Isn’t it funny how people’s perceptions of the very same event can be so different? Even something like a marriage. My husband Zack thought he was a happily married man, I knew I was unhappy.
Our two realities finally clashed when I asked him for a divorce on our thirtieth wedding anniversary, two weeks after our third and youngest child left home.
He stood there staring at me in absolute shock. “What?” he asked. “Who’s getting a divorce?”
“You,” I told him. “Or rather, I am.”
Zack sat down heavily, still staring. “You’re divorcing me?”
“Yes,” I repeated. “I’m divorcing you.”
“But why?” he cried, and I was surprised to see tears in his eyes. “I love you, Kelly, I always have, and I never cheated on you, not ever!”
“That’s true,” I said. “You never cheated and you never drank or gambled.”
One of the most important things in a relationship is to LISTEN to what the other person is really saying.
“But…Then why?” he asked angrily. “I did NOTHING and you’re divorcing me? Are you having an affair?”
“NO!” I cried. “I’m not! Do you want to know why I’m leaving you, Zack? I’ll tell you…” I walked right up to him and looked him in the eyes.
“I’m leaving you because you did NOTHING! When the children came and I was holding a full-time job and coming home to do the housework alone, you did NOTHING.
“When I was so ill I could barely get out of bed, you did NOTHING; when my father died and I was devastated by grief, you did NOTHING; when I went through menopause and had depression, you did NOTHING.
“When I was so sad that our two oldest children left home, you did NOTHING. You never brought me a flower just to say you loved me, you never stood up for me when your mother was so mean to me.
“That time I twisted my ankle and I could barely walk, I had to get out of bed at 6:00 am and fix breakfast — and you lay there snoring and did NOTHING. Nothing seems to be what you do best!”
“You never told me!” Zack cried with an injured look on his face.
“I told you every time I asked for your help,” I said. “Every time I snuggled up for a kiss and you were more interested in what was on TV. I told you when I begged for your love and attention, for romance.
“I told you five years ago when I asked you to go to couples therapy with me and you refused because there was NOTHING wrong and you were happy.”
“We can go now,” Zack said hopefully. “Set up the appointment and I’ll come!”
“Of course, now that you see me determined to leave,” I commented. “But you don’t actually care enough to go look for a therapist and set up the appointment yourself.”
“Please, Kelly,” Zack begged. “Please give me a chance to make you happy!”
I stared at him and a deep sadness welled up in my heart. I shook my head. “At any time in the last thirty years, I would have given anything to hear you say those words.
“Now I look at you and all I feel is sadness — and pity. You’ve never bothered to make me happy before Zack, and honestly, I’m not wasting one more day of my life on you.”
I moved out the next day and found myself a pretty little apartment in Venice Beach and started a new life. I sold my car and started cycling everywhere even to work.
My children were shocked, especially my oldest daughter Amy who told me her father was devastated and seeing a therapist for depression. I was sorry for him, but my own happiness was finally my priority.
I took up dancing, made new friends, threw out the dowdy old wardrobe that I’d bought to please Zack, and changed my hair. My children were stunned and said I looked twenty years younger.
I felt younger and pretty, and energetic, and hopeful. A year later, I met Sam, a sweet, considerate man who spoils me, lavishes care and attention on me, and wants to marry me.
I guess I’m still a bit nervous about taking the big step again, but we’ve set a date for the summer. I couldn’t have fallen for a nicer man, and I am finally learning what real love is all about.
As for Zack, I hear he is now dating a much younger woman who orders him around like a slave, has him hopping to her every whim, and spends his hard-earned money like water. I guess we all get what we deserve!