Wednesday, September 21, 2011

If I were a widow

Last week marked four years since my husband blindsided me with the news that he no longer wanted to be married to me.  We had been married over 19 years and, coincidentally, that day was the 20th anniversary of the day we met.  I was, in a word, shattered.  Since then, I have noticed many ways in which I would be better off  if I had been widowed that day.

  • Most important of all:  I would know that, while I was alone, my husband loved and cared for me until the end.
  • It would be all over, instead of just beginning, and the healing could have started immediately.  
  • No secrecy would be required – keeping the “news” from all but a couple of people and, especially, from our daughters initially – in the vain hope that he would “change his mind.”  
  • My daughters would have known that their father cared for them – unconditionally – and put their needs before his.  Which, in all honesty, he did, until that unknown day when he chose to leave the family rather than to make an attempt to preserve it.
  • We could all speak openly and happily about the man who was such an important and precious part of our lives, both with others and with each other. 
  • My children would not have to worry and work at figuring out how (or if) to have a relationship with their father, nor be concerned that doing so would somehow hurt me.
  • Widows are supported and cared for, from the time of the husband’s death.  Left-behind wives are invisible.
  • I wouldn’t have to be concerned that I was being judged by those who believe that “it takes two to make a marriage and two to break one.”   That is utterly and completely false.  A relationship or marriage absolutely can be broken irretrievably by one person alone.
  • There would be “A” date to “mark”, sad as it would be.  Instead, I have: the date he told me, the date I found out painful things, the date I asked him to leave, the date our “legal separation” began (our 20th wedding anniversary, not coincidentally), the date he moved out.  None of them are known to anyone except me.   I’m still waiting for “the date” of the final divorce decree. 
  • My church would be a place of safety.  Instead it became a place of pain, as he continued to attend alone, acting as if nothing had changed.  More often than not, I’d end up taking refuge in the bathroom, sobbing.  Eventually, as I began to feel alone even there, I began to skip worship rather than risk seeing him.    I often wish someone had asked him why he continued to show up, when he’d overtly rejected his vows.  But, of course, no one is supposed to “take sides”…   (Yes, I know.  We are all sinners and should all be welcome in God’s house.  But it seems to me that it would not be too much to ask to have the “church” – or someone in it – question when a person decides unilaterally to reject a faithful spouse and end the existence of a family.)
  • My financial situation would be improved.  His life insurance would have paid off the house and put money aside for both daughters’ educations.  Instead, I drained my savings paying for half of one's college expenses and getting the other through her last year of high school, while trying to hold onto our home as long as I could.  I did have “child support” but it by no means approximated what he had brought into the home.   When I could no longer continue, the house was sold and my daughters and I moved.   While retirement always seemed like a mirage, it is now a financial impossibility. 
  • I would not have to worry, to this day, that I would meet him unexpectedly, fearing my own uncontrollable gut reaction.   Nor would I have to see a person I shared my life with for two decades, and had two children with, nod his head in my direction, acknowledging me as if we were vague acquaintances.
  • My ability to trust in another person would not have been destroyed.  
Some might say,  “Death is final; where there is life, there’s hope.”   For most of us surprised and shocked spouses, there is no hope.  Once, there were fervent prayers and desperate wishes, but we sensed that there was no real hope.  And, after a time, we realize that too much damage has been done ever to be with that person again.

[Please note that I mean no disrespect to real widows and do not wish any harm to my ex-to-be.  This is a compare-and-contrast piece that has been stirring inside for a long time and re-surfaced with the “anniversary”.]

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