I started thinking about it on Valentine's Day for two reasons.
An odd combination, perhaps, but the connection was made.
I started thinking about my divorce.
I divorced a kind, intelligent man.
I divorced a wonderful father.
I divorced a man who loved me like I rose with the moon.
I divorced a man with whom I may have fought a dozen times. In fifteen years.
And why did those two incongrous posts make me ponder my divorce?
Because you could say I divorced a man over gas station flowers, and the woman who is alone and in pain would probably hate me for it.
My ex husband gave me many little gifts, and over the years had red roses delivered to me for Valentine's Day a number of times.
Which sounds so very sweet. So loving.
Except that the gifts had little to do with me, and red roses are something I've never liked.
In the early years I didn't care one little bit. I was so thrilled that someone would buy me a trinket. And I got roses! Who cared if I liked them?
But as time went on, and the awkward gift giving kept happening it started to feel a little...disappointing. At what point was it ok to say that CD's were not gifts I liked? When should I expect that the man who lived with me to know what would make me happy?
At what point was it ok to say, "You don't get an A for Effort any more. You are a grown man with a job and a wife who communicates with you about things that she likes and things that she doesn't and you are expected to pay attention." I was not penalizing him for not being psychic. But it began to hurt that I wasn't worth listening to.
A for Effort characterized much of our relationship. And without publicly crucifying a man who does not deserve to be, I can say that I reached a point where I could no longer give credit for the attempt and not be appraising of the outcome. And while this was not limited to a birthday or Valentine's Day gift, those are the clearest manifestations of the problem.
And I think about the woman who is alone and in pain. She says, "I’m sick of hearing friends bitch about their boyfriends or husbands because they are sloppy or they fart in bed, when I know these guys and sometimes would like to go, 'Hey, if you don’t want him, I’ll gladly take him off your hands!'"
I'm sure she would have done, and maybe he could have made her happy.
But her being alone does not negate my right to feel hurt. But had I complained about this to the woman who shared her pain about Valentine's Day she would have thought me ungrateful and unworthy. And while it sounds bitchy to suggest that I divorced a man because he gave me red roses instead of white, it would also be irresponsible to assume that that was anything but the tip of an iceberg. Show me the woman who would truly do that. But if you knew me and knew my marriage, it might surprise you to realize that underneath a successful parenting dyad and in the face of pair of people who never so much as said a sharp word to one another lived an achingly sad woman. I might have seemed shallow to complain about roses, but I could not bring myself to complain about the truth - that my marriage was a painting that looked pretty but left me feeling like I was truly the parent of two, when I had only birthed one.
And one person's loneliness doesn't mean that I have no right to any action but sucking it up.
Like the woman fighting infertility who is angry at her friend who complains that her two young children are making her crazy, each is entitled to their pain. The woman living through infertility would trade anything for her friend's problems, while her friend is wondering if she unknowingly sacrificed her sense of self and identity in her own quest for family. Neither is wrong, neither is right. Both hurt. And both are allowed to.
The unravelling of marriage is painful, sometimes slow, and occasionally invisible. Friends and family were shocked when we told them. But when I found myself looking at a red rose as a sign of dismissiveness instead of love I knew. We were set of poorly tuned radios. He was trying to broadcast, but my receivers weren't on the right frequency. My hurt hurt him, and we could not find our way back.
Lori, speech pathologist, writer, and business owner, blogs home-family-working-mom drama at In Pursuit of Martha Points.
More from love