The first was the moment I accepted the engagement ring. When I say that, people usually ask why I went through with the vows if I knew better. The answer is, I couldn't find a good enough reason not to.
I, like most females, grew up intending to get married and have children. I dreamed of wedded bliss with my high school sweetheart, but that didn't work out. There were a few other loves along the way, and then in my mid-20s I found myself building a life with my now-ex. We lived together. We had friends together. We had a dog together. We were both responsible with our money; we were good planners and dreamers.
After we'd lived together for two years, he proposed. As I sat in our home and stared at the ring, my mind was aflutter with thoughts.
Something doesn't feel quite right.
Is this what I want?
This is what I have, and it's been good enough until now.
We've already built a life together.
This is what people do. It's the next logical step.
I have security with him.
There's really no reason not to say "yes."
I said "yes," and the planning commenced. I learned quickly that I didn't want to deal with the stress, the details and the cost of a standard celebration. A destination wedding seemed to suit our preferences much better than a traditional ceremony, so we booked a trip out of state and planned to return as husband and wife.
When people asked questions, I made jokes:
"I don't need my dad to walk me down the aisle. This is a mistake I can make by myself."
"We're saving our money for the divorce."
At the time, I wasn't entirely conscious of how serious I was. I knew something wasn't right, but I did love my fiancé. I wanted to get married. The date was set, the plans were made and I was excited. But then, who wouldn't be? We were being showered with positive attention and admiration from everyone we knew.
The honeymoon ended quickly. A few months after the vows, it was painfully apparent that we weren't meeting each other's expectations. We had different ideas about the kind of roles we'd play, when we should have children and how we'd raise them. He was disappointed and I felt suffocated. Yet, we trudged on and tried to make the best of it.
One night, in the middle of a particularly dark period for us, my husband came home and suggested we separate. At first, I was angry. How could he make up his mind about something so serious without talking to me about it? I stomped out of the room, down the hall and into our office.
My husband followed me and stood in the doorway. "Isn't this what you want?" He asked. "Don't you hate me?"
What followed was the second moment that I knew my marriage was over.
There in the dim glow of a computer screen, I felt as if a light bulb turned on and a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. Who are we kidding? We aren't happy. Why should we continue to hurt ourselves by keeping up this façade?
I nodded. "I do hate you," I told him. What else could I say? It was the truth.
My brutally honest confession opened a new door for us. From that point, we were able to accept reality and let go of our marital expectations. We could finally stop trying, stop pretending and stop fighting. It was a relief.
We parted as friends and years later, we're still friendly. Although I knew the marriage was over before it began, I'm glad it didn't end there. The road we traveled was one of love, laughter, pain, tears and, most importantly, growth. We brought each other to that second moment, where we could face our situation honestly and as a team... a team on a mission to end our marriage.
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