Every relationship has it ups and downs and “bumps in the road”. So, how do you know if it’s a bump, or the end of the road for you?
I don’t know what it is that signifies a bump vs the end of the road for everyone, but I can tell you what it was for me in my first marriage.
When I married my first husband, Dan, I thought, this is it. This is the beginning of the rest of my life. I’ve found the person who I’m going to be with forever! Well, clearly that isn’t what happened or I wouldn’t be referring to him as “my first husband”. So what went wrong along the way? When did I know that what was happening to our relationship wasn’t just another bump in the road?
It’s easy to look back with the 20/20 vision of hindsight and say, yep, I should have seen it coming. But, it’s not so easy to see it when you’re living it. Things start out so innocent.
To start with, let’s just say that I got married for all the wrong reasons. We were young (18 when we married) and I was pregnant. Yep, I’m one of those. I was taught at an early age that you had to take responsibility for your behavior. If you got pregnant, you got married. That was all there was too it.
If I told you I didn’t love Dan, that wouldn’t be true. I really thought I loved him and we had a great future in front of us, in spite of that little bump in the road called pregnancy. Sure, it wasn’t the ideal way to start a marriage, but we could work through it. Right?
I was thrilled, scared, and excited about the possibility of becoming a parent. So thrilled, that I didn’t notice how Dan was reacting to all this change. Here we were, fresh out of high school and he had this enormous burden of not just supporting himself, but he also was going to have to provide for his wife and child.
You see, Dan had grown up with a stay at home Mom and a working Step-father. His view of marriage and children was that it was the husbands duty to provide. If we hit a “rough patch” then I could take in a few kids to babysit for extra income.
Whoa! Say what??? That’s NOT who I was raised to be! I was raised in a family where both parents worked to provide the best for the family and for each other. My entire life I was taught that working was a source of both income, and self worth. For as long as I could remember, my mother had a job, and social life, outside the home.
I’m not discounting women who stay home, raise their kids and babysit on the side (if they choose). Not at all! I have tremendous respect for anyone that does that. It’s just not me. Nor is it who I wanted to be. I think it’s good if people can recognize that and be true to who they are.
The first two years of our marriage, I worked various jobs here and there. I started working for a small company with Dan. After our son was born, I waited tables for a while, followed by a series of manufacturing jobs. I was fortunate in those early years that my Mother-in-law was more than happy to babysit our little boy.
Things were going along and I thought we were happy.
In the summer of 1979, I finally got my big break in the job market. Having only a high school degree was a limiting factor in what jobs you could get, and how much income you could earn. Everything was manufacturing, retail, or food service for me. None of which paid much more than minimum wage. However, in 1979 I was hired by IBM (okay, still manufacturing) and doubled my annual salary. And the cherry on top was that they were also willing to help fund my college education (something I had always dreamed of)!
WOW! I was so excited! I had no idea that this was a BIG bump in the road for my marriage.
Imagine my surprise, when my husband told me how much he didn’t like it. Not one little bit. He didn’t like that I was going to school and making myself “better than him”. He didn’t like that I worked around 90% men. He didn’t like that I was earning more money than him, and he didn’t like the fact that this made me feel empowered to want more.
I was both shocked and in denial. I thought, surely he’ll get over it. I’m sure that he’ll come to appreciate how much I can help. We’ll be able to live in a nicer house, go on vacations, do more things! Boy, was I wrong.
Many a Friday night when I would go to school, he would drop off our son at his mother’s and go out with friends. He started to coach the girls softball team at work. I didn’t think anything of it, because I was on the girls softball team. It seemed as if the better I did at work, the more we fought. Then came the “ultimatum.” In order for our marriage to stand “a chance”, I needed to give up my job and my education.
I was floored. And yet, we still hadn’t really reached the end of the road. We agreed that maybe a separation was in order. Maybe we just needed time apart to realize that the grass wasn’t really greener on the other side. So, we sold the house and each moved into our own place. Me into an apartment, him into his parents old house and caretaker of the Isaac Walton. We dated other people, yet we still talked and remained fairly good friends. After a few months, we decided to give it another chance.
Unfortunately, nothing had changed. I wasn’t what he wanted in a wife and I wasn’t about to change. The signs became clearer each passing day. He’d spend more, and more, time out with the girls softball team and I would go home to watch and care for our son. The end of the road was coming quickly.
I found that I didn’t care if he went out “with the girls.” I had my son, my job, my school. I spent my time at work, at the gym, at school, at home doing homework and playing on the girls softball he coached. Then came the night that when the road ended.
End of the Road!
He stayed out until 4:00 AM. When he came home, he slept on the couch. The next morning, he told me he had spent most of the evening with one of the girls. He wasn’t sure, but he might be interested in her. Maybe we should try another separation so he could work through his feelings.
For me, that was it. I had just been bumped off the road. I felt that I couldn’t wait for him to see if he loved me enough to work through our issues, or if this other women was what he was really looking for. You see, neither of us had much respect for this women. Sure, we were friends with her, but we also considered her to be a bit of a run around. A “good time” girl. Not the type you settled down with, or brought home to meet the parents.
How could I have any respect for myself, and stay?
So, that’s my story. Sure, there were many bumps in the road during that first marriage. For some people, my final bump may have been just that, another bump in the road. However, for me, it was the end. I couldn’t respect who I was if I had stayed.
Maybe that’s how you know when you’ve reached the end of the road. When you hit that point where staying alters who you are, deep down inside. Alters you in a way that you could no longer respect yourself, or your partner.
What’s your end of the road?