It has been 9 years since we ended our marriage and went our separate ways. The way in which our marriage ended was the most traumatic thing I have ever been through. It broke me. Over the last 9 years, I have worked diligently to heal emotionally, mentally, financially, spiritually and physically from the enormous trauma you caused me. I don’t harbor any resentment or anger. I am not bitter. And I have no regrets. I’ve always thought about what I would say to you if we were ever to cross paths again. I finally have the words and I want to share them with you.
First, let me just remind you of what happened, from my perspective. You and I met when we were in our early 20’s. You wanted to marry me because I came from a good well-off Jewish family, and because I “had potential” to be your ideal wife. I know these factors were important to you. My parents’ divorce was a bigger blow to you than it was to me since that “good family” you wanted to show for your in-laws was no longer intact. It no longer measured up to your seemingly “perfect” family. I blamed myself for not being an ideal candidate for you and kept my grief over my parents’ divorce quiet. We had the “perfect” engagement story, the “perfect” wedding, and the “perfect” relationship to onlookers. Right before we got married, you lost your job, to no fault of your own. But this took you down a few pegs. Especially when you realized that your “perfect” plan of owning a house and a condo would be ruined and you may face foreclosures and financial hardship. As they always have, your family swooped in and bailed you out. They helped you find a job and I was expected to uproot my life and put my goals on hold to accommodate your next chapter. I did so, dutifully.
As soon as we got married, things began to fall apart. We had no privacy as newlyweds because we were living in your parents’ house. To you this was not a big deal because you have “perfect” parents and because we had only good things to look forward to. I blamed myself for being so demanding and I dealt with it. Once we were living on our own, you got frustrated with me because I couldn’t pick up quickly enough from where I abruptly left off when we suddenly had to move. I blamed myself for taking too long and scrambled to get it figured out. I began working full time and transferred into a different master’s program to complete my degree, losing almost all of my credits in the process and taking on an exorbitant amount of student loan debt per your decision. My schedule quickly became hectic with me spending 60-80 hours a week at school and work. You claimed you were supportive of my goals but you also complained that I was not home enough and that we did not spend enough time together. I blamed myself for taking on too much and not being able to juggle it well.
During this time, money was extremely tight for us. You had used some of my loan money to cover some bills and I was on a very small budget of $500 per month for my expenses. You were in charge of the bills, so I trusted that you were handling everything properly and was relieved to not have to worry about those things. We started to drift apart. We didn’t do as many special things together, our physical intimacy dwindled, and we got into numerous arguments. Over time, this worsened and I spoke up about it. I felt unloved, unattractive, unworthy and like a bad wife to you. I blamed myself for not being present enough and for gaining weight. I wanted to try to work through it and begged you to come to couples therapy with me. You went to one session with me and refused to go to any more.
Then you told me you were unhappy and asked me for a divorce. You said you married me for who you wanted me to be, but not for who I was and it was unfair to both of us and that you should never have married me. You apologized for that. I was devastated. I had never felt such pain before. I failed as a wife. I wasn’t good enough. I tried to be good enough but I just wasn’t. I didn’t measure up to the image of the “perfect” wife you had in mind for me. I didn’t fit into your “perfect” family or your “perfect” life. I was entirely too imperfect. You wanted to remain friendly and to stay in contact. I wanted nothing more than to keep you in my life in some capacity. You were the best thing that happened to me. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing you. I couldn’t bear the thought of failing in such a colossal way.
Then I accidentally discovered your stash. Your photos, letters, gifts, reservations, emails of dates and flings and romantic interests and pregnancy scares. None of which were for or about me. All of which took place throughout our entire marriage. What I had actually discovered was your double life. Your other life, in which you showed women our wedding photos and told them the tragic story of how you lost your beloved wife to cancer. The one in which I was dead and you were a lonely widower. The one in which you were wealthy and successful. The one you never expected me to find out about.
Up until then, I blamed myself entirely for the destruction of our marriage, for your lack of desire for me, for your disappointment in me, for your dislike of who I was. I blamed myself for not being able to win your approval or even the tiniest crumbs of physical affection from you. I blamed myself for my parents’ divorce. I blamed myself for not making more money. I blamed myself for taking too long to complete my master’s degree. I blamed myself for every last thing and I hated myself for all of it. I looked through your other life, captivated. I wanted to see every single detail. I spent what felt like an eternity peering into this window I stumbled upon, staring at the details of a person I did not know. What felt like hours was actually 45 minutes. But it was the most pivotal 45 minutes of my life.
I realized then, that your intention was to have me go on with my life blaming myself for the end of our marriage. You were perfectly comfortable allowing me to be in such a huge amount of pain that I believed it was irreparable. You listened to me cry to you that I never wanted to get married again and that I would never be able to love someone again as much as I loved you. You comforted me. You never tried to contradict these things or wish me well. You just sat with me silently. Your plan was to only take accountability for marrying me for the wrong reasons and to absolve yourself of any responsibility for any of the other problems in our marriage. Your story was that the only thing you did wrong was to not get to know me better and to expect me to be less anxious over time. Even after I confronted you with your infidelity and lies, your story did not change. But my perspective changed. My memories changed. My opinion of you and your family changed. My entire paradigm changed.
The next 2 years were a blur of hopelessness and grief. I had no idea how to move on from this. I had no idea what actually happened or who this person was with whom I spent 6 years of my life. I had no idea who I was or what I was doing. All I could tell was that I was broken. I was abandoned, betrayed, rejected, duped, hurt, destroyed. I wasn’t human anymore, I was an empty shell. I remembered having ambitions, joy, fun, commitments, interests, hobbies – but I couldn’t find those. I couldn’t find my dignity, my self-respect, my strength, my sense of humor, my curiosity, my pride. All of it disappeared along with you. And although I knew that you wronged me in such a prolific way, I still blamed myself.
More than 15 years after meeting you, and after a lot of hard work and introspection, I can say I am a different person. I am not mad at you and I don’t hold any of what you did against you. I now know that you were sick. You were doing the only things you knew how to do and the only things you were taught to do by your family. You didn’t have the skills, resources or wherewithal to understand yourself nor to help yourself. Your behaviors were normalized by your friends and family. Your decisions were protected and reinforced by your support system. Who you are in totality as a person was constructed from an unsound foundation and that is not your fault.
I also owe you a debt of gratitude which is why I do not regret marrying you. The experience I gained from our relationship, its ending and the healing process has provided me with more than you will ever know. I discovered who I truly was by going through our marriage and divorce. This is an understatement so let me expand on this: I reconnected with my family and learned about the importance of my role in it. I unveiled my enormous strength of will and perseverance. I realized my ability to empathize and carry the weight of the most difficult emotions imaginable. I found the things that connect me to my authenticity and to my purpose. I cultivated a gift for healing myself and others. I explored and developed my ability to communicate, set boundaries, listen to my intuition, and to be diplomatic. I matured and surpassed my own expectations of my personal growth. I achieved all of the goals I set for myself and I attained a deep understanding of commitment. I exposed my flaws and embraced them. And I learned to forgive and to reconcile.
I owe it all to you. Had it not been for you crossing paths with me and taking me on our wild 6 year long ride, I would never have been able to receive all of those many gifts. I would never have become the woman I love and am today. So thank you for coming into my life when you did and how you did. Thank you for showing me all of the many things I needed to improve in order for me to have a better quality of life. Thank you for not making it easy or giving me any shortcuts that could have compromised the depth of the lessons I needed to learn. Thank you for giving me the invaluable experience that has served as the foundation for my work as a therapist helping others who are going through similar circumstances. Thank you for showing me that you did, indeed, marry me for the wrong reasons. I was wrong for you from the start. And that was because I did, like you said, have so much potential to be so much more than I was. Thanks to you, I am well on my way to fulfilling that potential, and I have long outgrown who you are and have the potential to become. So you were right. I sincerely hope you can learn and grow to be honest, loyal, authentic and empathetic. I wish you nothing but happiness and joy. We were never meant to be but we were meant to cross paths. And for that, I thank you.