Today let’s chat about what I mentioned last week as a cast aside piece of information: This is my third marriage. In fact, I’ve been engaged four times. What can I say? I’m full of hope, love, and maybe a little too much trust. First the details and then the delicious lesson. Let’s do this!
I was 19. He was 21. The abuse happened slowly, like the unfortunate frog we are always proverbially boiling. There was sexual assault, though not rape (it’s a difference that I think matters). He was mostly mentally abusive.
Before I knew it, I was trapped in a locked room called marriage. A lot of that was due to the strong Mormon culture that insisted that if you were married in The Temple you shouldn’t divorce. My Husband, David, outright told our therapist (in front of me) that he did and said things to hurt me and that he thought it was funny to do.
The shrink refused to tell me divorce was the right move. I found strength in my insightful bishop and some family and friends and finally got out. The decree was issued the day before our three year anniversary.
My friends seemed to take it in stride but one of them, Matt, let slip “It must be so hard to know that you will never get married again. I mean, now that you are damaged goods.”
Matt wasn’t trying to be a dick. He was just a mostly good guy who had been raised to think that way. He was trying to comfort me. Still, I’ve never spoken to him again.
At the age of 25, I was thrilled to be engaged to the handsome and brilliant “Sonny”. We were best friends. He taught me a lot of great things. Mostly that he believed anyone could do anything if they just put in the work. He gave me a lot of confidence in myself even while I was first learning that I had multiple personalities. I thought I had struck matrimonial gold!
Sonny, however, changed his mind on our wedding day. Rather than call it off he thought it would be kinder to just quietly divorce me later. No, I’m not kidding.
Can we just all agree that if you are already thinking of divorce that it’s kinder to leave them at the altar? If you don’t want it please don’t do it.
Sonny wasn’t vindictive but he really hurt me in a way that I still haven’t entirely recovered from.
This divorce left me believing that I must be defective in some horrible way. No one could ever truly love me. I was damaged goods. Matt was right all along! He saw what I was, garbage.
I didn’t hate Sonny. I hated me. I stayed in our little rental house for almost a month. I wouldn’t eat, just cry all day. Two dear friends, Martha and Jason, would take turns making me go for walks, or bringing me food, or making me leave the house. I may have just stayed on the hardwood floor and died of exquisite sorrow if not for their efforts.
I finally moved and rehabbed myself by continuing to learn about programming computers, writing novels, and I even started fencing. Swordplay built me up and I met a lot of amazing friends. And I wasn’t too bad!
One night, there was a fencing tournament for epee fencers. I was working in the armory, building weapons, during the tournament.
The next moment was the most cliché thing to ever happen to me. A beautiful man in his white fencing uniform walked past the office where I was working. I literally set my weapons down and followed him. I was stricken in a way that I had not known before. I was like a cartoon floating in the air with hearts dripping in my wake!
I’ve been in love so many times that I felt almost naive that I didn’t know it could feel like this or happen so suddenly. My man and I were engaged in a few months. Despite him knowing that I had an anxiety disorder, two past marriages, and could sometimes have unexplained fits. Don’t’ get me wrong he has his own baggage but I was still looking at myself as a commodity, secretly I knew I would eventually be the deal breaker.
We planned a big wedding for the next summer when he was done with Law School. I’m really drawn to the smart boys. I find knowledgeable men irresistible, handsome doesn’t hurt either.
Neither of our sets of parents was enthusiastic about a third wedding for me. A surprising number of people were against the idea.
What they couldn’t see was that this man was so attentive to my needs. He wasn’t all about himself. I wasn’t the featured extra in his “movie of the week”. That was how so many men made me feel. My dad outright told me that he wouldn’t help with our wedding because he “didn’t want me to believe for a minute that I had his blessing.”
#3 and I met in September of 2003 and at Christmas started joking about eloping. When we stopped laughing we started making arrangements. We decided to have the wedding we wanted and on our terms. We invited our family and friends, “Hey, we are getting married this weekend in Salt Lake. If you can make it that’s great. If not we understand.”
This approach took a hell of a lot of pressure off of us. Not many people came. But here we are thirteen years later. We’ve been handed more than our fair share of shit from life, but we have loved and held tight to each other through it all.
The truth is, I’m not damaged goods! I have dark and light inside of me. We all do. The trick is to find someone who brings out the light and isn’t afraid of our dark.
Look for symmetry. Are you equals? Do you respect one another? If not, run! Marriage is hard enough just dealing with everyday life. Seriously, throwing horrendous burdens at undeserving people is Life’s favorite past time. But when you are unified and committed to one another you can get through it.
Thanks for reading this exploration of my many marriages. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.