I blame fairy tales.
There was something about being raised to believe that once I found my prince, I would get to live happily ever after that set me up for disappointment. Life isn’t like that. Yet time after time, fairy tale after fairy tale, that’s where the story ends.
We don’t get to see that Prince Charming snores, leaves the seat up, goes out hunting with the guys a little too often, or isn’t as loving and supportive as Cinderella imagined him to be. And the Prince, well, he might just tire of a bunch of rodents running around in clothes, coupled with a wife who talks to animals and bursts out in random songs.
The chase is the part that is glorified. That’s why marriages fail. How can they possibly live up to the hype of the chase? How can anything compare to the excitement of new love?
That’s why there are so many divorces. After all, divorce seems simple. It’s the ultimate do over. If that marriage didn’t result in happily ever after...no worries, just find someone new and start all over again.
At the same time, for those of us who are stubborn, who have a hard time giving up and giving in, how do we know when it is time to let go, to move on, and then admit we made a horrific mistake? What is an acceptable excuse for sticking a fork in a relationship?
I remember when I met Shane. He was several years younger than I was, but he seemed much more together, and so much more mature than my almost ex-husband. Here was a man who had a career. Shane had been in the same field for ten years, employed by the same company that entire time. He owned his home and drove a nice new truck. As a neighbor, I had watched him maintain his lawn, service his vehicle, do all those things that men were supposed to do. Even the interior of the residence was neat, despite having two really lazy roommates.
We dated for a while growing closer and closer. Finally, he made some admissions that touched my cold, brittle heart…
Shane: No one knows me as well as you do. No one has ever been allowed to get this close.
It was such an honor, and soon I was so crazy in love that I knew...I knew nothing could tear us apart. For a while, it seemed that we were destined to be together, forever. He made me feel safe and loved. Every moment spent together was incredibly special. That’s why I vividly recall one night when we were alone in the house and Shane was walking around without a shirt on. He loved showing off his muscular physique. Honestly, I loved seeing it, loved touching his bare skin. In that moment, he leaned his back against the counter and faced me. Without thinking, I walked into his open arms, inhaled his scent to imprint it upon my soul, and kissed the broken heart tribal tattoo on his chest.
Shane: Are you trying to heal my broken heart?
Shaking my head, I responded.
me: Nope. Just loving you.
Shane: Good. It can’t be fixed.
He looked down and instead of wrapping me up in those muscular arms and pulling me closer to his washboard abs and ample pecs, he stiffened and stood straight.
Shane: Sometimes, I think you are only attracted to me because you want to fix me.
His demeanor had me tensing up. Somehow, I knew what I said next was going to be really important. Shaking my head, I found the words I sought.
me: Baby, until I got to know you, I didn’t even know you were broken.
That softened him. My words worked. They were magic. He admired my ability to communicate, to speak eloquently, and to make an impact through simple speech. Words did not come easily for him.
He held me close. Bending his head, his chin in my hair, he finally spoke what was clearly bothering him.
Shane: You make me want to be a better man, but I don’t want to change. What are we going to do about that?
With my chin on his chest, staring up into his pained eyes, I told him the truth. There was only one way I knew to make this work.
me: I’m going to love you through it. No matter what, I promise I’ll love you the best I can with all that I am.
I meant it, too.
Must be he liked my response because within seconds, his lips closed the distance to mine. That kiss. That love.
That was five years ago.
Life has changed, much different from what I knew...all because I said, ‘I do.’
Though I had never done this before, it was clear what needed to be done. Clicking on the camera icon, I started to snap pictures of the damage as I made my way to the bedroom to pack. There was even a photo of the crib tipped over before he came out of the bathroom and righted it.
Shane: Why are you still here? Leave. Get. Out. Right. Now.
Walking to my closet, I pulled out two suitcases, one at a time. I hadn’t set Kylie down for the last hour. She was starting to feel heavy, but I ignored the pain. I needed her safe and at the moment, that safety was only guaranteed in my arms. Shane was too erratic. This…was not the man I had married. This…was not the man I dated and fell in love with. That Shane, I never wanted to live without. This man was a stranger and I had no trouble leaving him.
When he saw the second suitcase come out, he stiffened. Opening Kylie’s drawers, I started loading her belongings into the waiting bag. It wouldn’t take but a moment to get her clothes together; it was the medical supplies that would be so time consuming.
Shane: You aren’t taking my daughter.
me: Well, I’m not leaving her with you.
Shane: She’s my only child.
me: You can’t take care of her. You can’t even take care of yourself right now.
Shane: Just how do you expect to take care of her?
It wouldn’t end. As long as I kept responding, he would continue arguing with me. I had no energy for that. There were too many other concerns at the moment.
Shane: If you want to take her, you have to call the police.
Pausing, I waited for him to talk sense. It wasn’t happening. Finally, I caved and spoke. There was an unspoken rule about involving the police. I knew it. He had made it. Calling the police raised everything to the next level. These things were handled in house, behind closed doors, even if many of those doors had holes.
The moment I reached the bedroom door, I paused. This was different. This was so much worse than any rage ever before. The sound of shattering glass had come from the bedroom windows. He had, apparently, broken them with Kylie’s IV pole. Her crib was flipped. There was broken glass all over that side of the room. His side was no neater. There were holes all over the wall that ran the width of the room. Clearly they had been made with the vacuum, which lay on the floor in pieces, and with the IV pole, since one of the wheels was embedded in the wall while the rest of it was bent and broken in the bathroom.
Once I had taken in the extent of the destruction, I headed directly to the bathroom where I found Shane collecting some things. He had a pair of boots in one hand and was stuffing them with his toiletries. He must have stuck the pills in his pockets, since they were nowhere to be found.
me: What are you doing?
me: *sigh* Why are you leaving?
Shane: Because you are such a bitch!
The more I thought about it, the more I felt like I had been tricked, taken advantage of. For some reason despite being weaned on Lifetime movies, I still believed that our clearly flawed system would work. Only it had obviously failed. It was currently failing me. Somehow, I knew that this just was going to amount to nothing. No follow up. No follow through. Shattered hope.
Shane: That was nothing like I expected.
me: Yeah, me neither.
Rather than consider the negative, I tried to gather up those jagged shards of hope and piece them together. I had to believe that hope could be healed, could grow with time and careful tending.
Shane: Is there anything we need to do while we’re out?
me: We might as well get some groceries so I don’t have to go out later.
That’s what we did. We tried to rebuild our life together little by little every day. We tried to find a new normal. While we walked, he held my hand.