The Other side of fear
When I started this blog a several years ago (under a different name) this was supposed to be a family- lifestyle blog. At the time I was married, so my intention was to share recipes that I made, trips that we took, and everything that would make it a lifestyle blog; but the truth is it turned into so much more. I was not the first one to get married out of my friends but I was the first one to adventure down the road of divorce; my parents are divorced, but no one I knew at the time was getting a divorce so in the world that is so big; I felt so alone in. Then one day about six months after my divorce was final I wrote an article that was titled “How Going to Therapy Saved Me,” at the time it was probably one of the hardest and rawest articles I have ever written. That article landed me a job as a freelance writer position for a New York based company called DivorceForce; I wrote articles to help others that were dealing with loss, relationships issues, divorce and everything in between. Another aspect of the job was to reply to a forum that people would write on asking for advice; so many late nights when Sophia was asleep I found myself devoured in others pain by trying to help them. I am not a therapist, so realistically I had to monitor the way I responded, how the articles were written and how I responded to the forums. This job was one of the hardest jobs I have had emotionally, but it lead to my own healing in the process; we were all broken in some fashion it did not matter if we were the ones the broke our marriages or we were the “victim,” in our marriages; I learned at the end of the day grief is grief no matter how big or small. Last week I received a question from a Facebook friend that is going through a divorce asking me how did my ex and I keep civil during and after the divorce was final; and how do I not allow the affects of my marriage to affect future relationships whether it be romantic or platonic. Surprisingly enough this was always a very common question that is asked when I worked for DivorceForce.
I wish I could tell you that there is a simple solution like two 2 +2 =4 and if you use this simple equation to be civil towards each other that you are going to get the same result no matter what; honestly it does not work that way. At least for me it did not. When I was going through my divorce I was an emotional wreck, there were days I did nothing but cry then there were days I was angry; and then on some days I was completely fine with my choice to divorce my ex. Honestly speaking I was not ok; I felt like the biggest failure in the world at the time. I had a husband that I loved, but I couldn’t help him- no matter what I did to help his drug addiction or mental health issues always blew up in my face, I had no money, I would break out in hives all over my body the size of my palm just mentioning his name and I would have to get steroid shots, I felt like I failed him, failed our daughter and on top of everything else I had a miscarriage that I hid from everyone.
When I was married we would have really good spells, then everything would hit rock bottom- it was a constant revolving door that never ended. I did not want to believe friends and family that would tell me he “isn’t going to change, this is who he is.” I believed change is always possible, if the person wanted it enough. The truth was I believed him every time he said he was sorry, every time he said things will be better, and every time he said that Sophia and I were his world…every…single..time…I…believed…him. We had no money, we lived off my credit cards; I would hide money in Sophia’s socks so he wouldn’t take it, count the pills in his medication bottles, never had any alcohol, constantly watched what I said and did to keep the peace. I was living in my own form of hell; without realizing it. Overtime I became more of a “mother-like” figure than a wife- we became more like roommates in a way. He landed a really good job- making really good money, but was gone 85% of the time. At this point I thought if he was happy, then I was happy…and we can make this work, but the reality of the matter was; I was not happy- far from it. I missed him, but I wasn’t sure if I was in -love with him anymore, I loved him…but in-love with him was something completely different. Part of that feeling was I was so focused on Sophia and Adrian that I put my own feelings and needs on the back burner for years that I was so exhausted. I found that any type of normalcy; was a relief whether if he was around or not. I remember when he would come home and not seeing him for about two months I would be so happy, but when he would leave I would be so relieved because I did not have to deal with the mood swings, avoidances; whatever he would throw my way. Overtime, I become his verbal and mental punching bag, if something went wrong in his life it was somehow my fault, my families fault, the doctors fault, his parents fault, because no one understand his need to have illegal substances in his life to function everyday.
Our last Christmas we spend together was one of the best holidays we ever celebrated, for the first time in a really long time I felt like I could breath. For the first time in a long time that feeling of being unhappy was starting to dissipate. I remember we were standing in the kitchen cleaning up and Adrian said “this was a really great day,” and I replied to him “Adrian it was a beautiful, you have no idea how badly I needed this.” A few hours later he headed back to the apartment; Sophia and I stayed at my parents..we were separated. I walked him to the front door, he kissed me on the cheek and said “I love you…” and I said “I love you too,” and that would be the last time I would ever say it to him. I walked back to my bedroom; watched myself take my earrings out and thought “this is over isn’t it…..something is wrong.” As soon as I thought it, I didn’t believe it; because we just spent a beautiful day together and I was telling him the next day that “I don’t want to be separated anymore and that we were coming home.” I laid in bed that night staring at the ceiling, but nothing stopped me from packing mine and Sophia’s bag the next morning. Adrian called me and I told him I have something I wanted to tell him; I was so excited…and he said “I will call you a little later.” The next time I heard from him was around 5 pm that night, and I knew something was wrong…but I was not prepared for any of what was going to happen next.
Everyone always asks me what caused your marriage to end, I could say it was drug addiction, money issues, lies, cheating, mental health issues because all of those were factors but December 26th is a night I will never forget. A night I was not sure if I was going to survive. I do not talk about that night; and I probably never will, because most people could not handle it. Even though if you’re reading this it may seem “one-sided,” as to what Adrian did to me, I can assure you that there was fault on both sides.
Now lets flash forward to now:
It was imperative that I told you parts about my marriage, because how many times you read quotes that say “keep your head up everything will be ok,” and you’re thinking “I am in hell there is no way my life will be any better, it’s so easy for them to say.” I am living proof that it will get better, but you have to feel the pain work throught it. Let yourself heal, it took me years to get over everything. It took everything in my power to not explode on him; I was not perfect by any means. I know I said some of the cruelest things anyone could ever say to another person, that when I was saying them I would think “omg I can’t believe you just said that.” And then I would feel like total shit after. I am not one to hurt someone on purpose; if you hurt me I am not going to take revenge on you; that’s not who I am.
But our relationship was getting to a really negative spot. I hate to admit it, our divorce was easier than our marriage, I am not saying our divorce was easy and we didn’t argue, but we are better off as friends than we are together. We started to bring out the worst in each other, instead of the better.
Now to be civil towards each other it’s almost like being mindful. We had to work at it; we had to find a structure and balance for Sophia. Sophia didn’t chose her parents but as parents we want what is best for our children. There’s no way around it. You have to put them first no matter what. Adrian and I agreed that we fake it until we make it, meaning when we had to be together in the same room with Sophia we didn’t argue or talk about our divorce. Most of the time we hardly spoke to each other, until we could have a common ground. Sometimes it was just a “hi and bye,” type of conversation; then overtime we were able to converse more.
Even to this day I will get comments from people that say “you two make it so easy…” because it can be if you allow it to be. Neither one of us expect perfection from each other; but we make it work. Don’t get me wrong we still have our moments, but we respect each other in the sense of we are doing the best we can, and our main focus is Sophia. We both agreed that when Sophia looks back on her childhood we don’t want her to say “all my parents did was fight when they were together,” neither one of us wanted that to be her memory of us. It was important for me that if Adrian was in-town to visit that it was as comfortable as possible for all of us. He and I are friends, because of Sophia..we set our differences aside, swallowed our pride and we all have moved on with our lives. There has to be boundaries set between both parties; things will never be the same between you two, but boundaries will create a more comfortable-like atmosphere for everyone; doesn’t mean you have to be strangers but you have to know where to draw the line.
When we chose to bring Sophia into this world we agreed to be the best parents we could; as I imagine most parents do. If you have step-children or children with someone and going through a divorce you have to set aside everything for them, because it’s all about them. When you chose to have your own children or marry someone that has children, your main focus are those children and what is best for them. I have learned that children have an impeccable way of making adult problems their fault, and it shouldn’t be that way. What is said behind closed doors, should only be said behind closed doors, children should never have to suffer the consequences of their parents behaviors. That is where the notion of Adrian and I being “civil,” towards each other comes from.
Being a parents has been one of the most rewarding and toughest experiences of my life; but I wouldn’t change anything. I would marry Adrian again if that meant I would have Sophia, because without her my life would be incomplete. Whether I have anymore children in the future or would marry someone that has children; I would vow to treat them with the same -no different than if they were mine biologically.
Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler made a movie together called Blended; and of course there is comedy to it, but there is a quote that always resonated with me “you have to be there for your kid like 98% percent of the time; the other 2% is for what we want…” it’s all about sacrifice. So being civil towards each other is all about sacrificing your own feelings and emotions for your child. It won’t be easy at all; you’re going to make mistakes, but by making those mistakes you learn from them . Being civil isn’t going to happen overnight, you have to work at it every single day.
When it comes to relationships whether it is a romantic or platonic; no matter what it is going to be work on both sides, because no matter what angle you look at this friends have hurt friends, and lovers have hurt lovers; there is no way around it. We all have a history but those are lessons. For whatever reason besides having Sophia with Adrian I was meant to experience his issues; there was a lesson in that for me. In some fashion I am grateful for those experiences, of course it was not something I wanted to happen, but those experiences have made me stronger in the end. Those experiences allowed to me to help other men and women that found themselves in the same boat as I was in. Did those experiences change me ? Yes, for years I was not able to even think of dating another person, allow myself to feel feelings for someone else, but that didn’t last forever.
During my “grieving process,” of my divorce I stumbled across this movie called Bye Bye Love made in the mid-90’s, the first time I watched it I cried through the entire thing. I think I watched it a few hundred times- each time I watched it I learned so much more about it. It’s about these three divorced men that take their children for a weekend; and how each of them are dealing with their own grief after divorce. Randy Quaid character seemed to be the most healed one, he was at the point of “ohh here we go again…” type of attitude when it came to his ex-wife. Paul Reisers character was the one that was still in-love with his ex wife who was remarried; and how he never moved on past her and their marriage. Matthew Modines Character I will characterize as “the player,” he has one main girl, but others on the side.
When it comes to not allowing your past to interfere with any kind of relationship it’s really tough, we try and somethings it just gets in the way; but this is when I am going to tell you too…NEVER LET IT HAPPEN. I know this is going to be one of those instances and say “it’s easier said than done.”
Matthew Modines character in Bye Bye Love for me was the most complex; because he was so fearful of commiment; that he did everything to avoid it. He allowed his past mistakes and part of his childhood to get in the way. In the movie, he has a “almost girlfriend,” she was apart of his life, but not apart of his life. If you were an outsider looking in you wouldn’t think he had that “player-like,” behavior about him. He kept her close just enough to get wanted he wanted but not allow her fully in. She met his friends, his kids but they were not “exclusive.” I believe in her mind she was committed to him, but he couldn’t give himself to her fully because of fear. It wasn’t that he didn’t like her or care for her, he was scared- scared of growing up, scared of hurting someone, getting hurt and allowing someone fully in. Kim (Modines “girlfriend”) after what I call a tower moment says to him “you know I have been trying so hard to find a way in; that I am not sure I want it anymore.” Initially I didn’t get it, then I realized she is talking about trying to find a way into his heart. For him, to me Kim was his girl, I think he wanted her- I think he was in-love with her, and all those other girls were his distractions, his wall so he could self-protect.
At the end of the movie Matthew Modine says to Paul Reiser ” you know I am going to do it, commitment because Kim is great and no one else compares to her. No matter who I talk to, my mind always goes back to her.” At that point he decided he was going to take that leap of faith; that it was better to take that chance than to walk away from someone that he truly wanted but was scared to want. To allow himself to want, it is so much more easier to walk away then to admit you’re scared.
The thing is, we all have been hurt by someone that we love and care about, unfortunately it’s part of life, it’s how we grow. People are going to hurt you, say things they don’t mean, walk away when we don’t want to, it doesn’t make it right but it makes us human. We all hurt the people we love or care about at some point, it’s inevitable. When it comes to allowing the past to affect a current relationship we bring those fears in and we believe that this new person is going to repeat an old cycle or maybe this person seems too good to be true- like this isn’t their authentic self; and we wait for the bottom to fall out. We nit -pick something without realizing it…something they may have said we normally wouldn’t think twice about- just to prove to ourselves that they are no different that your past. So what do we do, put a wall up with this person, let them in but not all the way in. Put other people in front of them that you know aren’t going anywhere except maybe a decent conversation – no emotions. It allows you to fill a partial void, but it doesn’t distract you fully. Your mind still wonders back to that person, because maybe they are meant to be there. At least that is what I believe.
I learned that just because someone cheated on you in the past doesn’t mean the new person is going to cheat on you, just because a friend stole from you doesn’t mean this new friend is going too. We can’t compare apples to oranges, because our past people are not our current people, they are two completely different kinds of people; to hold someone accountable for someone elses actions is so unfair or to put them on the level as someone that hurt you is really….really unfair. Sometimes what we want and we who want is what scares us the most, because maybe we feel that we are not worthy of them because we have a past or our lives are not where we want them to be.
I used to think that if I didn’t allow anyone close to me that I was going to be the happiest, I used to think that if I put a wall up that I wasn’t going to get hurt; but what I ended up doing was hurting myself. It’s scary to let anyone in, especially when the person that you were in love with betrayed you in the worst way; the same person that promised you everything was the same person that broke all of those promises.
Adrian said to me about two years after our divorce “you know I carry a lot of guilt with me- for everything I did, everything I put you through, but I have to let you know that none of this was your fault. You were an amazing wife, you did everything that you could do for me, but I chose everything and everyone else over you and that is something I have to live with. So promise me that when you find yourself moving on with life- take that leap of faith, don’t allow me to destroy anymore of your happiness or from being with someone that you really want to be with. I destroyed us, and I regret it- but you deserve better than I will ever be able to give you.” I never forgot those words, because he was right; I was a good wife to him, I did my best by him but we still failed and that’s ok. It’s ok to fail…it’s ok. We are all human, none of us are perfect, non of us make it of this life alive.
When you find yourself scared, not sure what to do; I urge you to take that leap of faith, because not everyone is going to hurt us. Our exes are not the same people, we deserve to be happy. Matthew Modines character, was so fearful of letting anyone close to him, the women that he dated or talked to without Kim knowing was his wall; his safety net…from Kim and himself. It was until he almost lost Kim that he realized that he didn’t want to lose her; the one person that he truly wanted and connected with. Don’t let yourself to become Modines character, don’t let your past control your future; embrace it, because when you find yourself having to chose to take the easy way out or the “scary” road; I hope you chose the scary road, not run from it, because life is supposed to be scary.
There are no guarantees in life- everything is a gamble. You gamble with your life every single day, by getting in the car, getting a surgery, getting on the plane etc. The way I see it is I would rather fail a thousand times over..live my life than be scared . The only advice I can truly give when it comes to not allowing your past to affect your relationships is communicate with that person- don’t run from them, you may end up surprised that everything you ever wanted was waiting on the other side of fear.