I talked so much but I don't think it was ever transparent. It wasn't fair to my family who struggled to identify with my hardship, and more importantly it wasn't fair to my ex-wife. I crashed and burned and crashed and fell on my face over and over and the truth is that her and I parting ways had less and less to do with the reason for it all.
Well then. Here goes nothing.
Divorce was the toughest time of my entire life, at the time. The emotional toll extracted was unparalleled for me. Acknowledging and accepting that life as it had been would be no longer, at the time, I thought would spell the end of me. My role as a father would permanently change. I'd become a fraction of the man I'd imagined being in my daughter's life. Coming to terms with a shift in ideals was the hardest. I struggled on a daily basis to see my way through it all. It wasn't a straight line by any means. I clung to to the self-made notion that the pieces of a broken life could somehow fit together, though it wasn't so. I doubted myself, and walked a tightrope of indecision for some time before finding the courage to achieve closure.
It was during this period when I invited the darkest of days. It had little to nothing to do with the end of my marriage, and everything to do with the relationship that followed. I don't think I was ever honest with myself about the source of so much psychological erosion. I escaped reality by remaining saturated in a self-loathing, regretful state and equipped myself with ill-fit coping mechanisms like good whiskey and an unending stream of aimless apology.
Never waste good whiskey on depression.
Truth is, I never even stopped to consider why I was apologizing and what for. Divorce is not linear. It's full of tumultuous ups and downs and struggle and strife and indecision and I had my fair share of it all. I found myself hanging my head in shame and regret, accounting to someone for what was the most human way of handling things that I know. While separated from my then spouse, I began a committed relationship with a partner with no experience in either divorce or raising a child. Understanding is only skin deep without relatability. The notion of real empathy was a guise. I remember realizing and accepting that to atone for what I felt like were my wrongdoings in the earliest months of my separation - my frequent indecision and inability to simply 'get through it' - would require years of enduring passive aggressive references and a lack of faith in me. I would be questioned for my loyalty and commitment, doubted for my explanation for how I progressed with my divorce (there's no instruction manual, if you're looking for one), and reminded on a daily basis of my failures. I saw all of that as a means to an end. I would prove myself by embracing those criticisms and shoulder it like a man who wants to do right. That was my mantra and justification for dangerously unhealthy behavior.
"The more you suffer, the more it shows you really care."
An Offspring song, of all sources of inspiration. Every brief moment of courage I may have mustered to voice my feelings about the constant references to the end of my marriage were met with increasing hostility. In turn, I only decided to work harder to do right.
Meanwhile behind the curtain, an entirely different narrative evolved. Truth is, I don't think hardly anyone is truly blindsided by unfaithfulness. They may tell you so, but it is only by willful ignorance of countless foreshadows that they survive day to day with a sense of normality. The writing is almost always on the wall. My concerns were only met with more gaslighting. The purest form of it, in fact. I spoke of things I thought I'd seen or noticed, and was made to feel responsible for my own doubt and insecurity. It must have been my own conscience painting images that kept me up at night.
I ended up in this strange dimension where even the air in my own home, smelled as if it were expelled from a stranger's lungs, and was my duty as a committed partner to inhale it in silence. The most emasculating experience was to subdue my most basic instincts to protect myself and willingly stand before the flames, over and over again.
This is probably the most personal I've ever spoken about a lot of stuff. I don't share it as some kind of diary entry, or for random entertainment. I also don't share it to draw attention to any individual who was ever involved. In fact, their actual identity isn't even relevant. People on both sides of the fence will end up in your back yard at all stages of life; those who'll give and those who'll take. Experience and humility light the way through the dust and smoke. If I'd stopped at any point and considered that maybe I was wrong, and stepped back to look at the direction my life was headed, I'd have surely spared myself from a great deal of emotional damage. But still, nothing is without purpose, and I am able to at least see the world through grateful eyes.
I share it because I find it liberating. But also because of how powerful people's stories are to me, who've walked a similar path. I read about dangerous relationships and the warning signs within them, and the parallels often hit me so hard in the face they leave me in tears. I am flooded with frustration and anger in those moments, that I could have allowed myself to end up in a similar situation. So, I'll write a post like this in hopes that maybe someone afraid to admit just how down and out they really are, might be able to face the fact that it's time to do something about it.