A lot of people have asked me why, if I dislike Big Daddy so much, why oh why did I try to stay married to him? Why fight it? And digging even deeper, why did I stay married to him as long as I did AND make four kids with him?
Because I used to love him. Not a super red-hot, passionate love, but a love nonetheless. I remember when we first met I was so happy to have found someone who could make me laugh. He got my sophomoric humor and had plenty of his own. We cracked each other up, and for me, that's about 80% of the whole attraction process. Whatever was lacking in other areas of our relationship wasn't missed (at first) simply because I loved being around him.
I had been in a couple of serious relationships prior to meeting Big Daddy, so the whole "meet the parents" thing, while still daunting, wasn't the huge deal it used to be. I met both of his parents (they are divorced) and hit it off immediately. A few years later his mom confided to me, "He called me up the day after you two met and said 'Mom, I met the girl I am going to marry'..". His dad lived in a beautiful home on a river, and I remember standing in the front yard, Big Daddy's arms wrapped around me and him whispering into my ear, "Someday this will be ours." With him, I felt something that I hadn't felt before in my life: security.
He was ambitious, but not crazy-driven like some guys were at that age. He shared a high-end apartment downtown with a college friend and worked an office job for an insurance company. At this point I was schlepping cosmetics at what used to be called (and always will be, in my little head) Dayton's. We were that annoying lovey dovey couple for a long time...the ones who would drop off love notes for each other, coo into the phone at work, and wait impatiently for the end of the day so we could just be together.
We'd go out with friends quite a bit, the girl who introduced us had a huge crush on one of Big Daddy's friends and our collective groups would go out en masse on the weekends. I look back on those days as some of the best, funniest and sweetest years of my life.
Sometimes I think that he became a father too soon. I wonder, quite often, what would have happened if we hadn't plunged into the parenthood roles so quickly...maybe we wouldn't have even ended up married, maybe we would have gone a whole different direction. Who knows.
One thing that makes me particularly sad about what's gone down is the fact that my kids still question their role in the divorce. For a while, when they would bicker and fight amongst themselves I'd hear one of them say, "It's YOUR fault dad left!".
I have tried my hardest to instill in their minds that nothing anyone could do would have kept Big Daddy home. I have to watch what I say around them; a few times they've overheard me talking about "marrying the wrong guy" or "if only I could go back and make different choices" and asked me, point blank, if I am sorry that I have them. Ow.
For the record, I would go through everything all over, a hundred times over, if it meant having this same group of kids. They are the reason I wake up, the reason I don't ever stop trying, the reason I didn't give up when things were at their darkest. They are truly the reason I fought so hard to stay married. Even when I found out that he had left not due to some cliched mid-life crisis, but because someone new and shiny had caught his eye, I fought. I knew firsthand how it felt to be part of the wreckage from a sinking marriage, and I did not want that for my babies.
Obviously, I lost the battle. Taking care of four heartbroken kids while dealing with your own emotional devastation? That's tough. I took them to see counselors, they participated in the "different families" group at school, and we always kept the lines of communication open. I did the best that I could for them, and things seemed to be ok. Not perfect, obviously, but ok.
That's when I learned just how devastating this whole process can be.
On December 28th, 2007, I received the worst phone call that a parent can get.