Article by: Ruby Edlyn Duffau
It’s always a bit difficult around this time of year. March, that is. Around this time seven years ago, I was filling cardboard boxes with things we had acquired together since 2006; an accumulation of things that spanned 5 years. I managed to keep my composure until I came across the miniature Twelve Days of Christmas ornaments I had sent Daniel in his care package during his deployment to Iraq. We were just boyfriend and girlfriend at that time. 5 ½ years later, I clutched them in my hands and began crying inconsolably as I sat in an empty room with barren walls once filled with family pictures from Disneyworld and our awards from our time in the military. How did we get here?
I remember sitting on the one bar stool that didn’t fit in the U-Haul truck while making a phone call to the utility services company to make sure everything was in order for Gia’s and my new house–the new house sans her father. He walked up to where I was sitting, asked me some mundane question about packing materials and proceeded to gently grab my face and kiss me. It was sweet and passionate; something I hadn’t experienced with him, my husband, in years. He then looked at me and asked, “Are you sure you want to do this?” After what seemed like an eternity, I finally nodded. I hadn’t the slightest clue what would await me or if I would ever find love again, but I knew that this wasn’t it.
I felt as though I had already reached the proverbial point of no return. I’d begged him for years to attend therapy with me. He had been unhappy for some time, as I had been. But, we both stayed; albeit, on autopilot. It wasn’t until I faced the bitter reality that I had been teaching my daughter that this was the model of love and relationships she was to emulate. I couldn’t live with that; not in good conscience.
It’s been 7 years this month, and to say that things have been easy since then would be a boldfaced lie. I still cry at times. Like other single parents, “me time” is a foreign concept. So, my cathartic crying sessions are limited to showers and when I’m driving to other cities alone. I’m still in therapy, and the funny thing about that is that just when I feel I’ve made leaps and bounds in progress, I’m triggered by small details that take me back and make me question all my decisions. Should I have stayed? Would he be an electrical engineer and I, a therapist, as we had planned and worked so hard to lay the groundwork for? Could I have saved him? Would we have lived happily ever after?
The fact of the matter is that I could wonder until I’m blue in the face. I can imagine alternate endings until I’m driven mad. But, at the end of the day, I have to see and accept the reality: when faced with the opportunity to salvage what we had at one time, my ex-husband found walking away the easier option. I’m not just referring to the end–that day as I sat on the bar stool. I’m referring to the times leading up to that, because there were many. And that’s okay.
I was recently telling my mother that I strongly feel that we’re each on our own individual journeys and should, at the very least, respect that concept. In marriages, we often adopt the belief that it is one, and that as we grow and change(as we should), that that journey is diverged and the space between the two expands, leaving a vast open distance between two people that were once inseparable. The realization came to me that experiences with others happen in parallels; each of our journeys running alongside one another at different points in time. Sometimes the people we love won’t always reciprocate that love back, and just because they don’t doesn’t mean we must hold ill feelings towards them, or even hold on to the pain or grief of the experience. Because quite honestly, that serves us in no way. I say that from firsthand experience, as I've avoided relationships and intimacy since then. We should take from it what we can, even if it’s purely the reminder that we ARE capable of feeling something beautiful. It’s important to note that love isn’t one-sided. It’s a collaborative effort and partnership. Most importantly, it’s something worth fighting for; or, at the very least, worth working towards. So, when someone easily walks away from the opportunity, genuinely wish them well on their journey and continue on yours. And have faith, that despite not knowing what awaits you on the other side, your path will lead you to where you’re meant to be.