At 23, my reality became about war and the meticulous detail that goes into it’s preparation. No time for a honeymoon, just conversations about his will and life insurance policies. Back at my apartment, everything packed up for the move into an apartment together, I laid out all of his gear and equipment, and check and re-checked the list. there was nothing for me to do but to put on the brave face the other Marine Corps wives tried to teach me about at our readiness meetings. The day came where we had to say good-bye. I remember watching the bus pull away, and his face was in the back window the entire time. I cried on my father’s shoulder, certain I would never see him again.

Days and weeks wore on. The apartment that we had picked out together still had to be moved into and furnished. I would unpack boxes while watching CNN hoping to catch a glimpse of him, and for 5 months, there was no communication between us. There were no satellite phones, internet, or even showers then. Mail wasn’t getting in or out and word had gotten back to me from an administration Marine I had befriended that they did land, were relatively safe, but were living under a bridge. It would be weeks before he was able to write. Every night I would fall asleep on the couch watching CNN, and wake up 10 different times to check outside to make sure that there wasn’t a Drill Instructor and a Chaplin pulling into my driveway. This is what I was doing at 23 while my counterparts were out having fun. My husband was at war, and I wasn’t sure he was going to come home to me.

Finally, I got the news that he was coming home. A full 10 months since we had wed, we were going to have the chance to be husband and wife in the same country now. The re-adjustment was rough for him, and that time in our lives is a story in and of it’s self. It includes violence, separation, and reconciliation. The warning signs that I may have overlooked too much started almost immediately, but I chalked it up to PTSD. Ultimately after making the Marines his career, he discharged from the Marines without any warning or plan leaving me to bear the burden of supporting the household. It was the beginning of the end. Jumping from one dream to another, or one job to another, in and out of school for different things, there was never any stability except for what I could provide financially and emotionally all on my own. In the end, after battles with one another, I sacrificed for serenity and filed for divorce. I was backed into a corner and I had to pick either him or me.  I could cut my losses and save myself, so I saved myself. I was frustrated and heartbroken. I had a clear vision of what our life could look like together if he would just focus and put in some effort and take personal responsibility for himself. We were so close so many times to getting it right – our “a ha” moment was right around the corner and was sick over the fact that I couldn’t hang on any longer. I had been pulling the load for two people for years and I was mentally and physically exhausted. I had gained 60 pounds and had officially lost complete control over everything including myself. Thoughts of our wonderful back story and all the love that we had for one another, it made no sense to me that with all of the magic we shared, why it couldn’t work.

Looking back on it now, I can’t blame him for the demise of our marriage anymore. I blame me for being in the marriage in the first place. Since him, I have had a pattern of relationships where I thought that I could love away anything wrong. Every guy loved and adored me, every relationship had beautiful and wonderful beginnings where you could hear the angels sing, but every guy had the same issues. They were directionless. Full of ambition but no where to direct it. They had bad relationships with their fathers, and their mother’s enabled them beyond belief in over compensation. They adored my family but was envious of me at the same time. For these guys, I would overlook the responsible and caring man with a similar background as mine, to walk on the edge with the bad boy with a heart of gold because they needed my help, and because when they were with me, as I was told, “they had the best chance at being the man they wanted to be.” But don’t I deserve for you to be that man before we get together? They were so very close to their own personal success if I could just stay and support them for a minute longer – I never could.

All of these guys were great guys, unbelievable men with incredible talent. They treated me like gold and were always a gentlemen, because that’s all they could ever offer me. When eventually they cracked and their front fell and I found out about the deep seeded issues they were working with, they would start to show more and more of a glimpse of them getting it together. They’d work harder for a little while, and then relapse into their old ways. They just needed way more patience and nurturing than I could provide. My patience would wear thin and I often sat in turmoil over the fact that I am not their mother. Why did the burden lay on me? There is taking care of your partner, and there is being forced to teach, role model, provide, give lessons, lay rules and foundations…that isn’t my job.  But at least now I know that when the day comes for me to parent, I’ll be phenomenal at it.

I know how this looks for me, but I know for a fact that I’m not the only women out there with these experiences, I’m just not afraid to be vocal about it. Truth is, I never get the opportunity to be the fully enjoyable partner to someone for very long until the facade begins to crack on either side, and as soon as it does, my own version of PTSD starts to kick in. I panic and attempt to run. They smooth it over and calm me down because they are masters at doing so as soon as the gravy train starts to pull away from the station. I give another chance, and another, and another until one day I snap out of it and all of my delusions are gone and I’m forced to take some sort of action and then I feel like it’s Ground Hog Day – just a different year.

In the end, it works out. I’m able to see that even if it was only temporary, we came into one another’s lives for a reason.  I’ve had many really  life altering bonds with these men where they’ve taught me just as much as I’ve taught them and that was really the purpose.  They are now living the life that they want to live and I’m happy to say are very successful. I’m not arrogant enough to say it was because of me, but they comment on how my family became their role model, and now they work hard every day to make their life better.  One man has settled down and I am overjoyed at how happy he is.  Every time I see him his smile and positive energy is sheer infectious.  None of these men nor I hold any malice and we cheer each other on have silently slipped out of one another’s lives.  I’m happy to say that my “teachers” cap is finally hung up for good.

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