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What not to do

September 22, 2011

LOD sent me this article on HuffPo entitled “Why So Many Of Us Marry The Wrong Person.” The author interviewed a whole bunch of divorced women and found that 30% of them knew they were marrying the wrong person before they got married.

I was in that 30%.

I knew, all along as we were dating, that there was something not really amazing about us together. And it all came together for me two days before the wedding when I just had the stark realization that he wasn’t the right person for me, and that I would never be able to trust him with who I really was.

Before you say, “What kind of cold-hearted bitch would marry someone knowing he was wrong?” Well, I wasn’t cold-hearted. I just put all my faith in culture instead of in myself. I thought that getting married would give me security, especially to someone who looked good on paper, very solid. On paper we came from the same background (all middle-class white people from two-parent homes are alike, right?) and the age difference (8 years) was actually good because it meant he would be more stable. And I thought that security meant safety, that he would keep me safe from myself.

I was scared of the energy in me that I’d never learned to process as a Good Girl. I was scared of my desires, sexual and otherwise. I was scared that I really was Kali, Goddess of Destruction, as my dad had teased me when I was a teenager. (It was only during the divorce process, when I was taking a burlesque workshop with Victoria Libertore, that I found out that Kali is the goddess of destruction and creation. AND CREATION.)

So getting married was about Settling Down and starting the rest of my life. I had this idea that I was going to be a good wife. And be a food writer (very genteel profession) and have children and raise them carefully and then. I don’t know what, then. Just fade away, I guess.

And LOD was a nice guy. An Eagle Scout. He called when he said he’d call. He assembled Ikea furniture for me. We pretended we thought the same things were funny. It was nice, after having my heart broken repeatedly in Mexico, to have someone steady, who got my Electric Company references. And I believed that stupid, stupid aphorism that you should marry someone who loved you more than you loved them. I knew I could surely love him enough, enough to make him happy.

So I didn’t, for even a millisecond, entertain the thought of not marrying him. I couldn’t not marry him, because then what would I do? And I don’t mean what would I do on that day instead of getting married. I mean, what would become of me? Of the rest of my life?

I was in shock the day of our wedding. I got my hair done, put on my own makeup, drove myself to the church. Put on the gorgeous dress my mother had made for me. Sucked it up and sucked it in, said the vows even though I was screaming inside and when the pastor pronounced us married my heart sank and I realized what I’d done. So I Made The Best Of It.

Until I couldn’t anymore. The road from our wedding to the day I told him I couldn’t do it anymore was long and painful and bruising. But along that way I was being compressed and hardened without even knowing it. I thought I was weak, and am still, sometimes, shocked at how strong I am.

I am not proud of how small I was back when I got married. I wish I had had the strength and honor to trust myself and trust that God had something better for me. But here I am, now, and I’m ready. That’s all I can offer.

41 Comments leave one →
  1. September 22, 2011 2:04 pm

    Oh, this is so honest. I applaud you for that. For me, divorce is the moment that you admit that something just isn’t working. You don’t always know that ahead of time. Maybe you weren’t madly in love with LOD, but you made a decision that you thought was right at the time. We learn and grow as time passes, and we get the opportunity to make different decisions. I think we should judge ourselves less for our mistakes and see them instead as moments in which we were brave enough to admit our errors and move on. I love this piece.

  2. Doris permalink
    September 22, 2011 2:17 pm

    I know exactly what you mean. I knew my ex was Not the Right Person when we married, even when we stayed together to raise our son before we were married. But I did not trust myself to raise my son by myself. Once the ex was disabled by illness, I felt it was wrong to leave, despite the damage he was causing to me and my son. And the damage I was causing to me and my son and likely to the ex.

    It is hard to acknowledge these feelings and actions, but the more often one thinks and speaks clearly, the easier it gets and the more authentic one’s life is.

    I am so glad that you have found and owned how strong and brave and able you are. That might not have happened without the crucible of the marriage.

  3. September 22, 2011 2:27 pm

    Moxie, I want you to delete this comment if it strikes a raw nerve, with all of my apologies. I’ve been your friend since I don’t know when, but you know. You know I know you. I remember how excited you were about your wedding — about your dress and the golden veil, and I remember how you never, ever, not one single time every complained about LoD, not even the time your son glued the cat to the chair while you were in the shower, not until the day you said you were divorcing him. But the signs were there, as you say, from the beginning. That you were more excited about your dress than your husband. That whenever things got wonky with LoD, you focused on being a better wife. When you were frustrated, you focused on how you could change. We knew, your friends, that you weren’t happy, and when you finally said, “enough,” I was so happy for you. I think your post, as hard as it is to write, will be a beacon of hope to women about to marry the wrong man for the wrong reasons — as you say, “Culture” which is never enough. Once again, as always, I applaud you and say that I am proud to be your friend, and I’m sending you oodles of love for your courage in writing about such an impossibly difficult topic.

  4. askmoxie permalink*
    September 22, 2011 2:36 pm

    Dancewiththereaper, you just made me cray. Thank you for being there and just waiting, and then still being there when I figured it out.

    Doris, you gave me a lot of strength, you know? That it would all be ok and I could do it.

    Molly, yes. Yes yes yes.

  5. MomPlusKid permalink
    September 22, 2011 2:39 pm

    My situation was exactly the same except opposite. I believe it was my now soon-to-be-ex-husband who was in your shoes, knowing that something wasn’t quite right but going along with the wedding regardless. He has said as much, and I actually believe him. He is the one who decided to end the marriage after living “the lie”. And after the shock and hearbreak, I am better (and stronger) for it.

  6. margaret permalink
    September 22, 2011 3:00 pm

    Oh, yes. ME TOO. I got married because It Was Time according to my ridiculous life timeline. I naively thought that life should proceed in a certain order and dammit, I was 28, wanted to have a baby at 30, and even though the relationship was really hard work, all relationships take work, right? I completely ignored the red flags, the lack of chemistry, the sense that this wasn’t quite right. We came to a place in our relationship when it was either get married or break up, and, well, picked the wrong option. The amount of effort and expense that went into the wedding, the hope that being married would make us more in love/ change things, the fact that everyone else loved him all added to the marriage momentum. Five years later we were divorced.

    I don’t completely regret it – how could I? Without it, I would not have my daughter. And, I would not know how strong I really am. I am still in awe that I took my life and so thoroughly shook it up, changed it, got out of the situation, freed myself.

  7. Francis permalink
    September 22, 2011 3:36 pm

    Thank you for being so open and honest. It struck a chord with me when you said, “I just put all my faith in culture instead of in myself.” How true that is for so many of us until we actually learn the lesson ourselves. I thought about the importance of our identity, who we really are and from where we get that information; how we mistakenly get that from culture and other people. How many people end up in bad marriages, bad social lives, bad jobs and bad circumstances simply because they don’t really know who they are. Having that identity nailed down is huge. Perhaps it should be more important than our marriages. but we don’t think its important at the time…it’s hard to think something should be bigger than the things are most important to us at the time.

  8. September 22, 2011 4:02 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story.

  9. September 22, 2011 5:25 pm

    I remember thinking after we had our second kid, that it would be so much easier if he found someone else. We were married for 15 years and in counseling for most of it. Really…much of the problem was that I didn’t love him but it was too hard to admit it.

    Thank you so much for offering so much validation and honesty here. I’ll be back here often! 🙂

  10. Dana Childs permalink
    September 22, 2011 6:05 pm

    Thank you Moxie for writing this honest post which I’m sure was not easy for you, but probably was a tremendous weight lifter once you hit the “send” button. Thank you all for your replies in kind who also have something to share. Thank you especially MomPlusKid since I believe that your situation is similar to mine so many moons ago. And even now I am yet faced with the same situation of being in a relationship (for financial reasons) and because we share a beautiful son. I have always been one to say “don’t stay in it for the kids”…and yet here I am, glued to the floor. I am not weak. It’s just…complicated. For too many stupid reasons. And I’m simply trying to take each complicated reason out of the equation so that one day I can step out the door and move on. For those of you that are paralyzed, don’t be. It’s invigorating once you do it. So do it.

  11. September 22, 2011 8:00 pm

    You are both so brave to write about it all here, together. As always, you have my admiration.

  12. Katie B. permalink
    September 22, 2011 9:15 pm

    Thank you for this. I married the wrong man, knew it, lived with it for 3 years and then found the man of my dreams 3 weeks after my divorce was finalized. We are now married with an 11 month old baby boy. Marriage is still work-extremely hard work at times-but I know this man is who I’m supposed to grow old with. I’m so happy (estatic even) that I gave myself the chance to make my life into what I always knew it could be.

  13. Irishgem permalink
    September 23, 2011 1:41 am

    Beautiful post. I married someone long ago and denied that voice in my head that said “he is not
    the one.” He was (and is) a good person for a thousand reasons, but not-so-good for me for a
    few hundred. The pain I experienced through his sexual deviance, cross-dressing, and subsequent alcoholism is something I hope never to replicate. I left him wheny tears dried
    up and I have never looked back. I met my husband, the right man for me, 10 months after our divorce and we have been married 7 years and have three amazing children…

  14. kimberlymoore permalink
    September 23, 2011 2:34 am

    I pretended my wedding was a play, just to get through it. But I have to believe that it was a lie that we both agreed to. We both were eager for children, and have wonderful daughters. I told his mom that he deserved to have someones heart race when he entered the room, he has that now, and so do I. So all and all life unfolded perfectly. Thanks for sharing your honesty.

  15. September 23, 2011 9:59 am

    Wow, love this post too. @mompluskid – I think I had a similar experience to you with a bit of Moxie thrown in. My ex wasn’t in to it before the wedding and definitely not the day of the wedding. While he made the move to end our marriage 10 years later (an affair), I realize now I wasn’t listening nor reading the signs – from him or myself. The “culture” was pushing me along and yes of course we’d get married, hadn’t I been waiting for this for all the years we dated? I now think I was scared sh#tless of what would happen if we didn’t get married at that time. The fear of being alone and what was expected trumped rationale thought. While my ex I think is still confused about the ultimate direction we have now taken (divorce finalized), I am so relieved. I wish co-parenting was easier but that is another story…
    Thanks Moxie. It’s so important to reflect – not to create feelings of sadness or disappointment – but to know that where you are today is the right thing.

  16. Debi permalink
    September 23, 2011 1:09 pm

    Thank you for posting this. My situation was a little different but your line: “I was scared of the energy in me that I’d never learned to process as a Good Girl. I was scared of my desires, sexual and otherwise.” Hit home. One of the many reasons my mariage did not work but probably why I married him in the first place. Safety, security, stability.

  17. September 23, 2011 1:49 pm

    Such a brave, honest post, Moxie. Thanks for sharing your story.

  18. Claudia permalink
    September 23, 2011 3:14 pm

    This was an incredible post, and I just want to say that the first line alone is testament to how completely healthy you both are. That he could send that to you, knowing that he WAS the wrong man, and that you just slap it at the beginning for your jumping-off point for this post is monumental.

  19. oneday@atime permalink
    September 23, 2011 3:27 pm

    a very heartfelt, brutally honest post. am so curious, though, as to LOD’s feelings both about the post and the content of it. have not been following your blog from the very beginning…but have been glued to it for many months now. am often in awe of your ability to tell it like it was, is, and how you want it/hope it to be. how you strive for a peace that will one day come for both of you. did LOD feel the same? does a post like that crush an ideal vision that he held of the two of you that was not reciprocated? do you share these feelings for the first time via a post like this or is it something he’s been aware of for a long time? so many questions, but learn so much from both of your words…and as always, find myself inspired, empowered, and humbled by them…

    • askmoxie permalink*
      September 23, 2011 3:30 pm

      I’m curious about LOD’s feelings, too. I think he plans to write about that same HuffPo piece, so I guess we’ll all find out how he feels together.

  20. Suzanne permalink
    September 23, 2011 4:40 pm

    The day I got married I had a nagging feeling that it was the wrong decision. But I wanted to have a family and he looked good on paper. I’m pretty sure he felt the same. After 6 1/2 years and one child I finally said it out loud to him. That was 9 months ago and now we are divorced and I am still trying to figure out how to co-parent with an uncommunicative and resentful ex (he wasn’t happy but didn’t want his life to change). But I know we are all happier now that we are free of a marriage that wasn’t working for anyone.

    This was one of those weeks when I really thought, it is hard doing all of this alone. Raising a child and running a house and working full time is hard. And then I remind myself that we are lucky, I can provide for us and we are healthy and I am strong and resourceful and I wouldn’t trade my life now for anything.

  21. September 23, 2011 4:56 pm

    Yesterday I told my 19 year old son that a client of mine was disappointed when a candidate said he wasn’t necessarily really interested in my client’s company , he just hated where he was working and needed to get out.

    I told my son, “That’s like asking someone to marry you because you don’t want to be single anymore.”

    I worried my mother for years because I wasn’t close to getting married. I got lucky and waited for the right reasons that at the time, I didn’t even know were the right reasons.

    Thanks for sharing this. From what I can tell, you both make great parents.

  22. jenny also permalink
    September 24, 2011 5:08 pm

    Like others I thank you for your honesty and bravery. Wow! One thing not mentioned is your desire to have children. Do you think wanting kids played a role in your decision to marry LoD? Sure, a woman can make babies by herself but it certainly is more complicated. More importantly going through the harrowing newborn-toddler years alone seems brutal and exhausting. Is it a coincidence that your marriage ended after your boys passed through that stage?

  23. P&P permalink
    September 24, 2011 10:22 pm

    I’d be curious as to how the desire for motherhood played into the decision as well. LoD sounds like a dedicated and involved father, which I suspect played into the decision to forge ahead.

    In the past couple of years I’ve seen several marriages collapse around the same time the kids get out of diapers or start school. The stresses of raising small children can strain rock-solid marriages, and I’m sure that a marriage that starts out shaky will implode with that strain.

    • askmoxie permalink*
      September 25, 2011 2:48 pm

      P&P, I think that people are afraid to get a divorce while they’re in the tunnel of diaperhood. I also think a lot of people think that the reason it’s so horrible is because the kids are so young. So when the kids go off to school and things don’t feel any better, they have to confront the fact that it’s the marriage that’s bad.

      I used to joke all the time, before we got married, that LOD would be a great grandfather. My desire to be a mom and the fact that he seemed like he’d be a good dad absolutely played into it.

  24. Sfcmama permalink
    September 25, 2011 11:56 am

    Ok, I’m writing this with hesitation because I’m not sure what I want to say will come out the right way and I certainly do not want to invalidate anything you’ve said. I deeply admire your honesty and am thankful to have your insights shared with such clarity. As I raise my own daughter, I will have your (virtual) voice echoing in my head – destruction AND CREATION!!! 

    But back to my reason for posting… as a child of divorce, I’m clearly responding with my own baggage and triggers. That said, I can’t help but think that he was the RIGHT man because he is the father to your boys and because you learned so much because of the pain. I don’t know you beyond your helpful parenting posts but it’s clear from askmoxie how amazing your boys are and how kick ass you are as a mother. What if he was the RIGHT person for nothing other than to bring you your babies?! What if he was the “wrong” life partner for you but still the RIGHT person to have married so you could bring this message to others?!  Because culture dictates that a successful marriage is only one that lasts forever or is free from extreme strife (and consequently insane amounts of growth!)?!

    On paper, my mom should have NEVER married my dad but, besides raising 3 women who do not fear their power, their marriage/divorce forced my mom to break her family legacy of being a codependent housewife. I like to think that wasn’t a mistake but rather a massive blessing. 

    I hope I’m not sounding too spiritual/ it-was-your-destiny because that’s not my intent.  I do hope I’m opening up this conversation to consider how your kids will view your marriage when they are older (and search the interwebz). 

    Thanks again, moxie for all you’ve given me and so many other parents!!!  Please delete this comment if it’s just too irrelevant to the purpose of your post. 

    • askmoxie permalink*
      September 25, 2011 2:45 pm

      I’m sorry I hit such a nerve for you, Sfcmama.

  25. saple permalink
    September 27, 2011 10:42 am

    The doubts were so loud in my head and he was such a wonderful man who so wanted to be with me and it was so tempting.. I almost gave in even though I knew in my heart it would never work. I loved him but not in the way he deserved to be loved. I told him this it broke his heart.. It broke mine too because he was a great man…. Some days I regret this decision some days I know it was the right decision ….. but sometimes you have to listen to yourself….

    • Slim permalink
      September 28, 2011 5:30 am

      saple — As another one who passed on a great man, I am telling you you did the right thing. “I loved him but not in the way he deserved to be loved” is exactly it — when I realized that and considered what a great guy he wis, I knew it would be selfish to marry him, and even arrogant — did I really think no one else was going to appreciate what a great guy he is? And that no one was going to love him the way he deserved, so he might as well marry me?
      (Great guy is now happily married to someone who adores him, and they have kids who are not going to grow up with a discontented mother or divorced parents.)

  26. October 4, 2011 10:25 am

    As I get away from my marriage (1 year+ post official end), I realize that while my wedding was a great day, planning the wedding might have been the last time the ex and I really worked together to make something real and ours and who we were.

    I think he sees all the stuff that followed (pressure to get a job, etc., pressure to parent the kids) as me trying to make him grow up.

    He signed papers that said he would co-parent. He really parallel parents, and not even that very well. Any time I say anything, it is perceived as me trying to parent him.

    I see no reason this situation will ever end up as yours has with LOD and I love what I currently see between you two. Thank you.

  27. Jeannette permalink
    October 18, 2011 8:24 am

    Wow. It’s been 2 weeks since I moved out and the 50-50 co-parenting journey started. After 9 years of not quite being able to articulate to myself why I was so uneasy, the constant beneath the surface anxiety, your post has lead me to an epiphany. I knew I should not marry him, I didn’t even want a traditional wedding, because I knew it was a sham. I felt awkward at my wedding, and never felt comfortable being with him. I didn’t trust him. I couldn’t be my true self with him. Why did I do it? Because I had been trained to belive that it was what I was “supposed” to do. I was 31. Time was running out. And he wasn’t all that bad, was he? Today, at the age of 40, having taken the huge leap that is leaving a relationship that has produced 3 small children, I can not help but scoff at my 31 year old self. And be amazed at all that she has learned in the past 9 years. I now know that my job as a mother is to make sure that my kids don’t ever feel the overwhelming pressure to do what they are “supposed” to do. I will have done my job as their mother if they do what they want to do, what is right for them. So thank you Moxie, for sharing, and for providing me with a moment of clarity – I feel like so many of the things that have been randomly floating around in my brain have just been reorganized, and now everything is back in its place.

  28. Jade permalink
    October 22, 2011 10:21 pm

    Wow…this hits a nerve. Really struggling through this with my husband. I just can’t get over feeling like the bad guy. It kills me but when I think of what I’d have to become to stay married-I just can’t do it. Did you have those feelings?

    • askmoxie permalink*
      October 22, 2011 10:26 pm

      Jade, I couldn’t become what I would have needed to to stay married. Not that I didn’t want to enough, but that there was no way for me to do it. It would have required my being a completely different person. I tried, for years, and it made me depressed and anxious. I started drinking and was disconnected from myself and my friends and my children and life. Staying would have required going so far underground that I didn’t even know if there would have been any me left. I couldn’t do that to my kids. They deserved the real me. (I deserved the real me, too, but I focused on the kids to be able to have the strength to do it.)

  29. Tam Tam permalink
    October 24, 2011 2:39 pm

    The things we say to justify our actions to ourselves and others is truly amazing. No you aren’t a hero for admitting this years later. You aren’t brave for writing this post. You don’t win admiration. Being brave is before your wedding making the decision before lives are entangled, before children are born. Being brave is talking to your future spouse and telling them that something isn’t quite right with the relationship. It’s not stuffing your fears and feelings into a party dress for 10 years then springing it on him because you reached a “breaking point”

    You got divorced, you got “out” of course you had to have a damn good reason in your mind. Of course, it makes the whole thing more palatable to yourself, LoD to the kids. It’s easy to just point to one moment and say. Yeah I made a mistake here. Why? We all make mistakes so we get it.

    you were right about one thing. You were weak. .

    • askmoxie permalink*
      October 24, 2011 4:16 pm

      Um, party dress? Did you even read the same post I wrote? About how I thought my feelings were what everyone experienced? And how I thought I could love him enough to make it work? I’m not sure how you got some blanket deception and “party dress” out of all of that, but thanks for passing judgment on me and everyone else who just commented that they felt the same way. I assume now you’ll be equally insulting to LOD for marrying me, since it wasn’t just a one-way street. Or is this really about a double standard and not about productive conversation about relationships?

      • kimberlymoore permalink
        October 24, 2011 4:33 pm

        wow, I feel for you Tam Tam. Those who judge so harshly are usually simply masking deep routed fear about their own choices. Focus on making your personal life and journey the best it can instead of judging others’ lifes and journeys. We are all different- and isn’t that great. x

  30. Tracy permalink
    December 25, 2011 3:31 pm

    I remembered reading your blog, then I recently saw this.

    Is it possible your husband was actually a perfect life partner, without the spark? The spark is temporary anyway, marriage really is about settling… Before you get too old and end up alone. Permanently.

    • askmoxie permalink*
      December 28, 2011 10:42 am

      Nah, Tracy, definitely not a good life partner for me in any way. What being in a bad marriage taught me was that I’d far rather be alone than be with the wrong person. I hope that LOD and I each find partners that are right for us, but even if neither of us does, we’re still better off than staying together and making each other miserable.

    • Suzanne permalink
      December 28, 2011 11:12 am

      I thought marriage was about settling and so I married someone who I thought was “good enough.” I spent six years in a bad marriage and when I decided to end it, meeting someone else was the furthest thing from my mind. In fact I was pretty settled with the idea that I’d probably be alone (being 42 at the time) and I was fine with that. And then I met someone and I realized, marriage doesn’t have to be about settling. It has nothing to do with spark, it has to do with being with someone who values and respects me, wants to help me be the best person I can, and loves me for who I am. That’s what being married to the right person is, I can see it so clearly now after settling for the wrong person.


  1. What not to do, part II « When the Flames Go Up
  2. And now back to normal co-parenting « When the Flames Go Up

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