I remember the day well. It was the last Thursday in January. I was excited. I had to give a presentation at work. I was nervous, there were a lot of big shots coming to the meeting. It wasn’t the first time I hosted the meeting, but it was the first time since I was promoted to being the supervisor. Shockingly, it went really well, I was ecstatic. All I could think about was getting home to let Ashley know how well it went. I was so excited to tell her.
The night before seemed to be a normal night. Ashley worked on her homework on my desktop in the dining room. She usually used the desktop over the laptop when she had to write papers. I think it was easier to sit and write there versus using the little laptop she had. She called me over after a little while. I usually helped her edit here papers. I was the better writer, so I wouldn’t just edit for grammar, but rather would do some extensive editing to make things flow better. Honestly, she wasn’t a good write, I always felt like I was nearly rewriting all of her work. She also used me to make them longer. I had a way of making statements more long winded when needed. I could take a three page paper and make it five, without adding any real substance.
I don’t remember what the paper was about, but I remember combing through it and doing my thing. It all seemed so normal. Afterwards, she had a small assignment to get done, but it was getting late. I told her I was going to bed. I kissed her and went into the bedroom to go to sleep. The next morning I got up like normal while she slept. I always got up earlier than her. I had an hour long commute into the city.
I always hated the drive home. It was 15 minutes longer than the drive in due to the afternoon traffic. It didn’t help that today I was excited to tell Ashley how well the meeting went. I got home and pulled into the garage. I walked to the from door and promptly went into the house. On the interior french door I saw something. As I got closer I saw it was a note. I didn’t think much of it at first. Ashley left me a lot a notes on the door. Usually they were a sweet saying, or just a note to let me know she loved me.
I pulled the note off of the door and started reading. I could feel my heart dropping as I read it and at the same time it was somewhat surreal. I remember not fully grasping the gravity of the situation. Instead of comprehending the note in its entirety, I criticized the misspellings in my head. How could this be? This note is saying that she loves me, but she needs to be away from me? She’s telling me she’s unhappy and needs space? Where did this come from? Who is this person? Why did I have no clue this was coming.
After I read the note, I sat there for a few minutes and tried to digest it all. I had just married this person eight months earlier and was happier than ever. I had absolutely no idea she as unhappy. How in the hell did she hide is so well from me? Seriously, we’d been married a mere eight months, where the fuck did this come from? She had to feel this way before marrying. Why did she marry me? Was she trying to fix problems with marriage? Was she really that dumb? You can’t fix problems with marriage! But, I was certain there was hope. I thought, “Ok, she’s having a small panic attack as life keeps moving so quickly. No big deal, it happens to everyone.”
As I walked further into house, Maggie, my dog greeted me. But it was odd, Butch, Ashley’s dog was gone. She had taken her three cats as well. A suitcase was missing along with several things from her closet. She’d even packed up an aquarium. This wasn’t a spur of the moment decision, it was planned. I still couldn’t accept it all.
I called her about 20 minutes later, after I digested the note some more. She answered promptly like she was expecting my call. She asked me how I was doing. I calmly told her I’d been better. Like an idiot, I asked her right away when she was coming home. She told me bluntly that she didn’t know when and she had a tone of voice that she wanted me to be angry. I really do believe that, she wanted me to be more angry than I was. She wanted the excuse. “See, I had to get out of there, he’s so angry!” She told me she just needed some time to think and regroup. I continued to be calm and polite. Telling her to do whatever she needed. Telling her I loved her and would do whatever she needed me to do. I asked her when I could come talk to her in person and try to sort out whatever was going on. We agreed to meet on Saturday night after she got off of work.
I met her in the parking lot of the store that she worked at that Saturday night. It was dark outside, but relatively warm for late January evening. She wanted to meet there so we would have more privacy. She was staying at her parents house and we couldn’t meet at that little crackerbox house if we wanted any privacy and clearly we couldn’t talk too openly in any restaurant. I arrived there before she got off. I sat in the parking lot, unsure of what to expect. I really had no idea. I’ve definitely never been through anything like that before.
I saw her walk out the door after the store closed. I was already out of my car, leaning on the passenger door. She shot me a nervous smile that I’m sure I shot right back at her, but I don’t really remember. She gave me an apprehensive hug that felt more like an obligation that something done out of love. We got into her car and drove to the next parking lot over to talk (we didn’t want her coworkers to both us as they trickled out of the store).
I don’t know if it was lack of communication on her part, or if it was just too unexpected, but I still didn’t understand how serious this was. I had thought up until that point that she freaked out and just needed a couple of days. She couldn’t stay away too much longer. Hell, she’d probably go home with me tonight.
I really don’t even remember much about the conversation. I just remember thinking that we working through the issues she had with the relationship. They were new to me, but I could tell she needed me to make some changes. No bid deal, I could make a few minor changes to make my wife happy. Then, after a half hour or so of discussion, she said something that I can’t forget. She said something that made me realize that things were rapidly falling apart. She said something that I now realize was the moment my life changed. It was a simple statement, but was it ever powerful. “There’s no hope for us.”
I was floored, shocked like never before. There’s no hope for us? What? Seriously, what was she talking about? I couldn’t stop reiterating in my mind, “we just got married eight months ago, where is this coming from.” In fact, I’m pretty sure I said that to her. I downplayed the statement, both to her and to myself. It as too much to take in and digest. I loved this women more than anything in the world. I wasn’t ready for any of this. Just three days earlier I was in what I thought was a happy marriage. I really believed that.
She didn’t ask for a divorce or anything that night. I mean, she dropped hints about that, but I don’t think the word was mentioned. I certainly wasn’t ready to entertain that idea yet. This was all still too new to me. As I left, I think I was finally realizing that this was serious. My marriage was in real jeopardy and on the brink of disaster. I really didn’t know how it got to this, but the world I had created was unraveling, and fast.
After our rendezvous, I did what most men do, I started developing my plan on how to fix things. I’ve always heard men are fixers, it’s definitely true for me. I spent the next couple of days looking up therapists. I had a whole list of them. Most of them in a her hometown, but a few in the city as well. I wanted her to be able to choose who we went to. If she preferred a woman counselor, or one that was close to where she was staying, I wanted her to have those options. I didn’t want to pick one, only to have her hold that against me because she had no input into it.
The following Monday I emailed her the list I had compiled, and told her I wanted to get into counseling as soon as possible. She agreed to go with me. I was encouraged by that. We chose a counselor that was between us, distance wise. The therapist got us in quickly, that following Wednesday. He was a middle aged gentleman and his office was in kind of a scummy part of town. It was a small old building with wood paneling on all of the walls. I recall a receptionist desk, but don’t think anyone was ever sitting at it.
Logically, I could always recognize how serious the entire situation was, but in the back of my mind I wasn’t fully accepting it. It was happening too soon, too fast. None of this was ever supposed to happen to me anyways, I wasn’t the kind of guy that got divorced. I was too traditional, too loyal, hell,
I was too damn stubborn. (Yes, I realize that these are traits that might not have always helped the situation.) This is something that happens to other people, not me!
As we started our first therapy session, the counselor sat us on two separate, old, harvest gold, matching couches. With the couches and the wood paneling, it was like a scene straight out of the 70’s. I kind of liked it, it was very homey, in an old fashioned way. He immediately recognized how dire our predicament was, more so than I did. Being a neutral third party, he got us communicating in a way we never had before. It was honest, especially on her part. I was usually honest, sometimes almost too honest. What I was quickly learning is that she wasn’t always honest with me. In fact, she usually wasn’t honest with me. I was shocked, but she usually just told me what I wanted to hear, no matter what she actually felt. Maybe I such at perception, but until this all started, I had no idea.
The therapy went well. It really did. It gave me a lot of hope. I was excited, I liked that we were making our communication process better. I liked the openness and honesty. Even when I didn’t like what was being said, I liked that it was the truth. I liked that it was out in the open, expressed clearly. I was learning of all sorts of issues in our relationship that I was ignorant about. I know I’m partially to blame for being so oblivious and I’m willing to accept that as one of my flaws. I was actually proud of myself in therapy. I was willing to make changes, I wanted to make changes. A weeks earlier I would have been much more hesitant to the idea of changing anything. I was proud, I was making progress. Both in my relationship with my wife and as a person overall.
There were negatives about the therapy as well. I think it was the first time she actually mentioned the words divorce. That was stunning, but at least it was said. We weren’t tip-toeing around the words anymore. She also brought up my anger issues. I can’t deny it, I’ve always had anger issues. She knew that going in. I’m not excusing them with that statement, but reaffirming that it was a known character trait long before we ever decided to get married.
She also brought up the time that I slapped her. I did that. I’m still overwhelmed with shame. I have a hard time admitting it to myself. I don’t know if I want to share too many details of the moment. But, I will say that I was frustrated and I slapped her like they do in the movies to bring someone back to reality. I immediately knew what I had done. I’ve never been so disgusted with myself. It never happened before and it’s never happened since, with any woman or person. I went to anger management therapy over it, my idea, voluntarily. But I do want to reiterate, that as awful and inexcusable as it was, I did not physically hurt her. I didn’t hit her, I slapped her. It definitely crossed a line that I’ve never crossed before or since, but the pain was emotional. The pain wasn’t the slap itself, but that I would do it. It took us a long time to work through that when it happened. I’m still kind of surprised we did. Between her disgust with me and the revulsion I had with myself, I don’t know how we worked past it, but we did. Or maybe we didn’t? We agreed to continue counseling every Wednesday for the foreseeable future.
Afterwards, Ashley and I went out to eat. She informed me that she was becoming a vegan. It bothered me. I was a hunter, I not only ate meat, but was willing to kill it myself. It was a test. I think she thought I would fail and it would increase the distance between us. But, at lease after our therapy session, I was ready for it. It’s part of the changes I had to be willing to make. I had to accept this. And, completely uncharacteristic for me, I didn’t complain. I told her I supported her decision. The truth is, she was my wife and I was willing to do whatever it took to make things work. Part of me liked it, not the vegan part, but the part that was standing firm, developing a unique style, and being opinionated. I had always thought that she needed to be more steadfast about things.
I called her everyday when I got home from work. The conversations were mostly about shallow and superficial things. It seems we were saving most of deep conversation for when we had a neutral third party to help us arbitrate things. We had another therapy session or two and things were looking up. At least I thought so. We were working through issues. I was determined to make changes. I know the therapist believed me. He implied several times that she didn’t seem to be willing to compromise. He never flat out said it, but is came across several times. I didn’t realize the weight of those implications at the time, but looking back things are much more clear.
We made our first plans to see each other outside of therapy. Valentines day was on a weekday, so we decided that we would get together the following Saturday to celebrate . . . and to discuss our situation. I was excited. It was the first time she was coming home since she left the note on the door. I thought it was a good sign. I was also excited, she was bringing Butch with her. He might have been her dog, but I missed him, Maggie did too.
I actually wrote her a song and recorded it. It was (and still is) the best love song I’ve ever written. I actually sang it well too, not my usual flat notes and key deficient style. I thought it would be a great Valentines day present. I also planned us a romantic dinner. I put away the big table in the dining room and set up a much smaller table for a more intimate atmosphere. I put candles on the table along with a single rose in the vase that the first flowers I ever gave her came in. I blacked out the dining room windows to add more romance. I made her favorite meal, fajitas. I even made them with black beans instead of meat since she had just gone vegan. I also did homemade chocolate dipped strawberries. I really went all out.
I got her another gift as well. Well, I already had it, I was going to give it to her for our first anniversary, but decided it might be time to pull out all the stops. It was a necklace I had actually bought on our honeymoon. It was a skeleton key necklace. A little more backstory: Her (deceased) sister was a big fan of the movie the Secret Garden. Because of that Ashley had a love and admiration of skeleton keys. They reminded her of her sister. It was incredibly sentimental. It might have been the best gift I had ever gotten her. So much emotion could be invoked from that one gift.
Ashley got there that afternoon and knocked. That was so awkward. She knocked on the door to the our home, the home we shared. Butch came running through the door as I opened it, he was so happy, he was home. Maggie was there, I was there. You could tell he was overwhelmed with joy. Ashley followed. When she saw the dining room, set up to perfection, she asked why it set up that way. It was another heartbreaking moment. She had forgotten that we were going to celebrate Valentines that day. She thought the visit was just to talk through more of our issues. I wondered how she could forget. It was so important to me and I spent so much time preparing. How could the first Valentines day of our marriage not be important to her? I wonder if subconsciously that that was the moment I really knew it was over. I still don’t think it was, I had some pretty strong denial going on.
I didn’t dwell on my disappointment and anger. I let it go. We had a nice dinner. She really like the black bean fajitas. We talked about things, we actually laughed some. It actually turned into a good, time. It gave me hope. It let me forget about the bitter disappointment I had just had earlier that day. When she left to go back to her parents house, I was actually in a good mood. Could we actually be close to getting things resolved? Things actually seemed positive, at least until I got the phone call.
I hadn’t told anyone, not a soul, about what was going on with Ashley. My introverted side said it wasn’t any of there business. My insecure side felt it was embarrassing. I was trying to work through it all myself. Since I didn’t quite understand it myself, how could I explain what was happening to anyone else? My parents, friends, other family, and co-workers didn’t need to know. And I damn sure wasn’t going to tell them. Ashley had told everyone in her life. She had a support network of friends and family that I didn’t have. It was my own doing, but as soon as I told someone, then it would be real. I’m not sure I was ready to accept that.
Ashley had also turned her parents against me. Before all of this, I had gotten along with both of them quite well. But, like everything else in my life, that had changed. I knew that her parents would always choose her over me, as they should, she’s there daughter. But, I kept thinking that at some point one or both of them would tell her to go home and work things out with her husband. They were fairly traditional and had worked through quite a bit themselves. Because of all the things they had worked through, I though maybe they could be an ally, that they could tell her that you need to resolve things. That there is no way things could change that drastically in eight months.
After our “Valentine’s” dinner I learned that I would not have an ally in her parents. About 15 minutes after Ashley left, I got a phone call from my parents. They asked me if I had anything to tell them. Not knowing why they had called I said “no.” They quickly informed me that they had just received a call from Bob and Laura (Ashley’s parent) and knew that she wasn’t living there anymore. Even though I was reluctant to discuss anything, they were supportive and told me they were there for me.
Then came the real bombshell. My parents informed me that I could tell them if I had ever been abusive. Apparently, Ashley had told her parents about the slap that had happened years earlier. But not only that, she told them that she was scared of me. She told them that I had violent outbursts. What she didn’t tell them about the slap was that I didn’t cause her any physical harm with it. She didn’t tell them how long ago it had happened. She also didn’t tell them that it she had been with me longer after it had happened than before. Look, I have an intense amount of shame about slapping her, but I had spent an immense amount of time and energy to ensure to her that I was not a physical threat to her, that I ha made mistake once, and that I was bound and determined to never let it happen again. I also, didn’t have the violent outbursts that she had described.
I’m certain that she didn’t tell her parents these things so that they might know the truth. She told them to manipulate them. She knew that they have a traditional side. She knew that if she had only told them the truth that they would tell her that she needed to spend more energy trying to work it out. That she made a vow for better or worse and that she needed to at least try to uphold those vows. But she knew that if she stated or implied a fear of me, that they would have no choice but to shun me quickly. I had always known that she had a manipulative side. I had seen her use it a few times. Ironically, mostly against her parents. But, up until that point, she had never used it against me.
I called Ashley as soon as I got off the phone with my parents. I told her that her parents had called mine and informed them of the situation. She was was irate. She kept reiterating that she was angry that her parents had called mine because it was my place to tell my parents what was going on, not her parents place (which is true). She told me that her parents had twisted her words. She told me that isn’t what she told them. And, at the time, I believed her. Her parents, especially her mother, but to some degree her father as well, were drama queens who weren’t above twisting facts to conform to the narrative that they wanted portrayed. I know exactly where Ashley got her manipulative side. I know better now, she played me and she played her parents.
As the week went on I was growing impatient. My wife had been gone for almost a month and it was getting disparaging. I wasn’t really sure anymore if the therapy was helping to fix things or just leave us in limbo forever. And so far, we were only discussing the issues she had with me. Not any of the things that frustrated me about her. Right or wrong, I was starting develop a shit or get off the pot attitude. I finally sat down and wrote her a letter. The letter voiced any and all concerns I had with her and our marriage. The letter was blunt, it was raw, it was the unfettered truth. I knew parts of the letter would infuriate her. I knew parts would be eye opening. I think I knew I was writing my last stand. It sounds like I was being harsh, but it really was written with love. I had reached a breaking point and had to get it all out.
What I didn’t have to do was send the letter. It probably would have been better to bring up these issues during our counseling session in the following days. It would have been healthier to have that neutral third party to help put things into a better perspective. But, that’s not what I did. I sent the letter. My heart sank as I hit the send button on my email. I think deep down I knew that this would either bring us back together or end us. Words have power, and I was using that power. I used it out of truth, out of love. I used it hoping I would be saving the life I had built, saving the life that I loved.
I anxiously waited for a reply. Would she send me an email reply? Would she call me? I was at work. I hoped she would at least wait to call me when I could actually talk. Nothing happened all day long. I drove home that evening thinking that we’d have to talk that night. After I got home I sat apprehensively watching TV. Finally, it was about eight o’clock in the evening. I decided I had to call. I had to know if she had gotten my letter. I had to know what she thought of it. I had to know!
Well, those answers weren’t going to be mine that night. She didn’t answer. I was on edge the rest of the evening. I didn’t sleep well. I was uneasy on my drive in to work. We had a counseling session the next evening. I needed to talk to her. If not for my emotional sanity, for logistics sake. I needed to know if she was going to our counseling session. I drove home without any answers.
She finally called not long after I got home. I’ll never forget the tone of her voice. I knew things weren’t good. I asked her if she had gotten my letter and she quickly replied with an abbreviated “yes”. Things weren’t looking good for me, the knot in my stomach was so intense and getting worse. I asked her if she was going to come to our counseling session so we could talk about what I had said in the letter. She didn’t reply to the question and was silent for what seemed like hours but was literally just a few seconds.
“Scott, I want a divorce.”
I took the news better than expected. After she said that, I replied, “ok.” I think she was expecting a much different reaction. I think she was expecting me to be much more emotional. And maybe I would have been that emotional, but I was in shock. My entire world changed so much in just a few seconds. The only way I can think to describe it to someone who hasn’t been through it, is to relate it to death. It’s a similar feeling to someone you love dying. Except, in a way, it’s almost worse, because it’s a conscious choice from someone you love. For me, it wasn’t just someone I love, but the person I loved more than any other person in the world. That’s quite a blow to absorb. That’s why I went into a state of shock.
I stayed cordial on the phone. I didn’t say anything out of anger, I didn’t say anything hurtful or vengeful. I honestly remember being a gentleman. That’s typical for me. When the situation is dire or serious I remain my composure quite well. It’s when its unimportant that I do or say something I regret. I don’t remember how long the rest of the conversation was, but it couldn’t have been long.
After getting off of the phone, I packed a bag, grabbed the dog and headed to my parents house. I’m not usually very good at showing my emotions or talking about my personal life with my parents, as evidenced by me not telling them my wife moved out. This time though, I knew I had to tell them and it was best to do it right away. I also knew, that it was probably best not to be by myself that night. I didn’t have to talk to anyone, but I should have someone around, just to be there.
I arrived at my parents house around 7pm. I didn’t call them on the way or anything, so they were surprised to see me. I didn’t hold back. Right after I sat down I told them. They were as shocked as I was. I think they wanted to start criticizing her, probably as a natural reaction. But I put a stop to that. Even to this day, I don’t like people talking bad about her. I loved her (and in some ways still do and always will). I can talk shit about her, but it’s not anyone elses’ place.
I have some regrets about the situation and I have some regrets about the way I went about some things. In retrospect, I think it would have been more wise to give her space, that’s what she needed. I know that now. But, even if I had given her space, I don’t think it would have made a difference in the long run. I think her mind was already made up. There was nothing I could have done to change the outcome. If anything could have changed it, I needed to have done it far earlier. And either through lack of perception, her deception, or a combination of the two, I didn’t even know anything was wrong when I could have done something about it. With hindsight, I’m certain she only agreed to the marriage counseling in the first place to make it appear that she was trying to fix things. I really think it was solely an optics thing. So she could tell her friends, family, and future boyfriends that she tried everything to save it. But, she had already decided the outcome.
I do find it amazing how many things are so much more clear when you can look at it in hindsight. The worst part of it all is that it’s eroded some of my trust. I took my vows seriously and trusted her to as well. If you can’t trust the person you love the most in the this world, can anyone be trusted. The answer, of course, is yes. I don’t want to live a world without being able to trust someone. So, even if I get burned again, I’m going to continue trusting those I love.