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lighting myself on fire

He begged me to marry him.

There were reasons to keep saying no: we hadn’t been together very long, he smoked too much pot, he was younger than me…  As seen from the eyes of my mostly good-girl life, his had been much, much wilder than mine.  He had been drinking and partying, running the streets and unsupervised, since he was a kid.  For all that, or perhaps because of it, he could be tremendously insecure.  We once had a four hour, middle-of-the-night argument about whether or not I would leave him for Keanu Reeves.  He was adamantly, frustratingly convinced that I would, and called me a liar when I said I wouldn’t.  It was a fight as breathtakingly desperate as it was ridiculous.  It would have been funny if it hadn’t been so completely exhausting, and if he hadn’t been so thoroughly angry about it.  He knew how to throw a verbal punch, too, having learned how to fight dirty from his family.  He was the first person who ever stung me with a curse in anger.

Of course, I had my issues, too.  I just didn’t realize it yet.

I had left him once already, but there were complicated emotional reasons that drew me back.  To begin with, I loved him.  Why do we – how do we – fall in love with someone so unlike ourselves?  So unlike what we think we want in a partner?  So seemingly wrong for us?  We did have fun together, and much of our relationship was good.  In so many ways, we were a team – we had humor in common, we enjoyed the same activities, liked the same movies.  We made memories.  And so, despite all those things that I didn’t like about him, I still loved him.  The truth is, I was lonely without him.  I was alone without him.

Maybe those “complicated reasons” weren’t so complicated after all.  

A week after I broke up with him, I went back.  Three months later we were getting married.  No one supported us.  Of course that hurt, but you can’t expect people who love you to stand back and watch, smiling and applauding as you light yourself on fire.

And I still had my own trepidations, all those issues I was aware of.  But I did not want to truly examine them.  He made promises that I chose to believe, even as my instincts told me not to.  He wanted marriage.  He wanted to “settle down”.  He had partied all he could bear, and he wanted the wife and the home and all that we thought marriage entailed.  You know: pink houses and picket fences and all that.  He wanted to marry me; it was the most, the only thing worth having in his life.

A strong argument.

Basically, I said yes and then became determined to go through with it.  As much as I knew there were landmines enclosed within that picket fence, I would not turn back.  The craziest thing (or most natural?) is that I thought it would work.  I never thought I would get divorced.  I could tread softly.  I could dig those landmines up if ever I needed to.  I could do this.  And whatever conviction I lacked, he had more than enough for both of us.

So, we went alone.  We got married at a little church called Chapel by the Sea.  It was sweet.  And for a few hours, at least, it stayed that way.

Next time: What’s in a name?


21 Comments Post a comment
  1. I don’t know if that’s fiction or a personal blog post, but I thought it was written beautifully.

    I think that we only know how bad things were, or how wrong things were, in hindsight. And in hindsight, we also realize how “disasters” actually played a Huge role on our lives without which, we wouldn’t have been the people we are. 🙂

    August 15, 2012
    • You’re so right! This is non-fiction. I did learn a lot about myself, some during the years we were married, but most afterward, when I had time to cool down and really look at it more clearly. I’d been thinking about writing it, but wasn’t sure if I should post it.

      August 15, 2012
  2. “He made promises that I chose to believe, even as my instincts told me not to.”

    Promises that I chose to believe . . . Love is truly blind sometimes, isn’t it? We see the best in people, and want them to live up to our expectations. When they don’t/can’t, we struggle to accept what we always knew.

    I’m so glad you “bothered” to write this! Many of us have been there, even if we didn’t wind up getting married to them. Love can be so painful, especially when you go it alone without the support of your friends and family. I bet you learned a lot about yourself, though.

    August 15, 2012
    • What’s most interesting to me is that I didn’t see the best in him at all. In some ways, I was too critical. But I loved him anyway, and married him anyway. But there were things that I believed and expected, and I was sorely let down. You’re so right about that. I love what you said, that we “want them to live up to our expectations.” And sometimes we don’t even tell them what our expectations are.

      I think what I really meant is that I wasn’t sure about posting my thoughts on this. I have been wanting to write about it, and it’s crazy that I’m still sorting through it this many years later (I won’t even say how long it’s been). I am still learning about myself as I examine it. But I don’t know that there is any value to anyone else by me sharing. I’m torn between wanting to share and being able to talk about it, and in not wanting to put stuff out there that people don’t want to read about or deal with. If you know what I mean?

      August 16, 2012
  3. It is interesting how we know we will get hurt but blunder on with rose-colored blinders. Been there done that ‘cept for the “I do” part, I never did.

    August 15, 2012
    • Yes, when I decided to get married, I knew he was the wrong person…and yet I was in love with him. It’s astounding what blends of emotions we can conjure up, isn’t it? I felt that all of these things were wrong in the relationship, and at the same time I felt that we would be married “til death do you part”. It doesn’t add up.

      August 16, 2012
  4. I really liked this story and am looking forward to hearing more.

    August 17, 2012
    • Thank you, yearstricken. I am going about it slowly, but surely.

      August 17, 2012
  5. KJ #

    What a beautiful, honest post. I think we can all relate to closing our eyes to what we know in order to make choices that feel good in the moment even though we know they aren’t the right thing for us in the long run. I know I’ve done that many times in many ways in many areas (most especially in romantic relationships, though). Hindsight is always 20/20, but I’m trying to learn to listen a little better to that inner knowing before I make a choice now.

    Anyway, thank you for sharing your experience. It is reassuring to know that I am not the only one who has done this. I hope your sharing and exploring of what happens helps to continue the healing and learning process for you. Blessings!

    August 19, 2012
    • As I’m really looking back on this and examining my role within that situation, I can’t seem to get a real grip on what exactly I was thinking. I feel that I just made a decision and then became obstinate: I would go through with it. I think, also, that I wanted to be married. In any case, it’s odd – looking back with these eyes – to know that I didn’t think we would end up divorced, and at the same time I was well aware that the relationship had serious flaws. It’s like you said, I simply closed my eyes to what I didn’t want to acknowledge. But I think I knew it in my heart.

      August 20, 2012
      • KJ #

        I hear you. I’ve walked in those same shoes, and it’s so hard later to really know much I knew (but refused to acknowledge) and how much I suspected (but didn’t look close enough to see) and how much I was just plain blinded by other things (my pride, my desire to be loved and needed, etc.). I think that hindsight is 20/20 in some ways, but it’s also hard to see the original decision freshly when we know the eventual outcome. Kudos to you on working to take responsibility for your part in it! And remember to be gentle with the you that was then. I suspect she was doing the best she could with what she had. Hugs!

        August 20, 2012
        • Well, it took me a while to acknowledge that I had a part in the marriage unraveling. I knew some of it while it was happening, but I didn’t then know how to change what I was doing or feeling. But some things took further distance to see clearly.

          You bring up a good point about pride, and that certainly comes into play with me, in why I stayed in the marriage. Silly as that sounds now. So, I’ll be talking about that at some point, too!

          August 20, 2012
          • KJ #

            I’ll look forward to reading it. I’m sure I’ll continue to learn more about myself and my own experience from reading about your process. Thank you for sharing!

            August 21, 2012
  6. “…landmines enclosed within that picket fence”, love this… you have a beautiful way with words!

    August 23, 2012
    • Hi howtoonlinedating! Thank you so much, that’s very kind of you. I need to come check out your blog again. I clearly need some help! 😉

      August 23, 2012
  7. Thanks for sharing this with us. It’s not easy looking back at a painful relationship, and reflecting on the learning journey taken. This is so beautifully and honestly written.

    August 26, 2012
    • Thank you, that’s kind of you to say. It’s hard for me to understand why this sticks with me after so many years. I guess part of it is that I haven’t had a significant relationship since then, but that’s only part of it. We – or at least I (and most of the people I know) – hold on to our emotional upsets for so long! We hold on to our resentments, I think, especially. I learned a lot from that relationship, but still I can get angry when I think about parts of it – really angry.

      August 26, 2012
      • I guess these are the ones that cut us really deep, and it takes a long time for the wounds to heal. For me, I find the hardest part of the healing process is learning to forgive myself.

        August 28, 2012
        • I think a lot of people are like that. I have a hard time with that when I do something stupid or if I hurt someone. If someone hurts me, I can be known to hold onto that resentment longer than I should! 🙂

          August 28, 2012

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