In my book Meritage Divorce,
I write about my “Moment of Truth” which was the moment I knew my marriage was over. I encourage everyone to journal their divorce story as they enter divorce. It amazed me that it wasn’t as simple as I first thought. Often times growth results from pain and self-discovery and through the process we identify truths that were shielded from our awareness. As time goes by new realities surface that can change our perspective on the reasons our marriage has ended. Keeping your thoughts and emotions on paper can be useful to chart your growth and allow you to reflect. Just the process of writing can assist in jogging memory, provide clarity, and help you heal through the process.
Here is what I have written in my chapter “The Moment of Truth”…..warning, I write in wine metaphors!
THE MOMENT OF TRUTH
“This sublime nectar is quite simply incapable of lying. Picked well or picked too late, it matters not, the wine will always whisper in your mouth unabashed honesty every time you take a sip.”
Albert Finney delivered this line in the movie A Good Year
Before we begin, you need to ask yourself: Have you been drinking bad wine? When I chose my husband, Cab, for marriage he was like a young wine—full of potential, but not yet fully matured. I thought he was the right varietal for me, a Cabernet Sauvignon that would, over time, become more refined, confident, and smooth on the palate. But, as time went by, I realized he was more and more like a Cabernet, but not in the ways I anticipated. Yes, he showed outward signs of sophistication and complex characteristics and, truth be told, he was somewhat full bodied; however, he was anything but smooth on my palate. In the beginning, to my fairly inexperienced palate, he was wonderful—he tasted great, and at least I thought he was just the type of wine that I liked, but sometime during our fifteen-year relationship he had corked.
Before I knew it, my beautiful wine, the wine that I took so long to select, had turned rancid on the palate. Sarcasm was his primary form of expression. As time went by, he became harder and harder to swallow. He wasn’t the smooth, velvety wine I thought I’d selected. No, he was sour with a bitter aftertaste. Everything about our situation sickened my stomach and made me nauseated. What I once anticipated in the form of a loving relationship did not deliver the experience I had hoped for. I wanted to be drank with appreciation and cherished. I longed for some written, heartfelt, tasting notes of the things he enjoyed and appreciated about me. Instead, the notes were more critical in nature and delivered verbally sarcastic.
There were times, of course, when I could taste the essence of the original uncorked wine camouflaged under the layers of acidity. There were even times I told myself: Maybe he’s really not corked; maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s my palate and the way I perceive the experience. After all, taste is subjective. Perhaps I was contributing in some way to the experience I was having. Maybe I needed to clean my palate and come to the table without the typical schemas we develop over time in relation to our spouses. These preconceived notions I had were based on a set of patterns that had played out over and over again so many times I could almost anticipate the outcome. The problem was that over time, my palate became more and more sophisticated—I knew the difference between good wine and bad wine, and once you know the difference, you don’t want to drink the bad stuff anymore.
In the beginning, I was a white zinfandel, which I consider to be a wannabe wine. I came to the marriage naïve. I lacked confidence and didn’t recognize my potential. I was fairly sweet on the palate initially. I tried to keep the relationship easy to swallow by not asking for too much. I earned my own money and contributed equally financially while taking a backseat to lifestyle opportunities. Instead, I worked around the clock and did little to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Through self-discovery later, I would come to understand why.
Having drunk the nectar of only a few wines prior, I certainly did not have a finely tuned palate to know what I liked nor what would be a good blend for me. I did know I was eager to build a future with someone and to be loved. The two of us together, as a blended wine, did little to complement each other or provide the right balance. Ideally, and if they’re properly blended, two varietals can be a better-finished product than each on their own. Together, their characteristics should complement, enhance, and support the other to make each better than they are alone.
We were mismatched from the beginning. Neither of us could deliver to the other what we needed to flourish, grow, or nurture each other properly to help each other reach our potential or feel loved. Neither one of us inherently showed love to each other in the way we could feel it. I needed love demonstrated to me with acts of service, such as being proactive in maintaining my car or some aspect of our home, and words of affirmation as in the words behind “I love you,” telling me why. I got tired of those three words. They were like empty calories; they needed action behind them. They felt like a lazy way of expressing love.
Cab believed in hiring out most services. He once told me that he made sure his share of household chores were done—even if by others—therefore, they were performed and if he paid for them, he should get credit for them. Good thing the spa guy wasn’t that cute or I might have fallen in love with him for performing acts of service for me.
Cab told me he needed to feel love through affection. I could have hired that one out too, but I didn’t want to go to jail. Even though it would have been a physical manifestation of the emotional prison I felt I was living in. I didn’t feel like touching him after a sarcastic comment. I retreated emotionally and love slipped slowly out of my heart. He didn’t get the affection he needed to feel loved either. It was a vicious cycle.
But there was at least one common characteristic that held us together. We were both very ambitious and had a desire to be financially well-off and able to afford the finer things in life. I was running from the feeling I had growing up of not feeling my family was financially secure.
It took years of hard work to become financially well-off and I believe we sacrificed our relationship in the process. I had transitioned out of corporate America after five years as a Human Resources Manager into self-employment as a Real Estate Broker. I had a very driven, independent mind-set. Failure was not an option. I had a strong work ethic to a fault. I didn’t take care of myself or acknowledge my needs or Cabs. I was hell-bent on not needing anyone. I had never been able to count on anyone in my life and I wasn’t going to start now was my attitude. We were both good at growing our businesses and a small empire of financial assets, but we were not good at keeping our marriage alive and healthy. The marriage seemed like another item on the list of to-dos.
As Cab’s financial planning business grew, he took on a partner and other strategic business partners and a “boys club” was born. It was as though there was a sign at the office—naked to the human eye—but the message was loud and clear and it read: “no wives allowed.” It got to the point that if I wanted to talk about something financial, I had to make an appointment with Cab’s assistant to come to the office and discuss the matter.
The boys knew how to live too. They enjoyed a lifestyle of golf trips, fine dining, and expensive wine. I did enjoy the “doggie-bag” boxed leftovers, however, and occasionally it was a bonus when one or more of the boys had leftovers too. Steak bones were a common treat for the dogs. The dogs and I ate well— ruff, ruff. I felt like I was under the table like a dog on its hind legs with my mouth open waiting to be fed—no longer invited to the table—just good enough to eat the scraps.
The boys came over for dinner with their wives and I cooked for them—course dinners with paired wine, complete with a well-dressed table and candles. Kind of ironic that I was so busy preparing the meal and serving it I was once again on the outside looking in and not at the table. Sometimes I sat in the back seat of the car while one of the “boys” sat in the front. I felt like I had become a second wife. The business and friends came first. I was a mere leftover thought—no left overs intended.
Silence was common in our house. Communication became painful. The sarcasm was a piercing sword to my heart. The tongue was our biggest weapon—giving opportunity to inflict emotional pain. The reaction I gave to the sarcasm was defensive verbally and my voice got louder and louder over time. I became chronically tired. The enthusiasm for life was nonexistent.
As life got more sophisticated and lifestyles increased, our egos got bigger too. We had built several businesses and managed investment properties. We both entertained clients and friends— wining and dining was a way of life. As the years went on, the pressure to manage all that we had acquired consumed our energies. We had little energy left to put toward fixing the relationship. With each subsequent year, the emotional deposits were smaller and smaller until I was overdrawn and emotionally bankrupt. I no longer had the emotional reserves to weather the challenges in the relationship or to participate emotionally in it.
In the first half of our marriage, I received my words of affirmation in cards for my birthday, wedding anniversary, and other celebrated occasions with handwritten, heartfelt notes. They were as long as two sides of the card. During the second half of the marriage, I tried to hold on long enough to receive a card that I hoped would make a deposit in my emotional bank, when in great disappointment, they became the standard Hallmark card with a verbal explanation: “I didn’t have time to write anything.” It felt like the air had evaporated out of my lungs. I hid the fact that I felt as though I couldn’t breathe.
Marriage counseling we attended was an exercise in futility. We stayed in the marriage long after any emotional intimacy was left. It’s a lonely place. Still, there is a lot of courage in making a decision to leave what you know and step into the unknown. I am grateful Cab was brave enough to say the words out loud. Or, actually, in my case, send me an email. There it was in my inbox, no surprise however. After a public display of disrespect at dinner with friends over something I said, I was done. Here is how the scene played out:
I was given a voice to participate in the planning of a Christmas party at our new home. Cab’s partner had made it clear to me he wanted to stay within a certain budget and the alcohol to be served. Cab started describing the plans for the Christmas party in grandiose description including alcohol that wasn’t being served. I made the mistake of correcting him. I realize I may have cut him down in front of our friends. He said, “Fuck you. We don’t care about your ideas.” I guess that ultimately summed up what I had been feeling all the time. I had just not heard it spoken aloud. I lost all hope of ever returning to the relationship. This was my moment of truth. And so the email concluded: “I give up.” I gave up too. Ultimately, this would be the last way we could love each other—enough to say “good-bye.”