I have been trying to find a way to describe what is happening, but the words aren’t coming out right and I haven’t blogged in over a month, so I will just say it. My husband and I separated and are headed for divorce. We got together at age 16 and 17, were together for a dozen years, married for 6. Now it’s plainly over and my thoughts could best be described as “I love you, but you cannot come back.” I have been sad, so sad the word sad seems far too small and pitiful to use and the word heartbreak too big and melodramatic. The thoughts going through my head about love and loss are horrible, like second-rate country songs, concepts as cliche as if F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote them. This is new for me and I’ve gotta say I don’t like it.
I wrote him a love letter and it was ignored, my words never seeming to be of as much value to him as my cooking anyway. So I will share my love letter here, since I took the time to write it, and maybe then it will mean something to somebody.
I thought about all the notes we wrote each other as high school kids and the emails we sent each other when I was in college. I thought about the first time we did lots of stuff. We had lots of firsts. I thought about seeing you yesterday. You still had those pretty eyes I’ve always felt were so attractive but the rest of your face looked slightly changed. It has for some time. I guess it’s because when you see someone’s face through the eyes of them being your beloved its different, it has this glow to it, not just familiarity. You have been my husband, my life partner, but not my beloved all that much in recent years. We fought a lot. We were not a good partnership. There’s been moments, little glimpses, and some intense times that blend together into beloved-ness, but truth is that you were often my enemy. You were a person I felt pitted against, someone cluelessly standing in the way of happiness because you were trying to follow a formula, a map given to you, and you did not see what it looked like. I often felt that you were colorblind, like a gray stone wall that popped all the swirling soap bubbles that blew your way. Honestly some of the best memories I have of you in recent times were as my provider. You bought me things and I could see your love there. But as much as I appreciated it, as much as I knew it signaled that I mattered, it signaled under half of what I felt you should be signaling, sometimes a quarter, sometimes even less.
I dreamed of being grabbed and carried to bed, having my clothes pulled off of me, tongue shoved down my throat, body grabbed hard (but not too hard) and touched all over. That to me was romantic love. Instead I often got looks of disdain, withdrawal, anxiety. I was mean to you, lots of times, so many times, started plenty fights but it was because you were hurting me by not showing me that sort of love. I know it didn’t make you want me more (I don’t believe you can really make someone want you more, although you can certainly make them want you less) but most of it was out of brokenheartenedness, aloneness, abandonment, frustration.
You said “how can someone who loves me say such things?” In truth it’s if I did not love you, if you did not matter so much, that I wouldn’t have said any of those things. It was the opposite of what you thought. I’m not saying it’s ok (it wasn’t) but the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s apathy. I have never felt apathy towards you. It is one of my worst fears actually. It will mean that it is gone, the specialness between us is gone, and you have become a stranger. I was fighting you, but I was fighting you to try and have you. Your coldness, the way you shut me out, it might have been a coping mechanism or it might have been because you didn’t love me the same way at all, (I asked myself that question all the time) but it hurt because it felt like apathy and I’d have much rathered anger to apathy. It’s why I riled you up so often. I wanted to see that I mattered. Apparently that was detrimental, but to be fair so was love that looked like apathy.
For a while I developed eyes for another, as you know, feelings for another, desire and hope and consideration and longing for another. You felt it was the biggest insult and hurt, but really it was just human, a normal response to feeling unloved, to feeling like I did not have someone occupying that space as my beloved. The heart seeks out another beloved at times like that, when you aren’t intending to. You and I fought too much, didn’t go anywhere new enough, didn’t have as many shared interests as it used to seem that we did when we were kids and thought that liking the same music and food and kissing style was everything we needed. Maybe it was everything we needed and we just lost touch. I don’t know. I don’t have the answers.
What I do know is that I could be with another man, have someone else, maybe make a life with them, but I’ve never had the same spark with any other human being as I’ve had with you. I think what we had was special. Maybe we destroyed it by foolishness, maybe it was bound to end, maybe we carried it on too long, too far past it’s expiration date, lived with the spoiled and rotting remains of our relationship because we could not bear to throw it out. Maybe it’s a fire, mostly ashes, that can be allowed to burn out or revived with the right amount of kindling and wind. I don’t know what the narrative is. There are several that could be told. In all honesty I think it’s got a lot to do with the one we choose to tell, not the “true” one.
You have told the story time and again where you are the victim of my dorm room cruelty, your reactions and responses coming from a place of innocence and pain. I think that is a true story but only a piece of the truth. Those facts and the constant retelling of them, with other aspects left out, has been detrimental, but you already know that, or at least know that I think that, that I think we have to let the past go in order to have a future. I have asked for forgiveness and thought that I had gotten it, only to have the story surface again. I don’t know why you don’t let it go, instead want to let me go, but in truth who am I to change your narrative? If you want it, if it serves you somehow, keep it. Keep it as long as you want. Just know that I have a different outlook. Different facets of the past, the present, and the future pop out at me. Different scenarios, happenings, and possibilities.
Anyway, it hurt to see that someone who was my friend (if not a close friend) was moving in on you and you were moving in on her, both in an awkward, slightly nerdy, reserved sort of way where every small word meant something. I saw it at the barbecue and it would have been cute to see if it wasn’t still sort of raw for me, if I didn’t feel like you were still sort of mine. Maybe it is a love more like hers that you’d be comfortable with. Maybe my love was a giant wave swamping you, engulfing you, and you need stiller waters instead. Maybe she has the safe kind of love you need. Maybe she doesn’t. I would say that that’s for you to decide but actually it isn’t. It’s between you two to decide, but I admit I don’t like that thought.
Yesterday, after you left, and I was packing a few remaining things, I thought of you together. It gave me a headache. I went to look for the ibuprofen. I found condoms in the drawer. It made my stomach lurch. I didn’t know why they were there and I also knew it was none of my business. Really, even when we were together, your innermost thoughts on sex were often none of my business. You kept them that way. To think of that hurt, like how it usually does.
I thought about her. I hoped she felt guilty about it. Figured that if she didn’t then she wouldn’t be the type of person you’d want – the girl who befriends the couple living below her, hugs the sad wife crying on her porch, serves as a shoulder to cry on, then moves in on the husband when the husband and wife agree to take some space. It doesn’t seem very nice, not very much in line with the value system you’ve painted her as having, with the one I thought she had either. Then again, all’s fair in love and war. You know that already. So do I. Maybe she does too.
Our love often was a war. I threw grenades, a bag of bombs, molotov cocktails, rocks, hot tar, sometimes even chemical weapons. Once a nuclear bomb. You besieged me, starved me, tried to cut me off at the knees, wait me out. There were casualties on both sides. Neither one of us had much of a fighting force left. Neither one of us knew how to call a truce.
Still, the other night when we were on the phone and I said that if there is a 5% chance then we should try it, give that 5% chance our all, that was me showing love. I couldn’t understand why you were so sure you didn’t want to try, didn’t want to go there, wanted to move on to what seemed like nothing to me. Especially after the loving things you said last week, which got my hopes up. I have no words for the dismissive email you sent day before yesterday, then the request for divorce, delivered by text message.
I then realized that it wasn’t a space filled with nothing that you were going towards, with visions of no one, like you had said. It was a space filled with thoughts of her. I had seen it coming but I was surprised you thought of her like that, really, as in my eyes she was almost invisible, kind of skinny and homely-plain when it came down to it. A body and bone structure that was the opposite of me – a lack of my defined chin and round face, none of my curves, my coloring, all things you once said you found most sexy in the world. A mild-mannered temperament – the opposite of my “fire” which you swore you loved but I have to admit I suspected you actually hated. Then again I’m sure you were surprised when I fell for someone else, thought “Am I not better looking? Am I not more your type? Am I not more desirable?” The truth is that yes, you were. You always were my type, more my type than any other man I’d ever met. But you’d besieged me, starved me out, and somehow after that another became appealing. Maybe it’s the same with you. In fact I imagine it is.
So I have accepted the fact is that another is appealing to you right now and I realize there is nothing I can do about that. It is what it is. Part of me wants to say “that’s ok, I’m not jealous.” Part of me finds it weird and odd and asks “really, how is this happening?” Part of me understands, part of me doesn’t, and part of me wants to try stupid things to put a stop to it so you can love me again, have eyes for me again. I realize it’s best to not go there, to instead just be myself, be true to myself, and to be towards you (or not) the way that I feel led by my gut feeling to be. Maybe I am not for you. Maybe you could love me again. Maybe if it wasn’t her it’d be another.
I think the truth of what we come down to is that we don’t know. We took this separation so that we would know. So go know. Go hold the hand of someone else and see if you feel sparks beyond the exhilaration of it being the hand of someone new. See if their touch elicits something more than infatuation (it always feels like more than infatuation, though, doesn’t it – but is it really?). It will take time to decide. It will be awesome at first. It may or may not be as it seems underneath that sugary outside coating though. Plenty love songs are written about that, after all. Being with someone new and finding yourself pining for the old, sometimes even more so because they’ve moved on too and you can’t get it back. So my advice (not that you’ve asked me for it, but hey, that’s never stopped me before) is don’t make any drastic decisions meantime (I told you I’m only ever marrying you once, remember?) but see if something else is better, if its more your style. At first it will seem like it is. But things are not always as they seem, as I figured out, as you know. Sometimes love doesn’t in fact look like the love you want. Sometimes it doesn’t look like love at all. Sometimes love is not reciprocated. Sometimes what you thought was in fact love turns out to be a grotesque reflection of something else. Even if it is love, any new love will not be as deep as what we had (we had so many years to grow deep roots) and its shallowness will surprise you because you’ve gotten accustomed to that, because you took it for granted, assumed it’d be there with another. You might not like this tree we planted together but cutting it down and growing another in its place means you’ll have to start with a sapling, all over again. Ask me how I know, but then again you know how I know. Maybe you didn’t know how much it made me miss you, but I will tell you that it made me miss you.
I thought I had no other choice but to move on, find another, one more my style, a better fit, and maybe that’s true, I do, but I’ve been thinking more on it lately and I’m not as sure. Maybe the purpose of marriage is not that your partner is the one you love because you did a good job and chose one that is lovable all the time, but rather that you love all the time because they’re the one you chose. Maybe it’s more that you choose and stick with that choice and do not waver. It sounds good, except that humans waver. It’s what we do. We want to know if the grass is greener, if its less hard to connect or build over there, if someone else’s shit doesn’t stink as much. Sometimes this curiosity pays off in a better arrangement, a better place. The human migrates, decides to stay. Other times, and I think this is more often, it is that it’s just different. An unfamiliar terrain, an unfamiliar landscape, but the same human problems laid out on the ground. It’s a bit like moving from New Orleans to Boston.
Anyway, these are my thoughts. You know I still love you enough to share my thoughts with you. It might be weird but it is love. You have a woman here who has made mistakes but who loves you. Truly. Deeply. It is real. Your love and attention might be for another right now, might be for another forever. Mine was directed elsewhere for a time, so I know how that is. Both of us might go on to find others who are better suited (whatever that means) to the lifestyles we want. Or maybe we will find our way back to each other. I’m not sure. It’s open season, anything goes. Except, and this is true – I do not want you to go.
Thinking about this is scary. It hurts. The thought of getting to a point where I never make love to you again, never lie in bed and share my secrets with you again, never hear your silly jokes or sit at a table after making eggs, grits, and sausage in the morning (planning whatever it is we’re probably not going to go do anyway), well it hurts. I still want to go to Niagara Falls with you. I still want to go to New York. Maybe they’re pipe dreams and maybe they’re real dreams. I don’t know. I just knew I had to write you this letter. I had to let you know.
I’m not intending to stop you. See if you want to start over elsewhere. Really see if you do. But don’t go for a divorce just yet. Don’t feel pressured to do it by another person or by your sense of decorum. Take some time. You might feel like how I did after I tried to move on. You might instead once again feel like I’m your Heather, despite all the bullshit, like I felt like you were my _____ despite all the bullshit. I don’t know. I’m just saying its a more distinct possibility than I figure you might be seeing it as right now.
So my advice is to explore what love is, isolate the variables, have something to compare it to, but don’t crumple up and throw ours away just yet. Take things slowly. It might seem special to you once more. That 5% chance, which I felt before too, might widen back up to 20% or 30% before you even know it. It might not, but then again it happened to me, and if we still have a wavelength (we might) and if we still have a pattern (we might) it means things hit you about 3-9 months after they hit me. So please know that I love you and proceed with that in mind.
(Forever and always)
He said no, that he was 100% sure he was 100% done, that he wants to file for divorce this week but agrees to wait two months. And that, dear readers, is where I am right now, using up a lot of tissues and listening to Fiona Apple’s “Never is A Promise” on repeat.