We had lived together for three and a half years before we actually got married. We should have figured out in that time what we were getting ourselves into. The problem was that we each had very defined expectations of what life would be like after we said our vows, but they didn’t really line up. I expected that the world would continue to revolve around me and my career and she expected that everything was going to change and that the world would revolve around her.
Alas, we agreed to disagree.
Except, no, that’s not really how it all went down…
Throughout our relationship, we had our share of difficulties. We were both young, immature, and very selfish. Even so, we managed to hold it all together, all the way to the alter. And once we said “I do” in front of God and Man, I thought we were in the clear. That is to say, I thought we had officially answered “yes” to the question “Are you going to stay with this person for the rest of your life?” It’s not like I thought we weren’t going to fight anymore, only that we were going to work things out, no matter what. Especially since we had both agreed from the very beginning of our relationship that neither of us believed in divorce.
Thus, when we hit a solid rough patch after about six-months of marriage, I figured that this was the first of many obstacles that we were going to have to overcome. She immediately wanted to go to counseling and I rejected the idea as I thought counseling was only for the weak. But as things got more serious, I started seeing that her commitment to the relationship wasn’t as absolute as mine and I gave in to the counseling.
Unfortunately, it was already too late. By this time, though incredibly premature, I believe she had already made up her mind that she wanted a divorce and she was simply looking for someone to justify her decision. Despite not being happy in the relationship, I had no desire to get divorced. I actually believed the whole “till death do us part” promise and I had no intention of going back on it, regardless of how tough things got. As such, I suggested that we go talk to our local priest with whom we had gone through our pre-marital counseling with, but she objected. She said she wanted to talk with someone who didn’t know either of us, so we went and spoke with a priest from another parish.
When we walked into his office, she was prepared with a notebook that listed out all the ways I was a jerk. From not liking her friends to not being compassionate enough when she did poorly on her Law-School entrance exams to not wanting to spend Christmas with her family. Though all of these things were true, the priest cut her off quickly. He took a very hard line with both of us, stating that in our case divorce should in no way be an option and that what we needed was some structured Christian counseling. He even referred us to a counselor.
Fearing that this counselor might take the same hard line as the priest, she decided to find a counselor on her own. Then, during our first session with the counselor she picked, she dropped a bombshell: “I have some issues that I’ve never really dealt with or gotten over.” she told the counselor. “When I was eight years old, my Dad cheated on my Mom. And then he cheated again when I was eleven. And maybe again a couple of years ago, but I’m not positive about that one.”
We had been together for about four and a half years and this was the first I had ever heard about her father’s infidelity! According to her, he was a saint who had never done anything wrong.
Then the counselor started in with his questions:
“So you and your Dad have a bad relationship, huh?”
“No, not at all! I love my Dad more than anything.” she replied.
“Do you understand that you’re Dad didn’t just cheat on your Mom, but that he cheated on you and your sister too?” he asked.
“Well then, you must really be mad at your Mom for being so weak and staying with your Dad after he cheated?” he continued.
“No, I think my Mom is strong for having stayed with my Dad!” she objected.
“So you think your Mom’s great and you think your Dad is great. Who, then are you projecting all of your anger at? You seem pretty angry at your husband, but he hasn’t cheated on you. You have a list of things he’s done wrong, but nothing to justify divorce.”
As I sat there watching this conversation unfold, I was in a bit of shock. Yes, I was a jerk. I always had been, since before we had met. But what I hadn’t understood was why all of this anger / resentment / talk of divorce was coming out now and in what I considered to be a disproportionate amount? It appeared to me that counselor was saying that she was projecting on me all of the hurt and anger that her Dad has caused years earlier for fear that I could do what he had done.
Though this wasn’t fair, it all seemed to make sense. At least it did to me.
After she finished talking about her Dad’s transgressions, we talked about our mis-aligned expectations of each other. At the end of the session the counselor made it very clear that we had no business talking about divorce:
“Look, you both have your share of issues and baggage, but let’s get one thing straight: Getting a divorce is not going to solve any of these problems! These problems are things that both of you brought into this relationship and unless you deal with these problems directly, you’re going to take these same problems with you when you go. Don’t for a second think that you’re going to get a new haircut and a new wardrobe and that all of these issues are going to magically disappear. That’s not the way it works. You’ll simply end up taking these issues with you into your next relationship!”
Needless to say, she didn’t like this counselor at all. As far as I could tell, she had already decided in her mind that she was done fighting for the relationship and was simply looking for someone to condone her quitting. Unfortunately for her, nobody associated with the Church was going to let her off the hook so easily.
Or so I thought.
You can imagine my surprise when she told me that she had spoken with her Dad and that he had given her the go-ahead to get a divorce.
Seriously? Her Dad gave her the ok? The guy who is a Deacon in the Cathlolic Church? The guy who encouraged her to move with me and chase my career? The guy who walked her down the aisle just nine months earlier? That’s the guy who gave her his blessing to get a divorce? This didn’t make any sense!
Except that it did…
When a man cheats on his family, he is forever in debt and a dark cloud always hangs above his head. This is why most men who cheat simply leave and never come back, so as not to deal with the hurt they have caused. But for the men who come back and stay, they live with the guilt everyday. In this case, her Dad dealt with the guilt by simply saying “yes” to whatever his little girl wanted, for better or for worse.
“Yes, you should move in together!”
“Yes, you should get married!”
“Yes, you should get divorced.”
And yet, that was just the beginning.
The night she told me that she was actually going to file for divorce, I went to the walk-in closet of our bedroom and I cried. I called my older sister Araseli and told her what was going on and she cried with me. Over the next few days, I didn’t get much work done as I spent most of my time calling my family and friends and simply sobbing over the phone. I wasn’t seeking advice during this time, only someone to share the pain with. Fortunately, I had an amazing network of loved ones who supported me during these darkest of days.
After about a week or so, once I had completely dehydrated my body though my tear ducts, I was able to get a hold of Heather (a former boss) whom I knew was going through a divorce. It was then that she taught me about “standing for your marriage”.
Apparently, just because one person wants out of a marriage doesn’t mean the other person has to give up as well. I’m not saying I was happy in the relationship, but the fact remained that I went in front of God and Man and committed to fight for this relationship. So, despite my desire to take the easy way out and simply quit, I decided to “stand”. Rather than just give up and walk away, I chose to stay.
From a pride perspective and from the world’s perspective, this was a chump move. “Why would you try to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with you?” people would ask. “Don’t you know it takes two to tango?” “You can’t make somebody love you.”
Though I agreed, “standing” wasn’t about doing what I wanted to do or trying to make someone else do what I wanted them to do. For me, standing was about doing what I committed to do, which was not give up. For better or for worse. As far as I was concerned, this is what they meant when they put in the “for worse” clause.
Thus, I did what I could to slow down the process in hopes that she would change her mind and choose to fight for the relationship. I prayed for her day and night, I let her know that she was always welcome back, I complied peacefully with her every request, and I continued to behave myself like a married man should. As much as I wanted to fight to save our marriage, I knew that if she actually did come back that it would make for an incredibly hard situation. The road to reconciliation is a long and difficult one, full of humbleness, compassion, and forgiveness, which is why most people choose not to go down that path.
But like they say, “it takes two to tango” and she was no longer willing to dance. In the end, she went ahead with the legal paperwork and the State of Florida dissolved our marriage, almost as quickly as they had recognized it.
To the end, I never complied or agreed with the dissolution and there aren’t any court documents in existence with my signature on them. At the final hearing, I was given an opportunity to make a statement:
“Your Honor, I love my wife unconditionally and will continue to do so forever, just as we both vowed to do on our wedding day.
That said, I understand that I cannot control, nor be held accountable for her actions. So, if she wants to continue down the path that she has been on for the past nine months, all I can do is continue to love her without condition and hope that one day she decides to pursue reconciliation.
In short, Your Honor, I am not here in an attempt to ‘make her love me’… More so, I am here to make good on my end of the deal we made on our wedding day, where we entered into a covenant with each other and the Lord Jesus Christ and stated that we would stand by each other and love each other for better or worse, through good times and bad, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, until the end of time.”
After I finished the Judge thanked me for my words, granted the divorce, and then gently tapped her gavel on the block. Just like that, it was over. We walked out of that courtroom that day and we haven’t seen each other since.
Looking back, I can say with confidence that going through that divorce was the most difficult, most painful, worst time in my life and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. I cried for months and months and it still depresses me to think about it now. Even so, I can testify that light does exist at the end of that long, dark tunnel.
While many men in that situation run straight to the bar and the strip club, I decided to run to church and the counselor’s office instead. After she initially moved out, I continued seeing our marriage counselor twice a week for about three months. This, in conjunction with my faith journey is what saved me from experiencing an even darker and more depressing time.