Julia's latest post has me feeling quite retrospective. It chronicles her first marriage, the broken road that led to and away from it, and the regret she carries around because of it. I've made a lot of effort not to talk about my life between July 09 and now. The story is shameful, first, and when Mark and I were trying to make it work again, talking about it was out of the question.
I'm going to skip most of the back story, except to say that deep down, I think Mark and I both knew that we were destined to fail as a couple. In the beginning, I was in love with him, but it faded quickly as the fog of the new relationship lifted. By that time, I lived in Houston with him, 1300 miles from everyone and everything I knew. I felt like everyone was just waiting for us to fail, so I, in my late teens and early twenties, HAD to stay and make it work to prove everyone wrong... So I did.
I moved to Houston in May 2002. By 2005, Mark had developed a wicked awful anxiety disorder and my feelings of obligation only grew stronger. He needed me, and I needed to be needed. In October of that year, we moved back to West Virginia because of the anxiety. Things started to seem more normal and I assumed that this dull ache was a normal part of a relationship. We decided to get married. Mark didn't propose, there was no big announcement. It was more like, "I guess we should go ahead and do this. How does June sound to you?" And so we did. We were going through the motions, trying to find our normal. Then infertility happened, then the boys came. Between the already busted marriage and the stress of foster care and Sport's needs, I had nothing left.
I will never say that what I did was right. I am still ashamed and filled with regret over leaving. But we had to part ways. Yes, there was a better way. Yes, I completely blew everyone's mind when I left. Half my family thought I had a drug problem because they saw it as sudden. In my heart, I knew it had been coming for years. By the time I reached my breaking point, I just didn't see a way to move forward without just dropping everything and running. It was horrible.
I left on July 12, 2009 - one day before my 25th birthday. By September 1, I moved in with Z. Did I love Z? Yes. Wildly. And honestly, the sex was mind-blowing. To this day, I think that was a lot of the attraction. The problem was... Z was married. Had been married for longer than I had been alive. The separation was complete, but the divorce was just NOT moving forward. I wanted to get married, have children, build a life with him... And he stayed married. We lived like this, arguing about divorce by day and having insanely unbelievable relations by night. I lived like a gypsy, traveling with him for his job. We were in hotels more than we were in our apartment. By December, I was exhausted with it all.
Mark and I were speaking again by this point, and we started talking about reconciliation. Our divorce was final, we had both seen other people (he had seen many, I had only seen one - it was all I needed). Z moved out of our apartment, and I began seeing Mark. Until Mark decided that he really didn't want this at all.
Dating was too much work. I didn't want to try to find someone who would fill the void when I knew that Z and I worked just fine (as long as I didn't ever want to get married, etc.). So Z stayed with me during the week, or I would travel with him, and most weekends, he went back to his family farm. He never completely moved back in. I was getting tired of all of it really quick. One Monday, he promised that he would contact the lawyer within the week. The weekend came, and there had been no contact made. I confronted him about it by phone, and he agreed that he came up short. The same day we had that talk, Mark called me. There had been a couple months of radio silence to that point, but he called. He asked if I would meet him for breakfast, that he was tired of pretending he didn't miss me and he wanted to make this work. I told Z with no fanfare, and went to Mark's house. And I didn't leave.
We stayed like this until July, when Mark decided once again that dating was more fun than being in a committed relationship. Once again, I moved out. This time, it was his choice - not mine. But then guess what I did....
I tracked down Z. I found him and told him that it just didn't work out here and I needed him. So there we were again. Down the same rabbit hole. (You would think that I would learn from these mistakes, right? Wrong.)
We followed the same patterns as before. One night, as we lay in bed after more... relations, I said, "THIS is what will always bring us back together. This feeling." I knew then that we were nothing more than two people who worked really well together in ONE way, but could never last forever.
In September, I met J at a bar. My aunt and I went for karaoke, and he asked to sit at our table, since the place was packed. We obliged. My aunt went home around midnight, but J and I stayed until they tossed us out. Since I was driving, I didn't drink that night. At 3am, we both went to our own places of residence. We talked for a couple weeks, and I finally agreed to a date. It was September 23. I've barely been apart from him since.
Going from a relationship that felt like obligation, to a relationship that was toxic, to a man who is both good for me and to me... It's strange. There are times that I wonder if J realizes all that I've done. If he knows the real me. I've told him everything, but I still wonder how in the world he still loves me. My self worth has most definitely suffered.
Just before Thanksgiving, I got word that Z had a stroke. They found him at the place where we first discovered our feelings. He had 13 red roses in one hand, and an engagement ring in the other. He had gone to throw them in the lake. Though I haven't spoken with him, I know he is expected to recover - this time. I have a lot of guilt for him. I feel that his life was ducky before I came along... But he always swore he would rather have loved me and lost me than to have never known the kind of love we had. Was it real? My god it felt like it. Was it built to last? I really don't think so.
But now, here I am... Engaged to the guy from the bar, carrying his child, and finally friends with Mark. I have plenty of regrets, sure. But I finally realize just how stupid I was during that time. Imagine if all the bloggers we know would put down all their regrets on the page... Imagine just how kindred we would be then.