Proof

A long time ago, in a land far, far away, I was married to a shape-shifter.

It was not magical.

Oh, at first it was feet-sweeping. Fresh out of college, working at a bookstore, getting all that attention from an older guy–a musician! a poet!– who clearly liked me. It was an unprecedented time.

I’d never had a real boyfriend, and this guy followed me around, bouncing up and down. He emailed me haikus. He knew about the Great Vowel Shift. He was so full of life and energy. And he paid attention to me. Me…the one, who at the tender age of 22, was already convinced I’d meet my end as a lonely old spinster eaten by her cats.

Having maxed out my brief crushes on all the eligible men in the store, he was the one I’d centered upon. And he seemed to be honing in on me, too.

He waited in the parking lot outside the bookstore…the roof up on his beater-car, a look of deep concern furrowing his brow. As I approached, he asked me out. On a date. Then his car magically worked again!

This was happening! Really happening!

We went out. A lot. He gave me a nickname, the first of so many. He touched my knee. He took me around to his friends. He had so many books in his attic–they lined the floor from end-to-end. He made me feel special when I remarked upon them. “Nobody else ever noticed.” I had cause to purchase contraceptives.

Within three months, we were talking about living in a house with a tin roof on which the rain pattered and a gravel driveway on which the tires clattered. When he gave me a Claddagh ring on Valentine’s Day, I asked him which finger I should wear it on. The left ring finger.

Claddagh Ring
Claddagh Ring Source: weddingringreviews.com

I met his father.

Within six months, we were living together in a small, black-mold infested apartment. We argued about how to stack the dishes, put a lot of thought into Christmas presents, and barely had sex.

I knew something was wrong, but nobody I commiserated with told me to simply, “Break up with him.” I didn’t know I could. I’d never been in a relationship. Aren’t they supposed to be hard? Aren’t they supposed to be work? Opportunities for growth?

We planned our wedding. He smoked pot with his friends in the woods while I danced with my girlfriends during the reception. I begged him for consummation on our wedding night.

So many nights of crying over the following ten years.

I gave up asking for help. I gave up going to parties alone. I gave up having close friends. I gave up trying to have conversations with this person I’d married, this person who was never there, who drank, who smoked pot, who left early and worked late. This person who responded only in nonsense syllables and loathsome nicknames.

I gardened. I took my dog to the park for an hour every night. I worked hard–very hard–and was passionate about my career.

Miraculously, considering the odds, I became pregnant. It was the happiest time we’d ever had. After the baby came, things worsened, as they sometimes do. He pushed me, once.

He brought home a suicidal, abused student who was in need…poor waif. He did not act like a teacher should. Expressing my concerns, he reassured me, “She’s gay.”

Returning home from a long work trip that next Valentine’s weekend, I discovered a condom wrapper in our child’s room.

I joyfully danced out the exit door.

Submitted to the Yeah Write Weekly Challenge #135 on personal essays and traditional blog anecdotes. Find out more at:

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Part of the solution since 1973.

67 thoughts on “Proof

  1. Brave stuff.

    I married a handsome, funny doctor. Score! We spent seven years together — until the night he walked out at 10:00 on a Wednesday (barely 2 yrs into our marriage) and ran off to be with the woman he would marry within a year. Nice. He would never negotiate about anything and was very secretive, patterns I’d seen and lived in my own family.

    We have no idea what’s healthy or not unless we’ve lived it. So I put up with a lot of bullshit (and he was paying the bills) and kept it secret and was desperately miserable inside what looked like a lovely life.

    A bad marriage is like a funhouse mirror — it distorts your vision of yourself and who you can really be. You waste a lot of energy trying to “make it work” (as we are meant to) but it’s only you doing any work…

    Luckily, I later found a good guy and have been with him 13.5 years, married for two. So grateful to be free of Mr. Perfect on paper.

  2. Started out so romantic. Too bad he was such a jerk. And good for you – walking out.

    This was a good story. I wanted to know what was wrong with the guy!

  3. Wow, so impressed that you this (and posted it!) You are brave. I so admire that in your and your writing. You captured so much of the story in such a beautiful, heart-wrenching way. oxox.

  4. Kyle, I’m so sorry you had to endure that. You were in a certain place, being optimistic, trying to see the best possible light of someone. It sounds like he was nothing but darkness. Since you have a child together, of course, you are still in each other’s lives. I hope you can detach when you must deal with him. Good for you for finding the courage to move on. He sure didn’t deserve you. As Jen said above, the way he treated you was a reflection of how he feels about himself. I’m so happy you rose above it and have found a fulfilling life with a new partner. Hugs.

    1. Thank you Amy. I’ve been very fortunate to have learned how to stay detached, but sometimes I’m not sure if it was just numbness and shock. Fortunately, I’m in a very good relationship now that provides a safe place to break down. And the writing… the writing is the best therapy. Hugs back to you.

    1. Thank you. I’m so grateful that this is something I can look back upon, rather than continue to live with everyday. Thanks for reading and for your comment.

  5. Wow. Very well told and sorry you were in this situation to begin with. I know too well that sick feeling after hitting publish. i have one I wrote nearly 200 posts ago & cannot get up the nerve to finish the rest of the story.

  6. Oh, so much of this resonated for me. I married the first man I had a relationship with and spent 20 years making excuses for his dysfunctional behaviour before it occurred to me that I didn’t have to accept it. The day I was able to break free was the day that I realized that I wanted to teach my daughters that they could choose health and happiness for themselves. Good for you for finding your way out way quicker than I did!

    1. Thank you! It’s helpful (if sad) to hear that others have gone through similar things. It’s so hard to see the reality when you are in it, and it’s such a head-scratcher afterward… how in the world did we put up with that for so long? A lot of it comes down to believing that we deserve so little. Glad you found your way out to a healthier, happier life too!

  7. As the song goes — “Gotta know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em. Know when to walk away. Know when to run.” That’s just a little longer than I lasted in a similar marriage. I folded, cried for a long time, and now, after 23 years with Garry, I wonder what ever possessed me to get into that situation. I must have been really desperate. Great post.

    1. It’s so true. I was reading a book called “Too Good to Stay, Too Bad to Leave” when all this happened. Looking back, it’s mind-boggling to think I needed a book to tell me whether leaving was the right thing to do! Glad you’re in a happy relationship with your Garry 🙂

  8. Kylie – wow – what an earth shattering experience and one that you were able to get away from. I hope after the nausea fades, you will feel lighter and more free from those haunting memories. How some people can treat others and live with themselves is beyond me. You are such a wonderful person – you didn’t deserve that kind of situation at all. But I know what you mean about not knowing how to get away because you’re just overwhelmed at being ‘loved’ – it sounds like you’re in a beautiful place now – just where you should be.

    1. I do, Denise, I do! I feel so much lighter and free! This post has been lurking below the surface for a long time. I’m so grateful to have met my current husband–such a wonderful, sane, loving partner. Thank you for reading and for your (virtual) friendship. I appreciate you.

    1. Thank you Rara, and thank you for inspiring me (and so many others) to get involved in both NaBloPoMo and Yeah Write. This wouldn’t have been written otherwise. *hugs*

  9. You know, *this* is what I call a brave post. wow. I’m sorry that you’re feeling nauseated right now, I think it’s a normal reaction, actually – your brain responding to the physical act of sharing with the world a very personal tragedy. Typically, it wants to guard you. Thanks for showing courage and writing a great post. I think that once you get past the initial reaction of horror and nausea, a relief that you never knew existed. I say this only because I’ve written such a public post myself, earlier this year, just a different theme.

      1. Hey Kylie – I will link it, but I seriously feel the need to warn you that it can be very triggering for some people. I actually created a separate blog for the post because I didn’t want my “blog identity” to revolve around that one post, which ended up going viral with 35,000 hits OVER NIGHT. I pushed it out to FB and social sites,bc,… you will see why. After I published the story and literally sat frozen for hours, I was HUGELY relieved. And I still am.

        http://iamclarehreschaksdaughter.wordpress.com/2013/04/05/i-am-clare-hreschaks-daughter/

        1. Both of you are very strong women to be able to voice your experiences like this. I am hoping for good things for both of you!

  10. Hey there. This is beautiful. Props for writing this, and even more for sharing. The writing didn’t sound shaky or nervous or terrified. It was strong and solid and even funny at times–totally human. You’ve already done your time, sister. You’re on the other side now. Congrats. That’s huge.

    1. The shaking (and nausea and crying) didn’t start until I hit publish. Whew!

      Thanks for the props. And thanks for distracting me with banter about minivans too.

  11. This part really resonated with me: ” “Break up with him.” I didn’t know I could. I’d never been in a relationship. Aren’t they supposed to be hard?” I also have this inclination to ignore my gut and just leave situations that are bad because I figure they’ll get better. I second-guess myself far too much. I am so glad you got out of that situation, Kylie. I feel like a lot of women wouldn’t have. Fantastic post.

    1. Honestly, I probably would’ve stayed forever if not for my daughter. I wanted to give her a better life. I was looking for the proverbial last straw that would help me really leave, and boy did I find it.

  12. How someone treats you is a reflection on them, and not on you. It still couldn’t have been easy…having a child with someone and realizing that he wasn’t invested in the relationship. I’m sorry you had to go through that.

    I applaud you for having the courage to write about something that obviously still stings. Hopefully now you can begin to truly let it go.

    1. His suicide attempts and sex scandal made it pretty easy to move on, in some respects (as in, “Oh, I wasn’t the crazy one after all! Hooray!”) but it’s also made it tough to pick up all the pieces. Especially since we share a child. But you’re right–it’s NOT a reflection on me, and I learned a lot from it, and I’m not the one who should feel shame.

      1. Sometimes, when someone goes into a downward spiral, it can feel a bit…icky. I felt that way when I saw how one of my exes behaved. Like, “I dated that? What is wrong with me?” Now I see that some people are headed for disaster, and we’re just collateral damage on their way there.

    1. You’re welcome Jenn. I’m shaking right now. I still have so much shame, and so much need to keep this secret, as if it will damage ME and MY reputation to talk publicly about bad things that my ex did. Anybody who wanted to could find out things in the public record. Why am I left with the shame? Hopefully writing this will help me move on but this has been the single hardest thing I’ve posted here.

      1. I believe you. I had to write a paper for a class last spring and my similar (or would’ve-been-similar) experience ended up being the example I wrote about, and it just took everything out of me.

        I don’t blog about him because I don’t want to give him too much credit, or worry my husband that I’m still thinking about him, or dredge up all those old feelings, but sometimes I think I might put him in a novel.

        By the way, it’s kind of a freeing relief to know that someone else sees regular drinking and pot-smoking as objectionable. I think that’s what I used to beat myself up about most–feeling like I should be okay with that, and not being so.

        1. They were some of the many ways he was absent. And, honestly, they covered up deeper–much deeper–psychological issues. I’ve been afraid to write about this because he might read it, but eff that. I shouldn’t have to protect him. On another angle, it could fuel things. Shit.

          1. Hopefully it won’t. If he is anything like mine, he probably won’t have the impetus to start anything. And of course. Those substances are never the REAL issue. They’re just the things used so as not to have to deal with the real issues . . . or any ensuing issues which they inadvertently cause. :-/ Anyway. I’m really sorry you had to go through that.

      2. You know, in my own observations of the world, women tend to take on a greater amount of shame and guilt for some reason. I wonder if goes back to our natural instincts to NURTURE and when something like a marriage fails (even if it’s not in any way YOUR fault) I have to wonder if women automatically feel as if they failed as a “woman” in not being able to nurture the “relationship” in order to make it whole again. This may seem like blathering, and maybe it is, but I think it’s something to consider since so many women tend to take on such great amounts of shame and guilt (when they shouldn’t), and I don’t see that tendency in men.

        1. I agree, actually. A little bit like your story, mine involved a teacher and a young student… whom my daughter nows calls “stepmother.” Not exactly the kind of thing you want to broadcast. It lends such a taint.

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