Everything makes sense now.
This will be a long post, folks. To readers who don’t know me personally, I hope you gain wisdom from reading this, mainly: You may be loved far more than you realize.
During the weekend before Thanksgiving, someone whose content I follow online defined love in a way I had never quite thought of before. He had asked his parents how they managed to stay married for so long, and after listening to their lengthy explanations, he realized their marriage worked because each of his parents always focused on doing one thing: giving. Almost pure altruism. He said that the problem with ‘love’ in this day and age is that everyone is looking for what they can get from someone else, instead of looking for what they can give. For most of my life, I saw love as both altruism and personal desire…
My ex-wife herself has taught me that true love is pure selfless concern for another. That combined with what I learned from that guy’s video blogs has shown me what I did wrong in my marriage.
As for my ex-wife, she taught me the truest meaning of love because never in my life has anyone drawn out so much anger and resentment in me while I still realize I love them. My best friend finally broke his silence recently and asked, and I quote, “Why do you still love her when she gives you nothing to love her for?” My answer was that I just do. When you love someone and feel they haven’t earned it, that is true love. When you want to give your love to someone you feel hasn’t earned it, that’s true love.
I realized all that right before realizing … she most certainly did earn it. Was this all a divine test?
I think true, genuine, authentic, pure love literally is altruism. It is putting someone before yourself. That’s why long marriages, between couples who still adore each other, only continue to feel that way because they endlessly try to give what they can to the other.
People say (and I used to say) that miscommunication is what destroys relationships. I think a variety of things can, but love can fix all of them. Think about it. If you truly love someone, no matter how immature you both are, no matter how damaged you both are, no matter how much there is [insert problem here], if you both keep focusing on what you can give to each other, you will find a solution. Love is the key. Don’t think of love as the solution to the problems themselves; it never is. Love is the key to finding the solution.
I used to believe self-interest in a relationship was a good thing, at least when it came to marriage, even though that has never been my approach to relationships (more on that later). I thought successful marriages seemed to be a sort of business transaction. I’ve seen miserable couples who still stay together after decades, so I thought the underlying factor was not love, but mutual benefit. That may still be true, but it’s not true for couples who are still in love after decades. Being in love and being married are not the same thing, though it’s better when they are.
I used to believe a successful relationship needed more than just love. I used to believe ‘love’ did not even make the top-5 list of most important things a relationship needs. I have changed my mind. I have completely changed my mind.
When you have true love for someone, you care most about what you can give them. Other things can get in the way, such as fear, uncertainty, emotional pain, or some form of ignorance, but if it’s true love, in the end, all these obstacles will be overcome. I know how cheesy that sounds, but I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t believe it.
What I’m about to explain will make it seem like I’m contradicting what I’ve said so far, but read to the end of the post.
Altruism has been my approach in all my relationships. Like everyone else in the world, there were things in my relationships that I hoped to get in return, but that was never why I got in them. It’s just always felt good to love; to give. The problem I’ve always encountered with relationships, except my ex-wife, is that my partner seems to only care about herself. I see it in others’ relationships too. I never felt that problem from my wife … but even then, I was still very wrong about her both during our marriage and afterward.
The same problem cursed us both while we were together, and after:
I never believed she truly loved me. (A little, yes, but never truly.)
I loved my wife with all my heart, but I was afraid of her. I was afraid that she would hurt me like I’ve been hurt before by family and past lovers. I consciously knew this while we were together, but that was only half the problem. I wasn’t aware of the other half of the problem until just this past week. The other half of the problem was that I wasn’t aware my wife loved me, deeply.
In hindsight, I have come to realize just how many things she did, big and small, that she only did out of love. One of the big things was how often she didn’t voice what she wanted or what she was thinking, even when I asked and urged her to tell me. We had arguments sometimes (she didn’t hesitate to disagree with me), and I encouraged her to provide her own opinion to things, but often times she still didn’t speak up when it came to things we could do as a couple, and I am convinced this was for my sake; for my happiness.
I’ll give some examples. She did not speak up when it came to the business I was trying to start. Throughout our entire marriage, I was trying to start a business so that maybe one day we could live comfortably, instead of living paycheck-to-paycheck for the rest of our lives. But she didn’t help with the business, except on rare occasion. It wasn’t until we neared the end of our marriage that I finally asked why she wasn’t helping with the business. She said it didn’t interest her, despite the fact her role would have been a photographer, and she loves photography. She said that, yes, she loves photography, but doesn’t want to do it every day for years and years. Why is this important? Because there’s more to her answer than her direct words. Her answer implied something huge: It implied that she didn’t speak up about this earlier because she didn’t want to let me down. The truth always catches up to us, but sometimes, we withhold it for as long as we can to make someone we love just a little happier. So, this is a prime example of how my wife didn’t speak up for herself, for my sake. She didn’t speak up until I asked to know what’s wrong.
Another example is a more personal one: Sex. The entire time we were together, even before we were married, she only declined to have sex a total of two times. Chances are good that, throughout our marriage, she had to have not been in the mood, or too tired, more often than those two times, but she still only declined it two times total. She also never objected to how I wanted to have sex. Again, I think the only reason could be that she wanted to make me happy.
An important example now: Our wedding.
I wanted a small wedding, of only like 4 witnesses total. What I heard from her was that she wanted a small wedding too. There was one thing, only one thing, that she spoke up about, and that was about the fact she wanted all of her family there. I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of 30+ people being there, but I accepted. And that was the only part of our wedding that wasn’t what I wanted. I didn’t learn until after she left me that she wanted much more for our wedding. I have since forgotten what she listed, but one thing she finally told me she had wanted was bridesmaids. I’ll just assume she wanted a full and grand wedding, bordering on a fantasy. But she didn’t tell me any of this at the time. I had no idea. In fact, she said the opposite. She said she wanted it small and uneventful. That clearly wasn’t true. It’s like she wanted to obscure her own desires so that I would be that much happier.
Like the photography thing, and the wedding thing … these are all things I just plain didn’t know until much later. These days, post-divorce, my ex-wife claims she had no self-respect. I strongly disagree. She has always been more than capable of speaking up for herself, even to me during our marriage. We had arguments, we had disagreements, and I know for a fact I valued her opinion and desires in all things. You will notice she never spoke up when it came to things that I, her husband, just plain desired. Whether it was in the moment, like sex, or long-term things, that was when she gave, gave, gave. It’s not that she had no self-respect, it’s that she was so focused on giving, she was so focused on making her husband happy… This is one of the bigger things that she doesn’t/didn’t understand about herself (in my opinion): She wanted to give so much, as a wife, that she did not really care about what she wanted for herself. That is why she didn’t speak up most of the time. That is why she almost never refused sex, that is why she didn’t tell me about her disinterest in the business I was trying to start, that is why we didn’t have a more elaborate wedding, and that is why … a lot of things.
Now, my ex-wife, on now several occasions, despite her claim that I was abusive, has admitted more than once that I was not overtly abusive (striking her, raising my voice at her, condescending her, destroying her belongings, making rules for her, etc.) In fact, the last time I had a conversation with her (which I will elaborate on shortly), she said that she “wishes” I had been overtly abusive like that so that she “could have recognized it sooner.” In my opinion, I think she knows, subconsciously, that I was not an abusive husband. Her own relatives have rolled their eyes when I brought this up to them. But I think she clings to that claim because it’s the closest she can make sense of what happened between us, and the most she can admit to herself about what is truly going on in her mind (more on that later also). A large part of what she doesn’t seem to understand is that … she burned out.
She gave so much, she left so little for herself.
The word ‘abuse’ seems to be her mind’s way of making sense of something she doesn’t consciously understand yet. It seems to be her mind’s way of combining her burnout with the disastrous final days of our marriage when we were both being highly, highly irrational. It seems (emphasis on ‘seems’) that her mind merged her burnout with our marriage crashing. The second time she and I went to court, a year-and-a-half after we separated, our judge made an observation that my ex-wife is a highly emotional person and takes things much harder than most people do. That same judge during that same hearing said that during her 14-year career, our situation was very calm and civil compared to what she has seen. (My paraphrase.) I agree with this assessment.
You may be wondering why my ex-wife burned out in the first place. This is where I talk about how I fell short as a husband.
When we first got together, I told her that I have been cheated on by my first girlfriend, and that I still carried the fear of that happening again. Except, in the two or three weeks immediately following that conversation, I noticed I wasn’t afraid of her cheating on me. She really seemed like she wouldn’t ever do that, and for various reasons. That is … until one night she admitted that, two weeks prior, she went behind my back to visit her ex-boyfriend. That revelation reactivated my insecurity.
From that moment on, I was scared of her. No, I was terrified of her. Nearly the whole time we were together after that, I couldn’t stop thinking, “If she can go behind my back once, then what’s stopping her from doing it again?” She claimed she didn’t cheat, but I just didn’t know how to believe that.
But that was not the only reason I was terrified of her. Another big reason was because I just didn’t believe she loved me all that much. I didn’t comprehend how she could. A lifetime of rejections and abandonment, and just generally falling short of my own standards, taught me that there clearly isn’t much to love about me. So, for this woman, or for any woman, to claim to love me enough to marry me… I just didn’t believe it. Deep down, I felt something was wrong. After all, she didn’t seem thrilled to get engaged to me. I didn’t have any idea she even liked me until the night I asked her how she felt and she outright said it. Basically, I knew she loved me at least a little bit, but I came up with several reasons why she couldn’t possibly love me enough to truly give her life to me; to be a committed wife. I was suspicious, instead of accepting. And I buried that suspicion every day, except around once or twice a month when it slightly surfaced.
What got me through the marriage, while having this fear, was the fact I loved her more than anything and I was willing to put myself at risk of more emotional pain, for the rest of my life, if it meant keeping her by my side.
The subconscious figures things out long before our conscious minds do. My regular readers know full-well by now that I fell in love with my ex-wife the first time I laid eyes on her. Well, clearly, it figured out who she was in that first instant, and it demanded I wife her up. My first love, I met when were 10, then we first started going out the day I turned 13, and we were together off-and-on until we were 19. Basically, my first love was my childhood love, and even then, there was absolutely nothing in my subconscious that told me to marry her or make a child with her. As much as I’ve wanted to be a father since I was a child, since before I met my first love, my subconscious did not see her as wife or mother material. And my second love is not even worth talking about. Overall, my relationships before my wife were a waste of time. I didn’t want to have those girls for the rest of my life. And that changed literally in an instant when I first laid eyes on my ex-wife. My subconscious somehow seemed to know my ex-wife was going to be different; very different. She would be a giver. She would be a committed wife. She would be a great mother.
When I listed examples of how she gave so much to me during our marriage, this is the biggest part I left out. Our daughter… She didn’t want to be a mother. She wasn’t against the idea, but she wasn’t for it, either. I asked her to stop taking birth control, and she agreed to stop, for me, and only for me. Our daughter was only conceived because I wanted that for us. The greatest gift, the greatest sacrifice that she could ever give me: The one thing I always wanted most.
She married me, she gave me a child. And somehow I didn’t believe she truly loved me…
When we were married, I didn’t accept the full extent of her love. When we separated (and shortly before), I was consumed with anger. Then, I realized I still love my ex-wife, while the anger remained as well. Then, I learned how to live with love and anger.
Now… I think the anger has been completely extinguished. (At least, my anger from everything that transpired up to this point. Can’t speak for the future after this point, though.) My anger stemmed from things she’s done since we separated, which I described ad nauseum on this blog for months. Her actions have still been wrong – I will never change my mind about that – but I understand all of it now. She is a broken soul. And she was before I first met her. This brings me to the rest of the origin of her ‘abuse’ accusation towards me. Half of that accusation stems from her misunderstanding what happened between us (I did too, which is the whole point of this article), but the other half stems from actual abuse she has endured.
It’s a bit of a different subject, so I won’t dive into this now, but I think I understand why her stepfather, who actually was abusive, gets a pass while I, who was not abusive, am scapegoated. Nonetheless, it is immensely unfair that a guy like him receives 0 consequences from my ex-wife whatsoever, or even criticism, for the damage he did to her before I met her. Around a week before writing this post, my ex-wife and I had a long conversation in person, and at one point I told her it seems she has never been happy in all her life. She retorted, saying that she was happy when she moved out of her mother and stepfather’s house (the first time). I didn’t say this out loud, but I thought that was proof she knows her stepfather was abusive. It brought her actual joy to be rid of him. That was her admission. So, all in all, my ex-wife does suffer from trauma, she does suffer from emotional pain from abuse, but it wasn’t from me. She has known her stepfather better than her real father, for nearly all her life, so it would probably ruin her utterly if she got honest with herself about how he treated her growing up. Girls need their daddies.
I think about what I’d do regarding her stepfather if my ex-wife and I became a complete family again. What would I do? Nothing. Just like last time. Because the man is no longer in a position to damage her further. More importantly, it’s possible he’s improved. If he were to improve past the things I’ve heard, and past the things I’ve witnessed, and became likeable, or at the very least, not-terrible, then I wouldn’t have a problem with him anymore. Like I said in a recent post about John Newton, a person’s character can improve over time.
Remember in this post when I said she has a beautiful soul? I believe that more than ever now. She is a very giving person, and has been her entire life.
She has been raising people since she was about 5 years old. After her bio-parents split up and married other people, she’s had to help raise every one of her 8 half-siblings. Even after she grew up and moved away from her mother and stepfather, she still helped take care of them, and even babysat her extended family’s pets. I came into her life before all of her siblings were finished growing up (still only one of them has, as of now), and I asked her to be the mother of my child. She agreed to another 18 years of raising someone. She chose it that time. For me.
Now, you may be thinking my ex-wife gave too much during our marriage. No. What went wrong was that I didn’t give enough. I didn’t give the right things. I was so focused on starting our business, working my day job, and then on our daughter after she was born, that I didn’t focus much on her. Then, even more of my focus shifted away from her and toward our daughter after we became parents. In fact, she voiced feeling this way right after leaving me. When she told me she was going to get the divorce papers, she said the reason is that we don’t get along well enough, and also because, basically (and I am paraphrasing again), that I didn’t show her enough attention. I do remember this quote: “I felt like a roommate more than your wife.” And I dismissed this immediately, because it sounded whiny. In any other context, I would probably have been right to dismiss that as whiny, but I was wrong to, because I was oblivious to the fact she was burned out from giving so damn much.
Couples shouldn’t have to worry about their own needs being met, because their partner should cover that for them. When both people focus on giving to the other, they are thus supported in every way by the other. You don’t need to worry about your needs when your partner keeps your needs on their radar. I loved my wife more than myself, and I was absolutely focused on giving, giving, giving, but I didn’t give the right things. I was too focused on the long term that I didn’t pay enough attention what was here and now. It’s not that I never paid attention to her. I showed her lots of affection in public, I liked snuggling and massaging her in bed, and we hung out watching her favorite shows all the time… And maybe that’s why I thought I was meeting her needs: We did plenty together. But how often did I just simply look in her eyes and remind her I love her? Rarely. How often did I really press the pause button and ask her how she was doing? Rarely. I wasn’t dismissive of her needs … I just didn’t know that I was missing some of the targets.
All of which exacerbated by the fact I didn’t believe she loved me nearly as much as I loved her. Had I known she did, consciously, I most certainly would have asked her, far more often, if she felt loved enough by me.
We were together for 2 years, we have been separated for 2 years. This is over 4 years in the making. All because I didn’t understand someone truly loved me. I could say that I didn’t recognize this love because I couldn’t possibly recognize something I’ve never had – after being abandoned by my mother and father, thrown out in the streets by the parents who adopted me, being cheated on then dumped by my childhood love, and not being invited to my best friend’s wedding – but those would be excuses. It’s my fault I didn’t see what was right in front of me.
I was truly loved. There is no question.
If she took me back, it would be a very, very different picture. I don’t know if that will ever happen. All I know right now is that I just want to love her. I just want to give. I don’t expect anything in return, I just want to give her my love.
On Thanksgiving, I gave her a card saying I was thankful she was the mother of our child, and for the time we had. I meant every word, and now I’ve explained why.
If you’re wondering where my posts that are solely about my ex-wife have gone, you can access them if you’re a subscriber of this blog. But I’m going to ask that nobody reread them. They are outdated now. I’m only keeping them in the first place because I don’t believe the past can truly be erased, so it would be delusional to try. Better to keep them anyway, to further prevent mistakes of the past from repeating themselves.