After being happily married for 18 years, it’s with great sadness that I sit today to write the Eulogy of this union. For those who knew this marriage, you would have suspected nothing was wrong. Neither did I. For those who knew my marriage, I know you grieve with me. Thank you for your kind words, they have lifted my heart and provided great comfort. I did not know how others viewed my marriage until we separated. Friends, family, and even acquaintances shared their condolences with me, along with kind reflections. A lifeline out of confusion, words providing comfort, but also validation. That what I had lived was in fact, real and not the hologram it feels like today.
“Your marriage was #couplesgoals”.
“We aspired to a marriage like yours”.
“You two showed us what teamwork and true partnership looked like.”
“I tried to be the kind of wife you were.”
“When we talked about our marriage in couple’s counseling, we used yours an example of what we were striving for.”
“You guys were the most special couple I’ve ever known.”
I thought so too. At least it felt that way to me. Unfortunately, the truth is that it WAS one-sided and I just didn’t know it. My husband, I accidentally discovered, was deeply-embedded in a double life. A life that specifically attacked our marriage, and was quite the opposite of the vows we made to one another. Actions that left no speck of doubt that I was not loved, honored, or cherished.
So as I reflect back on my 18 years as a proud wife, I do so with great pain, sadness, and even anger. Yet that is not what I want to think of when I remember my beloved marriage. For me, my marriage was a gift. It was God giving me a best friend and a committed life partner. Someone to navigate the uncertainty of life with. When I remember my marriage, I can’t help but smile as I think of our early years. Engaged at just 24 with some asking “Isn’t that too young?“, we were confident that we were ready to join our lives. We married on a beautiful day in early May, in the little stone chapel by the river. We had fun planning all of the details.
We selected our readings, from the Bible “The Song of Solomon” 8:6
and “The Prophet On Marriage” by Kahlil Gibran:
“and stand together, yet not too near together, for the pillars of the temple stand apart and the Oak and the Cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
I wept at those at those words on our wedding day and again today. The perfect image of the importance of teamwork and respect for independence. To grow into our best selves with the support of our Other. My life/your life/our life. We chose the perfect song for our first dance, “When I’m Sixty-Four” by The Beatles. A song that spoke to the beauty of a long life lived together, into old age. But that life together was not to be, though I never once doubted it’s strength, I never knew it was even at risk. Until it was too late.
Between the Wedding Day (1999) and the Divorce Day (2018), there was much to celebrate. There IS much to remember fondly in those 18 years. Years that brought first jobs with cockroach infested apartments. Long hours with lean paychecks, anticipation of building a new home, and the unbridled joy of three beautiful babies, the best of us both is another living soul. The grief of a miscarriage, the anxiety over relocating. Over 18 years married, and 21 together, the undercurrent to it all, was LOVE. So. much. love.
A million examples of Trust and Respect strengthened our love. A love that grew far past physical and intellectual attraction, with a depth and breadth matched only by my love for my children. I look back and wonder when that changed, when my love, respect and trust was used as a weapon against me. When and why he chose to begin another life, without the courtesy of telling me. Taking away our love without even the opportunity to discuss it. To tell me that he no longer wanted me, our marriage, or the life we had built together. Why I had to learn that accidentally, the day his laptop told the truth.
I am haunted by the depth of deception. Why didn’t I know my marriage had already died?
Maybe because he did want those things, but also wanted more. A dangerous, secret life that required nothing of him except his cunning, and his money. I cannot honor the best of my marriage without acknowledging the painful truth that destroyed it. My husband had affairs with many, women over many years. All while I stayed home with our children, oblivious. His only self-defense being: “I wasn’t happy with the nature and dynamic between us. I wanted more attention”.
The brutal reality of my marriage looks nothing like the marriage I was living.
The self that I brought to the marriage I lived is my only comfort in this profound tidal wave of grief.
Certainly, I am not perfect. I did however, try my absolute best and brought my whole self to our union. I committed my life to him and vowed to love, honor, and cherish him.
Which I am proud to say, I did.
Hurting him in any way was not an option for me. Hurting him would be hurting myself, our children, our family and friends. The marriage I lived in was loving and safe. It was forever. I will miss my marriage, but not my husband. Because he was not real. Premeditated double-living was a choice, not an accident. He chose that life over me, his children, and our life together.
So as I say goodbye to my marriage, I choose to remember those years before the double life. The years where we dreamed of our future together, making plans, setting goals, celebrating our wins big and small. I smell our first tiny apartment, I feel my lungs burn in the cold Chicago air as we run together to collect a desperately needed paycheck. I feel his large, strong hand over mine, squeezing through each contraction. I hear his key in the door, and the sense of relief that washed over me, knowing he is home safely from another business trip. I remember with fondness, the years I was so proud to have him as my husband and to be his wife.
As I say goodbye, I remember THIS marriage, and am somehow grateful.
For all the wonderful joy filled-moments, for the excruciatingly painful lessons, the mundane days wrapped in the comfort of one another, and the understanding that you cannot have joy without pain.
Grief is indeed, the price we pay for love.
Yet I remain steadfast in my belief that marriage can be a wonderful gift, of love, trust, and devotion, as it was once for me. For knowing, feeling, living that marriage once-upon-a-time, I am grateful.