Memories

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My ex-husband has been on my mind a lot lately. Something will happen and I’ll think, “I should text J to tell him about that!” Then I remember that he is dating another woman and has been for the past three and a half years.

I decided to stick it out with Z. There was a major shift in our relationship in early October, and I decided it was in my heart’s best interest to be a little softer. So here we are: I am with Z in the physical but spend a lot of time with J in my mind.

The biggest obstacle is my collection of memories. The negative are softened and the positive are exaggerated with the passage of time. January 7th was the fourth anniversary of our legal split. J is a very different person but I only know this through social media. I’m not sure if his intention was to remain friends or simply to keep tabs on me, but he started following me on Instagram and Twitter (which I don’t use much), and became my Facebook friend (again). He began a vegan lifestyle shortly after we went our separate ways. He grew his hair long – something I had begged him to do for several years. He started taking online classes to get a useful degree (I guess that film degree isn’t as lucrative in the mid-west as he expected). He is a loving and attentive fiance (actually, they might be married by now) and his lady posts pictures of the flowers he gives her. I think of the time toward the end of our marriage when he bought me flowers for actually running a 4 mile charity run, a goal I had for myself after my weight loss. It was a rare occasion for me to receive flowers – I can only remember a handful over our seven and a half years together. He sort of remembered my birthday our 6th year of marriage after forgetting every previous year. I still wonder if I truly loved him or if I wanted to love him like he seemed to love me.

I wrecked my car last month on black ice. It was my first accident after driving for almost 20 years. I bought that car the week before J and I started dating. We would have celebrated 10 years of marriage in 2016. That car was the last connection I had to J, and most likely caused my recent eruption of emotions and longing for the past. I can’t go back in time.

Sometimes the memories are better than the reality. This is my latest affirmation.

Alone Again… Naturally

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Two years and two days have passed since I met WFB (Whole Foods Boy). A little over one week ago I asked him to move out. Alcoholism and depression are motherfuckers and I can handle one, but not both. He basically moved in with me last summer, though he was still under a lease with his roommate for six more months. It was June of last year when he “moved in.” I asked him to stop living in my house if he wasn’t at least helping with dishes and mowing the lawn. Three months later, he was in a car accident and had to reveal to me that he had been driving on a restricted license due to not complying with state laws and getting an Interlock Breathalyzer system installed in his car TWO YEARS PRIOR when he got his second DUI. I forgave him the major omission, but still asked him to move back in with his roommate. He never left. In January of this year, he began paying rent and moved all of his things in to my house.

On the subject of alcohol, I’m the kind of person who will buy a six pack of beer that will last me six months. He drinks two or three beers a day for no reason and binge drinks on the weekends, often to the point of belligerence. He doesn’t drink Coors or Budweiser with low alcohol content – he purposefully buys beers in the big bottles that are anywhere from 10-15% alcohol content. I was embarrassed to take him anywhere that alcohol would be involved. In August of last year, we were invited to a party at a local bar. My friend’s friend was paying for all the drinks that night, and I informed WFB of this fact. He still ordered $20, $25, $30 bottles of beer, justifying the expense because “we were all sharing them.” He drank so much that he didn’t remember leaving or the cab ride home. He woke up the next day and asked if we had walked home.

In May, he went to a birthday party without me. I was house-sitting and didn’t feel well enough to attend. He drank so much that at 5:00 am, when he was supposed to be headed to work, he could not blow clean to start his car. His phone was dead and once he left his friend’s house, the door was locked behind him, everyone asleep inside. He walked almost 30 blocks to the house where I was staying, reeking of alcohol and his eyes bloodshot. “Can you take me to work?” he asked when I opened the front door in shock. I dropped him off and barely spoke to him. He was fired the next day. He swears it had nothing to do with his physical state that day.

He sat at home for almost three months, living off of the three months of PTO he had accrued that were paid out to him. He never filed for unemployment. He applied for only 2-3 jobs a week, stating that he had to completely re-write his cover letter every time and “that took a lot of time.” One week into his unemployment, my friend offered him a part time gig in a warehouse that would allow him to make money while looking for a career in something he had more interest. He assured me he was going to continue to apply for jobs while working at this temporary job. It was early August when he finally applied and started working in the warehouse. He is still there. They offered him full time and he is no longer looking for a career that interests him. He says he’s not going to be there forever, but that’s what he said about Whole Foods. He was there for over four years, and his mother was the one who talked him into applying there. He would still be there if he hadn’t been fired. I pushed him into the warehouse job because it was guaranteed income and he could continue the job search while earning some money.

About a month ago, I wanted to try to work things out. I went to his parents (who had just returned from seeing WFB’s brother in rehab) about his problem with drinking and his lack of motivation. There is a long line of alcoholism in their family. His parents promised to help him however they could and supported my decision if I chose to end the relationship. I recently started nursing school and I am not equipped to handle the stress of his depression and alcoholism along with the stress of school. I came home and relayed what I had told his parents. He spoke with them the next day, coming home to tell me that he was going to start AA classes and make an appointment with a therapist. He has been saying for the past six months that he is going to contact his previous therapist and get help. There has been no such contact. He has attended no AA classes. He is not very good at following through.

Four weeks ago, we broke up. Three weeks ago, we tried to work it out. A little over one week ago, we broke up and I asked him to move out. He has yet to look for another place to live. He doesn’t know how to take care of himself, and I cannot mother another man. I saw a six pack in his closet when I moved my printer out of his room two days ago. Some things never change.

He came home crying today, asking me if I’m happy. I simply left the house. I’ve grieved the loss of our romantic relationship for so long that I cannot cry any more about it. I’m sad some days but I am happy others. Some days I want to crawl into his arms and say, “let’s work it out,” but I know I’ll just turn around and change my mind the next day. Love is a bitch.

When Are You Two Getting Married?

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My ex-husband and I dated for 5 months when we became engaged and were one week shy of dating one year when we married, so our relationship didn’t give anyone time to press us about marriage. The anniversary of my first date with WFB is this coming Sunday and the question is starting to hit us like a tsunami. Every friend and every co-worker has been grilling us like we need to get hitched and do it now! The funniest part is that neither family is pushing us. I haven’t heard a single, “when are you going to get married and start having my grandchildren?” from either side, which is greatly appreciated. I’ve been there once and, though I’m not as scared to do it again as I thought I’d be, I’m just not ready at this moment to have WFB slide a ring on my finger and claim me for the rest of forever.

That said, if he were to drop down on one knee I might be inclined to say ‘yes’ but I’m pretty sure we’re on the same page of “let’s not rock the boat yet.” For that, I love him even more. We’re both a bit selfish and I don’t believe that either one of us is ready to make a life-long commitment. I’m preparing to go back to school to work on my BSN and he has goals and aspirations for the next couple of years as well.

Why do we pressure people into marriage? Working with an older generation helps give me perspective on how things have changed in the world over the past decades. We have older patients who were high school sweethearts and the fellow wanted to take care of his lady and he’s still doing it sixty years later. We have younger patients who come in as married couples, only to have one partner come back the next year having changed her name back to her maiden name, checking the “divorced” box on the form.

I grew up with two working parents. Mom stayed home until we were school aged, then went back into the workforce full time. Both incomes were needed to get by and raise the two of us kids, who were a definite financial burden. We, as women, don’t necessarily feel that burden these days. Some of us are having children later, marrying later and focusing on our careers and establishing ourselves before we dive into serious relationships. Others, like me, marry in our early 20s before we know who we are and what we want in life. Then, when we figure out that we don’t need another person’s monetary support, or their negative attitude, we leave the relationship in search of something more fulfilling.

My parents’ 39th anniversary is next week. They don’t always get along, and they almost divorced twice when I was a teenager. They’ll tell you that they don’t like each other every day, and there are days that they don’t even speak to each other. They’ll also tell you that they love each other so much that they can’t imagine being apart. I actually saw my dad cry (one of two times I’ve witnessed) when my mom threatened to leave. He told me he was devastated and didn’t want to live without her. This is what it is to marry and be monogamous. It’s not always glamorous, but it works for them and it works for a lot of couples.

Then you see couples who are married and have a girlfriend or boyfriend together or they have an “open relationship” and freely discuss together their escapades with other people. These couples seem happy and claim to feel even closer to their partners because they’re able to enjoy a variety of people but still return to their main partner for their basic emotional needs. I don’t understand how jealousy doesn’t wreck these couples, but I’ve never been a part of one and can’t imagine being a part of one. What works for some does not work for all.

For now, I’m content in my monogamous relationship with my sweet fellow. We’ll keep on keeping on until we’re both ready to move in another direction. Whether that’s marriage or something else, only time will tell.

The Road Trip

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One week ago, I arrived home after a 10 day road trip with my boyfriend. Eight months into our relationship, we drove 5000 miles together (or rather, I drove because he can’t drive my manual transmission vehicle) and managed not to kill each other. Did I mention that I had horrible PMS starting the day we left? It was truly an adventure.

I drove about 14 hours the first day, including gas, potty breaks, and a stop at the Badlands in South Dakota. The hour we spent there was totally worth the $15 State Park fee. Anyway, it took us about two and a half days to get to Seattle where we met up and stayed with my bestie and her hubby. The BF and I went hiking one day and spent a portion of the next day getting my tire changed because I got a flat on the way back from hiking. I’m soooo glad I have a spare. Anyway, we spent the rest of the day shopping and walking around the Market. We met some of my other friends for happy hour at a cool dive near the Market. BF was not very happy that we had planned on going to a neighborhood bar afterward, but we were all tired: my friends from working, and me from getting elbowed in the face all night by him. He was very pouty, but seemed to understand when we all crashed early that night. I was pretty bummed that we only spent a couple of days with Carrie and Doug because it just wasn’t enough time, but we had to get on the road.

Wednesday morning, we ate some breakfast at a diner nearby then hit the road to San Jose around 9:30 am. We arrived around 11 pm. Jason was home to greet us and Julie would be home that Friday afternoon. We took a day trip to Los Gatos and Santa Cruz on Thursday. We ate awesome food and had several arguments. The most time we had spent together, without work interruptions or other plans prior to our trip was about 48 hours. By this time, we’d been unseparated for 7 days. I love him but I needed some alone time. The next day, Julie came home and we drove down to Capitola. They offered to drive, but I absolutely LOVED driving those windy mountain roads, so I took the wheel and off we went. That night, they took us for Afghani food that was phenomenal. When we got back to the house, the stress of the trip and my erratic mood swings had taken their toll on my BF. After a small melt-down, he holed up in the bedroom while I played silly games with our hosts and their neighbors. I had a great time, but felt badly that my BF wasn’t in on the fun.

We headed out late the next morning for the wedding, just north of Bodega Bay. It was magically beautiful. The ocean was at our backs and the mountains were just ahead. This was the first day we hadn’t fought since we left home. Or maybe we did and I just don’t remember. The wedding was at 3:00 and we started home shortly after 7:00. We didn’t fight as much on the way home, partly from exhaustion and partly from my silence while driving through mountains in heavy fog. By the time we got home, I was beyond worn out. I snuggled my cat, then compulsively unpacked while my BF passed out on the bed while reading comics on his tablet.

Things are still good between us. I think the trip brought us closer together. I have been so used to traveling alone that it was a huge adjustment having to think about another person’s needs along the way. We’re talking about living together. I’ve been enjoying moving more slowly than past relationships. We have had more time to learn about each other and our quirks before getting too serious. I would bet money that if my ex husband and I had gone on a ten day road trip together, we would never have gotten married.

So I guess my advice to any couple getting more serious about their relationship or thinking about marriage would be to take a road trip together. You see a person’s everything: every mood, every bad habit, how they entertain themselves… If you still love them afterward, you’ve built a strong foundation.

Dread

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Butterflies are the best. When you hear that knock on the door and your heart skips a beat. Every cell phone vibration might be them and your pulse races. Butterflies are fleeting, but should they be gone after six months? Should my heart drop when I come home for lunch and see that his car is still in the garage? I wanted that 45 minutes to myself. I need space. Lots of it. After being in a marriage with infinite space, I wanted a man to be at my side at all times. Now that I have a man who wants to be by my side at all times, I’m suffocating.

We have other issues than space and, though our communication is stellar, I’m unhappy. Sometimes I wonder if it’s my small living space that causes my anxiety about our relationship, but I know it’s not the size of my apartment. It’s the empty beer bottles and salsa dishes and skillets that I clean up almost every time he leaves. It’s my melted spatula and my ruined loaf pan with no replacement offer. It’s the Tupperware he’s had for 4 months and can’t manage to bring back despite constant reminders. It’s the Kleenex and the toothpaste and the toilet paper and the soap and the electric bill and the food and the beer that have exponentially increased in usage and therefore cost over the past 5 months. It’s coming home, thinking I have a night to myself and he’s in my shower after his workout or on my couch watching sports because he doesn’t have cable and I gave him a key. It’s being told that my nieces aren’t my family because they’re my ex-brother-in-law’s kids and not my blood relation, even though they’ve been a part of my life for the past 10 years. Communication improves things for a week or two, but not long-term. I often chalk it up to his relationship inexperience, but that only accounts for so much. I left a relationship in which I was a care-giver rather than a partner and I now find myself in the same type of relationship. Patterns don’t break themselves and I have to find a way. He says he loves me but words are words and, as the adage states, actions are louder. I feel used: not loved for me, but for what I can provide.

I’ve been thinking about the mechanic a lot lately. Though we never had a cemented relationship, we connected in a way that I’ve never connected with another person. I know we may never enter into a committed relationship, but he understands me and I understand him. At this point in my life, that’s all I want. I don’t want a ring or a wedding or even a joint checking account. I want someone to miss me and to love me, but I want freedom. I don’t know if I can have it all, but I need to be bold and try.

I need to be alone.

Space

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I usually think it’s incredibly sweet when my boyfriend shows up unannounced to see me. He brought me two dozen roses on February 13th over his lunch break, even though it meant he wouldn’t be able to eat. Sometimes I’m selfish. Tonight, we were supposed to watch the KU basketball game together. I called him on my way home from the gym to tell him I wasn’t up for hanging out. I just wanted to come home from the gym, take a bath, and watch The Killing on Netflix while eating Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cookie ice cream.

He didn’t answer his phone, and I came home to my boyfriend in my shower and ESPN blaring on my T.V. I was barely able to wash my face before my hot water ran out. No bath. By the time I was finished showering, he was yelling at the basketball players like he was the only motivational voice they could hear. No Netflix. I don’t feel like farting in front of him tonight, so no Ben & Jerry’s. I’ve been at the computer for the past two hours with my headphones on, listening to my Head & the Heart channel on Pandora. It’s great if you like folksy, easy-going music.

I love him, but some days I miss my space. He doesn’t like to be in his space. His roommate is a mess and a hoarder, and their house makes me claustrophobic. I don’t feel comfortable there, and he tells me he feels more at home here, in my apartment. I understand completely, but my space is a 500 sq. foot studio apartment. Sometimes I need quiet, Sarah Time.

I’m starting to believe that I’ll always be learning in my relationships. This relationship is teaching me patience and how to use my voice. I think tomorrow is going to be “Sarah Day.” I need that, and I know he’ll understand.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

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I found an old journal I started when I was first dating my now ex-husband. It was all flowery and mushy, like all 21 year old girls can be when they think they’ve found “The One.” Unfortunately, the longer we were together, the more miserable I became. One entry I wrote seemed a bit foreshadowing: two months into our relationship, I put ink to paper that “I’m going to marry Jeff. Mom and I argued about it, but I’m in love and we’re going to get married one day.” I remember her saying we were too young, too immature… She and my father have been married almost 39 years: she was 18 and he was 27 when they wed. Anyway, we did marry but it didn’t last, obviously.

Here is where the damage lies. I love my boyfriend. He’s fantastic. He witnessed a hangry break-down for the first time that involved crying and a lot of “I’m so hungry that nothing sounds good!” He patted my head, told me he loved me and everything would be fine. This completely stumps me. This is the kind of support I’ve needed my whole life, but I feel like it’s not real. I’m afraid one day he’ll say, “we need to talk…” and that’ll be it. I’ll tell him a deep, dark secret and he’ll run. Will he become bored with me? Maybe I’ll run. I seem to have a talent for ending relationships. I’ve been the one in all of my serious relationships to throw in the towel. I’ve had three of them: the first lasting over one year, the second two and a half years, and my third being my six and a half year marriage. How do I convince myself to let go and let it be? I don’t know that there are enough affirmations in the world to make me believe I’m worthy of the love I’m receiving, but I’m going to keep telling myself “happiness is my destiny” and “I am worthy of my love and another’s love in return” in hopes one day I’ll hear truth in those words.