Sunday, July 22, 2018

Leaps & Bounds

Despite the horrific experience that was my first marriage, I would not be deterred from getting my happily ever after.  Read:  I was kinda desperate to find The One.  I searched far and wide, sometimes ... correction ... usually looking in all the wrong places.  And some 14 years later, I found my next project … er … husband.

One would think I would’ve learned my lesson the first time around:  men cannot be saved, nor can they be changed.  Part Two of my love story strongly resembled Part One.  Only this time, it was not the man who needed saving (much), but rather his two young daughters.

We met at a 4th of July party.  On July 5th, he called and asked for a first date.

I was quite surprised, when, after dating a mere nine months, he suggested we look at engagement rings.  We then jetted off to Florida where he proposed to me in front of Cinderella’s Castle.  Truly, I thought, my fairy tale was coming true. 

About a month before the wedding, the wheels started to come off.  I started seeing glimpses of the “real” Jerry.  Glimpses of husband #1 and ideals which didn’t align with my own.  He wrote it off as cold feet and vowed to be better.  The rush to the altar, I (now) believe, his attempt to tie me down before I fully realized what I was getting myself into. 

With invitations sent and non-refundable deposits paid, I was transformed into my idea of Cinderella and we stood up before family and friends and said “I Do”.

The best game of charades ever played continued until about three months into our marriage.  At this point, I think he thought, there was no turning back.  You know, for better or worse - better for him, worse for me.

He was possessive, controlling, his personal views on child-rearing and household cleanliness so very different from my own; I mean … I like Mickey Mouse and all, but having mice running about in my home?  Not a fan. 

Where parenting was concerned, I think he was compensating for having divorced their mother.  Prior to our relationship, the girls had not met a single vegetable that they liked nor had they met a trash can they liked as it was not uncommon for candy wrappers and the like to be discarded wherever they stood. I had hoped to provide them with some structure and introduce them to some food options other than the only two food groups with which they were accustomed:  macaroni and cheese.

He stalked me at work, turning ugly and angry when I didn’t answer my (desk) phone (never mind the fact that I was often in meetings or assisting my manager); from my manager’s office, I could hear my phone ringing – one call after another after another – until she suggested I go answer the damn thing. 

He cyber-stalked me (before that was a thing) by following along on posts I made on a Disney-related message board (I mean REALLY?   What shady things could I possibly get into on a Disney-related board???). 

Knowing my dislike for smoking, he initially hid from me that he was a smoker, then vowed to quit when I made it clear that was a deal breaker.  A few months into the marriage, I wondered why he sounded so panicked to get home before I did when I agreed to fire up the grill for dinner.  Imagine my surprise when I went to light the coals only to find about a whole pack worth of cigarette butts in the grill.

We took the kids to Disney World and he started a fight with me there.  Knowing full-well that husband #1’s preferred means of emotional abuse was threatening to leave, he threatened to go home (while leaving his girls with me to finish out the vacation).  I don’t even remember what the argument was over, but I know that for as much as I loved Disney World, I couldn’t bring myself to go back for several years afterwards.

Serving as chaperones for my son’s band trip to Hawaii, he started an argument in front of the other chaperones – something about a camera or taking a picture, I don’t remember.  The looks on the other chaperones faces a mixture of pity and shock and awe.  I was hoping the magician we were seeing that night would ask for volunteers for his disappearing act!

It wasn’t long after that when we separated; in the middle of an argument, he threatened (again) to leave, and I warned him if he were to walk out the door, that he wouldn’t be walking back in.  Ever.  Unfortunately, the door didn’t hit him in the backside when he left.

At one point, when he was trying to weasel his way back into our home, the conversation went something like this:
HIM:  Were the phone calls at work really so bad?
ME: Uh … yeah … 
HIM:  So you mean to tell me that whenever you tried to call me, and I wasn’t at my desk, you assumed I was at work?
ME:  Uh … yeah … I did.  

Apparently I REALLY didn't pay attention the first time around.

A lengthy divorce followed (as I attempted to regain the several thousands of dollars that he owed me) and we finally said, “I Don’t” a mere 18 months after saying “I Do”.

And that’s the beginning of a personal transformation that would forever change me and my life.

Desperate to discover why I was so attuned to picking the wrong guy, I got into counseling.  What did I hope to get out of it?  I wanted to know what my part was in the downfall of not one, but two marriages.  (If you must know, it was my counselor’s professional opinion that I simply did not see or act on the multitude of red flags.)  Ever so patiently, my counselor helped me work through those issues (and several more) until I was ready to fly.  And fly I did.

At the time marriage #2 was falling apart, I underwent a spiritual awakening of sorts.  My faith walk began when I attended a spiritual retreat, the Walk to Emmaus.  It was through this retreat where I formed some incredible friendships with ladies that would help to see me through the dissolution of my marriage and who I still enjoy a loving friendship with today.

I became more active in my church, volunteering as a Stephen Minister (someone who helps others who are going through personal crises).  I was then asked to become a Stephen Leader for the ministry at my church.  It was during my Stephen Leader training that I read Speaking the Truth in Love:  How to be an Assertive Christian by Ruth N. Koch and Kenneth C. Haugk; the key word here (and the reason I share this is):  ASSERTIVE.  Where self-help books are concerned (and this wasn’t even meant to be one), this was the best!  My uber assertive co-worker even questioned what was happening with me, as she noticed my assertiveness in the office.

Just prior to accepting the leadership role at church, I was selected for my first management position in my Social Work career.  Along with my co-manager, we designed our own job responsibilities and that of our staff for the newly minted Quality Assurance section.  I loved building something from the ground up, as it were, and I was able to put my writing skills to work as we drafted procedures and other tools that enabled our staff to do their jobs.  And did I mention it was QA work?  I love structure (always have)!  As my son neared his high school graduation and prepared to leave the nest, I now had someone else (actually … about 50 someone else’s) for whom I was responsible.

It was this series of events that increased my confidence level and made me more self-aware.  I felt value in what I was doing, and I felt valued.  My self-esteem blossomed.  I grew by leaps and bounds (figuratively, of course).

No longer desperate to find a man, someone to make me whole, I made myself whole. 

I focused on my career with it’s ever-changing direction and tasks, I busied myself with my leadership role at church, and I enjoyed time with my friends – movies, dinner and drinks filled our evenings and binge-watching the Hallmark channel during the holidays was always a favorite.  I even enjoyed the time I spent at home alone.

I was content. 

It was at that point, when I was no longer actively looking for a man and I was happy with “me”, when a friend of mine said “There’s someone I think you should meet.  His name is Keith.”