Not this time

A little more than 3 years ago, I left my husband after many years of marriage, because I was tired of not being loved and having to pretend that I was. He told me he loved me, but he never really did. He was never “in love” with me. He wasted 16 years of my life before he admitted the truth to me, even though I had felt it all along.

We got married because we were expecting a baby. His first wife had left him and taken his daughter, and he was afraid he would lose this child, too, if he didn’t marry me. He made it clear to me as soon as we were married that he wasn’t ready for another child. He never gave any thought to the fact that it was the first time I’d been through any of this—he’d been married, had been through a pregnancy and having a child; he knew much more about what to expect than I did. It was all new to me. I was scared, and totally unprepared to be a mother. I had only a few months to learn to be a wife before I would have to be a mother, as well. I wasn’t ready, either, but I didn’t really have a choice.

He worked all the time and rarely did anything to help me around the house, even when the pregnancy began to endanger my health. When my obstetrician started telling me to cut back on my hours at work, and to take it easy and stay off my feet at home, I continued working full-time and doing everything at the house. I had to earn as much as I could to keep paying the bills—I couldn’t afford to go on LOA at reduced pay. He spent his money on child support for his first child, and on his personal debts; I paid everything that had to do with maintaining our family. He never helped with the cooking, or laundry, or cleaning, so I had to do it all, if I wanted to eat and have clean clothes. Just before our son was born, the doctor ordered me to bed because my blood pressure was dangerously high. My mom had to come down and spend the weekend with me to make sure I was able to remain in bed or off my feet.

After the baby arrived, my husband continued to put his own needs first. As our son grew up, my husband was very attached to him, but to me? Not so much. We rarely spent any time as a couple—always as a family. As our son got older, my husband spent more and more time with our son, and less and less with me. I was unhappy, and I did my best to let him know it. He can’t claim he didn’t know. I asked him to go to counseling, but he was too busy. Nothing changed. As the years went by, he treated his son more like a “wife” than me. That’s where his emotional relationship was; it wasn’t with me.

I spent all those years being the one with the steady income and benefits. I was the primary support for the family. I supported my husband, both financially and emotionally, when he wanted to own his own business—3 different times. He lost thousands of dollars each time, and every time, nearly bankrupted us. I put away my dreams of going to college for a degree. Eventually I put away all my dreams—including my most treasured one: having a husband who loved me and truly wanted to be with me.

I became more and more unhappy. I gained weight and my health deteriorated. We argued a lot at home. In public, he liked to pretend that everything was wonderful. He was Mr. Loving Christian Husband—Mr. Family Man. When we went to church, he would hold my hand and put his arm around me, and act like everything was great. At home, he rarely showed me any affection—unless he wanted sex. And that was all it was—sex. There was no emotional connection. It was like he was performing maintenance on a car: step 1, step 2, step 3…wait for results, and…done! Snore.

I was emotionally starving. I was dying inside. I eventually realized that I was so different from who I was before, I didn’t even recognize myself. I didn’t sing, or laugh, or have fun anymore. I had always been an affectionate person, but I withdrew from physical contact with anyone but my son, my parents, and my husband during sex. I didn’t hug my friends anymore, or casually touch other people, although I always used to. I had become a person who was always alone, always serious, and always stressed. Basically, the Stacy I had always been was gone.

I quit going to church with my husband because I couldn’t keep from crying when I was there. I’m not a good liar, and I hate playing games. I began to question why God would punish me for so many years for the mistake of getting pregnant, when I had done all the “right” things—I married my son’s father, I went to church, I prayed… and I was still miserable. My son was miserable, too. I knew it had to stop. I had to get both of us out.

I finally got the nerve to tell my husband it was over; I was done. He had no interest in counseling. He never once asked me to stay. I had moved into the guest room a few weeks before, and he never asked why; never asked me to come back. He never acted as if it mattered. He never acted as if I mattered.

So I rented an apartment for my son and me. He still sometimes misses having a “normal” family, but we’ve talked a lot about it and now that he’s older, he sees that the way his father treated me wasn’t right. We didn’t give him a good marriage model to follow, but he has an excellent example of what to avoid. He understands now why I had to get us both out of there, and he knows he can always count on me. I have become strong, because I’ve had to be. I know I can handle anything God sends my way.

For a long time after my divorce, I didn’t know if I ever wanted another serious relationship or marriage again. I had to take the time to find myself again, to become someone I could recognize, and to be a person I liked and could be proud of, before I could offer myself to anyone else in a relationship. When I felt that I had finally gotten to that place; when I knew who I was and what I wanted, I felt I was ready for God to bring me someone—but our deal was that someone would have to find me. I wasn’t going to go looking for him. I wasn’t going to chase him. I was going to live my life, doing what was best for my son and me, but keeping myself open to new possibilities.

I am determined that I will not allow myself to be treated the way I was before. I will not sit idly by and be disregarded, disrespected, or taken for granted—waiting for the love and attention that I am worthy of. I can freely offer my love, my friendship, my talents, my help, my loyalty, my heart, and my passion; but I will not give them away. I will not beg like I did before. I will not try to convince someone that he should love me.

Not this time.

Whoever or wherever he is, if he is willing to love me as I deserve; if he truly wants me in his life; if he realizes how lucky he is to have me; I can promise that he will receive more in return than he has ever dreamed.

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