Got Hitched, Should’ve Ditched

I figure I will start with a little dating and love history to help you get a better picture of me.  When I was 18, my high school boyfriend said “I love you” and I said, “thank you.” Of course, a few weeks later I reciprocated this “love.” I don’t know if I ever really loved him, but I wanted to fit that mold of every other high school girl with the perfect boyfriend, so I went along with it.

Two weeks into my freshman year of college, I broke up with him because there were just so many boys at my school and I couldn’t possibly give him what he wanted at that time. He actually proposed with a tiny ring. I think it was more to keep me faithful, but in my mind it was holding me back!

I went through five years of college (hey, it was so much fun I wanted to stay a little longer) and my longest relationship was with a frat boy with whom I was smitten. However, he ended up cheating on me, and even after 7+ months together, we never exchanged the L-word!

It’s obvious “I love you’s” don’t come easily from my mouth, despite what people may think!  I went through boy after boy in college, or “flavor of the month” as my dad and I affectionately called them.  Even the ones I really, really liked were all very, very wrong for me:

  • The boy on my dorm floor, who was just convenient
  • The artsy-fartsy dude, who was too sensitive
  • The ACC athlete, who was a total playboy
  • The bartender, who was never growing up and said I deserved better. And I did! (Note: he is still bartending and managing the same college bar. Is this a good use of a college degree?)
  • The coast guard, who I met studying abroad.

So, that was my young college dating history in a nutshell. When I was younger, at times it seemed a lot more dramatic. But written down now I can see they were all nothing compared to what my future had in store for me.  I had said, “I love you” twice and I don’t think I ever really meant it—I can honestly say that now.

But I digress. First, I must tell you about post-college life.  I was a grown-up now, with a grown-up job, a grown-up apartment, and grown-up goals.  I had a ten year plan people; it was time to get serious and get started!

The first guy I ever lived with was wrong on every level:

  • He was too old to still have been living the wild single life
  • He was still a bartender when we met (he eventually got a real job and a real car when we started dating because I encouraged him, but he was a partying, playboy at heart still)
  • He was a bookie (OK that should have been reason enough to dump him, but we were living together by the time I realized how deep he was in it)
  • Simply put, I was never attracted to him (I kept telling myself stop being shallow and that looks aren’t everything–and they aren’t, but you have to want to see the person naked and I faked being asleep more times than I can count- you know you’ve all done it!).

He said “I love you first,” but I definitely didn’t feel that way towards him and didn’t say it for a while.  However, I was of the age that all my friends were either in relationships or were getting married so I figured, “What the heck? Let’s try this.” RED FLAG!  

I “loved him” mostly only when drinks were involved, and let’s be honest, I loved my bar stool and Cheetos by 2 a.m. too, so I wasn’t exactly picky!  My 10-year-plan was in motion—job, man, house, Masters degree, kid…WRONG!

Never make plans. God will laugh and do it his way!  I wanted so badly to be a bride and a wife and a mom that I ignored every single red flag and just kept trucking on. Plus, I was too afraid to admit to my family and friends that I was so very, very wrong about this one that I needed help getting out!  I bet you think I married and later divorced this guy.

Nope!  I eventually did get out of that terribly controlling relationship.  I packed up one day after a huge fight where I was convinced he was going to beat me and moved out while he was at work and let him come home to an empty house and one roll of toilet paper—he’s lucky he got a roll!  Whew, I dodged a bullet there right? Well, with that one anyway!

So there I was, 25 years old and unwed and god-forbid, also unattached! The next year, I truly enjoyed being single and independent!  I had my first apartment and no roommates!  I started my Masters and enjoyed my job.  

I had a good group of friends to hang out with on the weekends and I liked my life.  I got a dog and dated a few guys, but nothing too serious and never any “love.”  There were one or two that I thought had potential, but they weren’t ready to settle down and so I moved on, not heartbroken.

I still wanted to be married and wanted to have kids, especially since now all my friends who were getting married before started having families of their own!  I was the single friend and it didn’t bother me…yet.  My mom sometimes said I was too picky, but I did not want to settle so at the end of that year of being single, I was ready to be serious with someone again…que “my best friend set us up.”

My best friend lived in Dallas.  One day, she told me about this “great guy” whom she wanted to set me up with over Thanksgiving.  He just happened to be her ex-boyfriend, but they were such good friends so she didn’t mind…yikes!  

She casually mentioned I should come by her dad’s house for Thanksgiving because he would be there.  I wasn’t overly thrilled about this kind of set-up, but figured, “What the heck? People always say you should meet through friends!”

We didn’t meet up at her dad’s, but a week or so later he messages me on MySpace (wow, that just seems lame and old!). We chatted for a while and eventually met up at a football game and had our first date. After the date I didn’t feel that spark and told my girlfriend that he was nice, but he wasn’t right for me.  She convinced me to go out with him one more time.

Well, a girl’s gotta eat right?!?!  Our second date was much better and I definitely wanted to see where it might go.  The third date was scheduled, but my grandma passed away and I didn’t want to be alone, so instead of canceling I asked him to come over for Chinese.  At that moment, I truly fell hard for him because only a really great guy would hang out with you during a death, right?

The next few months were intense and fast.  I fell in love and I fell hard. We were together 24-7 and it was a serious co-dependent type of relationship.  I know this to be very unhealthy now, but at the time I was head over heels and nothing else mattered—the heart wants what the heart wants!

There was nothing that spectacular about him, but I was in love so it didn’t matter.  Six months in we discussed living together and he suggested buying a place together.  My heart swooned—my 10-year-plan was really in motion!

This guy wanted to settle down and wanted to do it with me!!! So we house hunted and three months later we moved in to our first place, as a dating couple…not engaged…not married. RED FLAGS!  He was a lazy slob and cared more about hanging out with his friends than with me, but all that would change if we got married right?! You know the answer to that question.

Three months after we moved in, we got engaged and seven months later I planned my perfect, dream, beach wedding.  I used all my good wedding stuff I had been planning for years. I had a wedding file I had been building for like eight years. 

This was pre-Pinterest when people actually used file folders to save ideas!  I picked out everything from colors to songs to location to favors!  I was in love and marrying my best friend, or so I thought.  It was the happiest day of my life.

I was a bride and then a wife.  I was going to have a family of my own and I was going to be normal just like everyone else.  I got pregnant way too quickly (two months after our wedding) and that’s when the trouble started!

He was still lazy and refused to grow up and be the man he should be as a husband and the father our son deserved.  I still helplessly loved him and wanted him to love me the way I deserved.  Four months after my son was born, I moved out for a week.  Most people would say “Well, there’s your sign, stupid!” But I was more in love than I had ever been in my life and I wasn’t prepared to break up my family.

I begged him to go to counseling. After two sessions he stormed out! I spent 10 months on eggshells until everything imploded around me…restraining orders, separation, custody battle, and divorce.  I had never been that heartbroken in my entire life.  How was I supposed to move on?  I had never felt love like that.  I cried anytime I was alone and didn’t think I’d ever stop the tears.

Divorce is the worst feeling ever and the roller coaster of emotions I experienced was unreal—I loved him, I hated him, I despised him, I pitied him, and at the end of the day I thought I would always, always, always love him.  

It was even harder sharing my son and finally seeing him be the “dad” I had always begged him to be for our family.  In the back of my mind I always knew that he could never, ever be the husband I wanted and deserved.  I always told him that we needed to be best friends because once our kids were grown it was just me and him, that would have been a miserable time; I know that now!

It took a long, LONG time, but I finally feel I am at the point now where, although I love him because he is the father of my son, I am no longer in love with him.  I look at pictures of him (he has a no contact order so luckily we haven’t seen each other in two years this March) and I honestly see a stranger who I don’t know and definitely don’t want to be with anymore.  I still miss the idea of that “perfect family,” but I don’t miss him!

And that brings us to today.  I still want to find someone to share my life with–a best friend for the good, the bad, and the ugly and I definitely want at least one more kid, and that whole “family-thing,” but I’m not willing to settle for just “good enough” like last time.  

I am a hopeful romantic. I know love is out there and that it will find me and I deserve that!  I am a cheerleader for love and I want that feeling again.  I don’t know if I will ever love anyone as much as I loved him, but I know now that our love was unhealthy and uneven and wrong!

Love is not just a feeling; it’s actions, thoughts and life.  I want to find someone who compliments my personality, who loves me for all my great qualities, and wants to stay with me despite my bad ones; someone who makes me think and makes me grow as a person, and most of all someone I want to grow old with forever.  

Someone to sit on a park bench with me holding hands and reminiscing about all the good and bad we had in our lives.  Cue every post divorce empowerment song I have blasted in my car or bedroom—Kelly Clarkson, P!nk, Katy Perry, Adele…you get the point!  I want to find someone who is not willing to give up on love just like myself.  I want someone who is willing to work through the tough times and truly enjoy the good times and that is why I can still say that I believe.

And that, my friends, is the way too long story of what brought me to the tattoo parlor the day before Valentine’s Day to get inked.  It’s a simple tattoo and just one word, but it means more than what you think on the surface.  I believe in love, I believe in family, I believe in life, I believe in God, I believe in happiness, I believe in people, and most of all I believe in me!