When Did You Know Your Marriage Was Over?

The Huffington Post recently ran a series entitled, “The Moment I Knew,” where women discussed the moment they knew their marriages were over and it was time to file for divorce.

The stories were universally depressing, of the “I knew it was time to end my marriage when he wouldn’t even come visit me in the hospital after my open heart surgery” ilk.

As I read “The Moment I Knew” stories, I wanted to ask each contributor: “Are you sure you didn’t know before then?” and “If you realized it earlier, why didn’t you act on it?”

I asked those questions because those are the questions I asked myself when I finally decided to file for divorce.

Common wisdom holds that marriage is hard work. This is true. Staying married requires a commitment to being together, a commitment that transcends any and all issues that may arise during the marriage.

Staying together no matter what issue may arise, is very serious business indeed.

But when it is ok to give up? When is it futile to fight and try and work hard to stay together? When is it necessary to cut one’s losses and move on?

Some, of course, would say never. That it’s never OK to give up on your marriage; never OK to back out; never OK to say, enough is enough, this thing is dead and rotting and it’s time for us to move on with our separate lives. That level of commitment is fine if both parties share it equally.

But if your commitment isn’t equal, and you feel like your fight is futile, then it may be time to reassess.

In my case, the moment I knew I had to get divorced came, like so many of the Huffington Post contributors, after a dramatic and tragic series of events. In sum, my ex-husband kicked in the front door after I’d locked him out during a particularly nasty argument. The sound of my daughter’s scream when he kicked open that metal door still reverberates in my ear. I called the police, which further enraged him. I retained a divorce lawyer the next day.

But really, I knew before that moment. I knew on my wedding day that it wasn’t going to work. I knew for certain on my wedding night, after the party was over and the guests were gone and we could go back to being uncivilized to each other.

I was nine months pregnant with my son on my wedding day, one week from delivering our second child. I’d insisted on getting married because I couldn’t stomach the thought of having another child out of wedlock. But I knew the whole time that he was the wrong man to marry. I’d known that during the five years we lived together before the marriage.

I knew I shouldn’t have married him when he punched me in the head in the hospital while I was in labor with our first child. I knew I shouldn’t have married him when he would leave me and our newborn daughter alone every weekend while he took my car to Philadelphia to get high. Even after he got clean, I knew nothing had materially changed.

But I was stuck with this image of myself as the type of woman who was not a “baby mama.” My internal compass told me the life I was living was inauthentic and immoral, even though correcting it meant marrying someone I believed to be a misogynistic bully. I was embarrassed to be a pregnant, unmarried black woman, facing the real and imagined stares of my partners at my conservative law firm. Despite my Harvard Law School degree and my post-law school accomplishments, I felt like just another ghetto stereotype.

So I went to a Christie’s auction, bought myself a three-carat diamond and platinum Harry Winston engagement ring and planned a small wedding. At our divorce trial, my ex told the judge I “forced” him to get married. The judge was having none of it. He was a grown man – I didn’t force him to do anything. If I forced anyone to get married, it was me. And the nearly three years we were married before we both – simultaneously, as it ironically turned out – filed for divorce just confirmed what I’d known all along.

The question I asked myself when I first spoke to my divorce lawyer, throughout the divorce and nearly every day of the seven years since then isn’t “When did I know?” but “Why did I do that to myself and why didn’t I know I deserved so much more?”

First posted on MarriedMySugarDaddy.com

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9 Responses to “When Did You Know Your Marriage Was Over?”

  1. MSJNT Says:

    I knew when he kept doing things that pleased him. If he wanted something, he was going to get regardless of what I had to say. He bought a car, went look for a house with his mother, opening up CC. Still, I stuck it out because I love him. Found out about his cheating which comes from financial deception but it was too late. We divorce in 2007 after being separated and I knew that he wasn’t be truthful about us reconciling. It was cool for him to have two women and he could get what he wanted:Pleasure. He married the chick to months after and still call me to this day talking that he wants me back. I laugh at him, to me he is a joke of a man. I have grown pass the boy he still is and know that I deserve a man who will treat me like a Queen.

  2. Kim Says:

    My heart breaks when I read this. The part about your daughter screaming and him hitting you while you were in labor especially. I don’t know when I should have known. It could have been when I found classifieds about renting apartments, his being hateful and all about self or when he stopped sleeping in our room. It was probably when he just quit coming home. I wasn’t hurt though. I struggle to wonder if I loved him, ever. I think it was just in love with being married. Truth be told, I would have left him years before if I could have afforded to take care of our four children on my own. He thought he was abandoning me, but he really liberated me!

  3. C Says:

    I knew when after a raging fight and me calling the police, he found my car at the hotel I’d gone to and let the air out of the tires.

  4. Andrea Morgan Says:

    Our stories are similar. I knew better, thought somehow that i would be doing better by not being a professional woman without a husband but WITH kids. He didn’t want to do it, didn’t have the nerve to say so. So his refusal to move (from NY to Atlanta, where the kids & I live), temper tantrums about what he didn’t have because of me (no mention of what he did have – bills paid, well card for kids, etc.) and then the messages from Miss You-Don’t-Know-Me-but-I-Know-Your-Husband kinda sealed the deal. Even tried to work it out after listening to nonsensical stories about where she came from (no imagination, i tell ya).

    What really did it was me spending a (non) romantic weekend in NY (where he lives) and being mostly ignored. No mas!

    I deserve more! And no longer will I accept less – less consideration, less respect, less caring, less concern, less peace.

  5. Kay Says:

    Carolyn,

    This has to be one of the most honest expressions about the ending of a relationship/marriage that I’ve come across. Often, people cite some major catastrophic event as the reason for the demise in their relationship. I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we know that the relationship ended long ago and in some instances it was doomed from the start. I think you’re so right on when you pose the question about why we chose to endure certain things despite what we already knew, versus focus on the issue of when, exactly, we knew. Once we know – and I really do believe that most if not all of us know well before things turn to chaos – we need to act on that and spare ourselves the heartache that’s sure to come.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. This really is an awesome post.

  6. Luvvie Says:

    WOW! I have nothing articulate to comment with but this was a poignant post to read. Thanks for sharing. Your words might make someone else think twice. And this is hella courageous of you.

  7. Yvette Says:

    Carolyn….if I may be so bold to refer to you by your first name…you always touch my heart with your honesty. I understand completely what you have experienced and I applaud your strength for finally making the decision that was right for you and your kids. Kudos!

  8. Kay Says:

    Great post! I really wish more people would consider marriage much cautiously…

  9. Clarissa Says:

    What a great, great post!!!! Our backgrounds may be different, but it is like you wrote exactly how I feel and what I’ve been through!
    I think what was most poignant was the “mental image” of yourself, and how you weren’t going to define yourself as someone’s ‘baby mama.’ I know that my marriage is a result of my own mental image of being “the wife” and having my sense of self all tied up in that…
    Had I not been so obsessed with defining myself as “the wife” to the exclusion of everything else, I would not have married my husband and wouldn’t be as incredibly unhappy as I am today.
    It’s only now that I can see that everything I have gone through and all the suffering has been because I defined myself by my husband, instead of by who *I* am.
    I truly hope that your life is blessed now and filled with all the joys you’ve missed.

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