Red Flags and Fairytales

IMG_4890May 1st marked a year since I got a divorce. It will be a year on May 31st that it was finalized.

I have tried to tell this story over and over during that year. At one time it was going to be told through a graphic novel format. Because to put going through a divorce into words was tough. I thought illustrating those emotions would be easier. I have numerous drafts of this story. I’ve pieced it together and printed it out, and then went over it with a red ink pen.

But I guess what I really needed was the distance because this story—my story—has changed again and again.

So here it is, straight and to the point.

Like I said, it’s been a year. I can’t believe it’s already been a year. At the same time, though, I’m asking, “It’s only been a year?” My life has changed drastically in a year. I’ve done a complete 180, slowly turning degree by degree every day. Even when I felt stuck and deep in grief. When I was covered and weighed down with regret and painful memories that I felt as if I couldn’t breathe.

I have met and befriended so many wonderful people in this last year. I have also met people that didn’t turn out to be so wonderful but still taught me exactly what I needed at the time. 

I will say this, my marriage was not a failure. Ten years with that person allowed me to become the person that I am today.

It didn’t work out because, honestly, we were two broken children. Two flawed humans. We treated one another like shit. We played games. We went back and forth with blame. We both had toxic baggage we didn’t even know we were carrying.

My marriage was another byproduct of my childhood. He fed into my codependency and I fed into his narcissism. I went into that relationship torn, tattered, and bruised already. I never witnessed a healthy relationship and never knew of unconditional love, I was ill-equipped for that kind of commitment. We were married at 22 and looking back, that is really fucking young to get married.

Added to that, we were both emotionally stunted because we had similar parenting. We sought one another out. A toxic person will search out another toxic person. No one healthy and stable will date let alone marry someone who is toxic. For many years, I was led to believe (by him, my mother, and myself) that I was a terrible monster that destroyed this poor sweet, innocent boy. But he wore a mask and he wore it well.

There were some happy moments. But mostly that relationship was full of fighting and heartache and more ups and downs than any rollercoaster. What we experienced in 10 years, many experienced in 30. We dealt with mental illness, chronic illness, near death, hospitalization, and infidelity. Needless to say, it was exhausting.

But what made it finally end was that I wanted to change. I wanted a better life. I was tired of settling, of waiting, of going around and around in circles.

I wanted to be happy.

And I couldn’t be with someone that refused to take responsibility and didn’t want more out of life. I didn’t like being blamed for everything (even his infidelity). I had to get out and move on.

Losing a loved one, regardless of how means A LOT of grieving. I had to grieve the life we had together and the life we planned on having. I grieved for dreams and wishes going unfulfilled. I grieved for the little things I thought we had and for what we were going to build together. I even grieved for those five Braden babies that will go unborn

I had to mourn. I had to let go. Some days I really thought the grief would kill me.w

Despite the toxicity and pain, I did love him in some way. And I still hope that he loved me in some way back. There are still days that I miss him terribly. There are nights that I can still feel him next to me and my body aches to feel his warmth. He knows my deepest, darkest secrets and I know his. He was my best friend for a number of years. But he also broke me in ways I didn’t think I could be.

A year out, I am so grateful that I was shattered so utterly and completely because at last, my God, at last, every part of me could be exposed to the light. I could finally uncover core issues and come to terms with things from my past. I threw off burdens, responsibilities, shame, and problems that were never mine and should have NEVER been mine in the first place. I could finally take responsibility for what really was my doing and grow up.

I pray that he has found or finds himself, that he finds peace and contentment. I really do hope he’s happy. Wherever he is, whatever he is doing.

Regardless, I have chosen happiness. For 31 years I never thought I had a choice or that I was even allowed to be anything but someone else’s burden/caretaker. But thank God, I know better now. Amid the rumble I found me. I found wonderful, worthy, beautiful me. I have rebuilt (and I’m still rebuilding). I am free.


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