Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Happy Birthday, Pete

January 3. It's my ex-husband's birthday, and what would've been our 8th anniversary. We were married for ... March 2004 minus Jan 1998... almost 6 years. Wow. Seemed longer. Well we lived together for about a year before we got married. That's what must've made it feel longer. Okay, no. It felt longer because it was a mistake. Red flags all over the place that I totally ignored or believed would take care of themselves.

But it's in the past. He and I are actually okay friends now. I learned a lot about myself and for the most part, it wasn't a totally bad relationship. It's just neither one of us had a clue what the other needed or wanted from a marriage. Individually, we knew what we wanted, but trying to communicate that to the other person and work together was an exercise in futility.

I filed for divorce in November of 2003. It was finalized in March of 2004. I don't remember the exact date, and I don't know why I needed a ride from him, but I remember, he had to drop me off at the courthouse for the final dissolution hearing. He didn't contest the divorce, so he didn't need to be present, and my appearing before the judge was just a formality. She asked me a couple of questions and then declared the marriage dissolved. I remember walking out the courthouse relieved, I remember it was a bright, brisk day and I remember gazing in wonder at the sunny clarity of the day and feeling like a huge burden had been lifted from my shoulders. I felt lighter. I felt free.

I also remember my older brother picking me up from the courthouse and taking me to his house because I didn't want to go home to my parents house just yet. I remember crying, how the tears just flowed freely as soon as I got in the car. I remember my nephew, Jaylen, barely four, saw me crying in his room and gave me a hug and a kiss and patted my shoulder while I sobbed like a baby. Even though I was free of a marriage that was never right, I still felt pain. It was like someone died. I was told it's normal to grieve for the loss of a marriage, so I grieved. I grieved for the loss of my idealism. My niavete. My innocence. Never again would I look at marriage through rose-colored glasses. I had wanted someone who would dream with me, set goals with me, succeed with me. Be my lover and partner and best friend. Someone who would cherish me, and celebrate me. I wanted someone I could respect, honor and adore. Someone I could count on and be there for in return. Someone to love with every fiber of my being without losing my own identity. I guess I was asking too much. That day, I learned to temper my needs and to believe what I wanted didn't exist.

While I harbor no ill will towards my ex-husband, I do feel like I wasted a lot of time trying to fix something that wasn't fixable. When I got divorced, I promised myself that I wouldn't waste more time than necessary, should I find myself again in a relationship that's not quite right. Some might call that a quitter's mentality. I don't know. I just know that having gone through what I did, I have a better idea of what works and what doesn't and life's too short to settle for what's not working for you.

In that regard, I feel bad for Gareth because he met me at my most jaded and cynical. I met him shortly before my divorce was final, I had no desire at the time to be serious with anyone let alone try marriage again, so we hung out. We became good friends. He was patient with me. Persistent, too. He knew I wasn't ready and he was well aware of my priorities, which, at the time, included taking care of my grandmother 5 nights a week. His persistence paid off because later that year, I began to see him in a different light.

He's aware of my personal philosophy about not wasting time on what doesn't work. I know it scares him. I honestly feel terrible about that. He fears I will find something wrong with our marriage that I won't be willing to work on for longer than I deem necessary. I don't know how to assuage his fears, because I honestly don't know if I can change how I feel. Some might say that's very selfish of me, while I believe it's simply self-preservation. Some might say it's a lack of trust & belief in marriage. I may be inclined to agree, since my personal experience and what I grew up observing haven't exactly instilled much confidence in the institute of marriage. Again, I feel bad that Gareth got me at my most jaded & cynical. But it's your own life experiences that mold you and so far this is the me I know and accept. But a girl can always hope,and that's all I can really promise.

Jaded as I am, I still believe in the joy of lasting love. However, while I'm not a vocal advocate, if I'm asked my opinion, I encourage women to wait til their 30s before making the ultimate commitment. I don't believe women truly know themselves until they're in their 30s. Hell, I'm 35 this year and I'm still defining myself. That's not to say you can't find love before your 30s. Far from it. But love & acceptance of yourself first is paramount to making any relationship work, be it friendship or marriage. So when you find that person you can respect, honor and adore, who not only accepts you for who you are but celebrates & cherishes you, then don't let anything or anyone stop you from grabbing hold and never letting go.

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