Daybook · On Herself

Fall, Again

New Mexico Fall

I was walking to the park yesterday evening, looked up and noticed that the leaves were tinged with gold. Fall, I thought.

You mean we’re doing Fall again?

It’s been just over a year since my marriage suddenly ended. Mine has been a different type of a divorce than the kind where a couple comes slowly apart over time. The middle-of-the-night announcement came without any warning, my ex-husband refused to honestly answer questions about why he was leaving and what he did say turned out to be lies. I learned the truth of the situation through our bank records. (Girlfriend, Jersey Shore and eventually a baby. Tacky, tacky and tacky.) [UPDATED: It has been brought to my attention that a certain person with interest in this situation is irritated that I have implied that he impregnated his girlfriend with whom he hooked up with during our sixteen year marriage, during our marriage. When, in fact, he impregnated her some time after he announced he was leaving me, an announcement he made while vehemently insisting that there was not another woman and that it was my belief that there certainly was another woman that was making it hard for me to understand why the divorce was entirely my fault. (Let’s leave aside the fact that I believed that there was probably another woman involved because there had been other women before.) I have added the word “eventually” to the previous sentence to clarify this further because accuracy is important to me, and I’m sure that this additional distinction on the timing will make all the difference for readers trying to decide whether this certain person with an interest in the situation is an asshole, or not.]

I turned the whole thing over to my lawyer. We did not have children, so there was no reason for us to communicate, said the lawyer, said my therapist, said all my horrified friends. The man with whom I’d spent twenty years of my life, had, for all practical purposes simply disappeared.

Which meant that the end of my marriage was more like a homicide. I happen to be researching this topic for a project, and was startled to find myself identifying with the psychological profile of a homicide survivor. I nodded as I recorded in my notebook: A sudden and powerful breach in the individual’s security which violates his or her assumptions about the world. Begins with shock, followed by adjustment and resolved with the development of a new life pattern.

Seasons are a powerful life pattern. This all went down last July 3rd, and so when the weather got warm again this year, I thought you mean we’re doing summer again? On some level I thought that we could all just agree to retire summer after last year’s débâcle. I thought that was just a specific reaction to it being summer again, the season of the trauma, but when I saw the leaves turning and felt that surprise again, I realized that it was more than that. As I went through all the milestones of “firsts” alone — my birthday, the holidays — I think I told myself if I could only make it through everything once, I’d never have to do it again. I didn’t let myself think about more than what was just in front of me.

Our minds are so simple, or at least mine is.

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2 thoughts on “Fall, Again

  1. Good question, complicated answer. Some combination of faith, denial and determination, I suppose. I thought that it wasn’t so crazy that a long-term marriage would be tested in this way — we were married 10 years at the time the evidence became too overwhelming from him to explain away with “I’ve just always liked being friends with women.”

    I did think about leaving him, then. But I think that it’s hard for most people to walk away from long relationships, and other than this, ours was generally good. Lots in common, lots to talk about. We had shared goals: I was in the midst of putting him through grad school, I’d been sacrificing a lot to do that and I wanted to get to get to the other side of that bargain.

    But I think at the end of the day, I’d been with him since I was 17, my entire adult life, and it was really scary and basically inconceivable to imagine leaving. I felt like his family was my family, we were so enmeshed.

    I also didn’t have all the facts, I only knew with certainty about one woman; I only learned about others post-separation. He was an excellent and elaborate liar, yes, but in retrospect, I realize that I also didn’t investigate the other suspicions I had. I realize now that I didn’t want to know more –I wouldn’t have been able to stay if I’d consciously realized it was a pattern for him, and I wasn’t ready to leave. That is on me.

    I did start traveling a lot, myself, soon after this, which was probably my way of separating without actually leaving the marriage. I spent a few years doing that and then I cut back on my travel schedule a lot for the last two years before we separated, in part because I thought we were on solid ground again. Six years had gone by since that serious crisis, and I thought we’d gotten through it. Clearly, I was wrong.

    And I’m not nearly so unobservant today, so, “Rose,” — I can’t help but notice your hometown has some overlap with the ex’s trajectory. Do you have a personal connection to this story?

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