We all have those odd dates that stick out for some reason or another. The day we met so and so, did such and such or discovered whatever. For me, January 28, is the 17th anniversary of the day I started dating my ex-husband. Random, huh? But it is a date that is permanently etched in my brain. Half my lifetime ago I started dating the guy who I thought was my Prince Charming. It took me 4.5 years and a failed 11 month marriage to figure out that he was just another frog in the pond. The damage he did along the way is still with me in a lot of ways.
When you're 17 going on 18 the world has so much potential. You are so sure of yourself that you can't imagine that someone who loves you would want to change you...control you. He was a close friend, a year older and the guy that my Mom kept saying "why don't you date??" (She regrets that to this day, I'm sad to say.) I wasn't interested until he wasn't around for a bit. After not seeing each other for a couple months he showed up at a basketball game to watch his brother play and the next thing you know we were inseparable. He'd leave me love notes on my car windshield or have his brother pass them to me in school and I'd send my responses back the same way. We spent every spare moment we had together and I was sure it would be forever.
After high school I got a job at the same place as him. Not the same hours all the time but we got to check in with each other and sometimes go on break together. We went to the same junior college together in the fall and managed to take a couple classes together. I performed in the traveling theater show that first year. Only that once though because it cut into the amount of time we could spend together. I am sure he would tell you, even now, that he never told me to not do it again but his...disappointment...in us not being able to spend time together was evident. If only I had seen it then... We chose a University to go to...well, I chose it and, this one time, gave him the choice to either be there with me or not. I wish I could say that that was my idea but my parents decided that for me (not the actual school but that I had to move on from a 2 year college after 2 years.)
It was a spring day when he proposed, I can't even give you a date because it didn't stick in my head. I can say that I knew what my ring looked like because we picked it out together. I had had a fight with my sister about who knows what and was upset. We went for a walk and he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I said yes. Then he took the ring back, saying it had to be sized and that he would give it back to me when the time was right...when I deserved it. (I know, RED FLAG!!) I wasn't happy about that but I accepted it. It was several months before I ever wore that ring...
I spent breaks from school planning our wedding for the following summer. We went to school 9 hours away from home so everything had to be condensed into the short time we were home for breaks. That first semester I was part of 2 theater shows, had a part time job and went to school full time. I didn't do another show until after my divorce. I was made aware of the fact that it cut into our time together. Not said outright or anything...more like "you seem so stressed out and we never get to just hang out together anymore" or "you aren't' going to stay late after rehearsal tonight are you; you know I get worried about you being out late."
I wasn't allowed to drive his car. Not because it was anything special. Heck, it was a Tempo for crying out loud. But I was not allowed to drive it. Ever. Oh & I wasn't allowed to drive in traffic of any kind because traffic made me nervous. Not that I ever recalled being nervous in traffic but when someone tells you that often enough, guess what, traffic will make you nervous.
There were so many red flags that I am amazed that I ever went through with the wedding. To be truthful, every once in a while I would have a nagging doubt but I though that his insecurity would vanish when we got married. Only it didn't. What did happen was that I was get ting more involved in my theater and speech classes which required me to have rehearsal time and he started hanging out with a friend of his. A female friend of his. Even this didn't faze me as his best friend from school was female and it just never occurred to me to be worried. We were living off student loans so we didn't have a lot of money and I can remember going out with my sister for her birthday meal in early May. We went to her favorite Mexican joint. I left for rehearsal for a class project and he left to take his "friend" miniature golfing. We didn't have money for us to go but he had money to take her... Yes, I was clueless.
He left me not long after. I was lost without him and desperate to get him back. I, pathetically, tried to get him back by turning myself into a Stepford wife. I begged him to give me another chance, go to counseling, honor our vows... He felt it was too little, too late. I had given up having a life outside of him for 4 years but it was still too little, too late. It got ugly fast and I count myself lucky to have people in my life who held me up when I would have curled up in a ball and given up.
I am not proud of how that summer started but I will hold my head high on how it ended. Everything clicked in the middle of July as I was getting ready to visit a dear friend. I realized, quite simply, that I liked who I was without him more than I ever liked who I was with him.
Yet, every January when the 28th rolls around I can't help but remember the girl I was who was so excited to have found her Prince Charming. The things I wish I could tell her. Most importantly, the stuff I would remind her not to lose. Like herself.