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I Couldn’t Get Over the Fact That He Was Divorced

For years, I was afraid of living in the shadow of his ex-wife.

Sometimes I find myself halfway through a jumbo bottle of wine, crying sheepish little sobs about the fact that I don’t believe that my wedding will be special.

It sounds silly, I know. John hasn’t even asked me yet. Marriage has always been in the cards for us, though, and we talk about our future together a lot. When I’m not feeling prickly and sensitive, I know that everything that we do is special and I believe John when he tells me that I’m the most special person to grace his whole life. I hear it in his words and I see it in his actions. Yet in my moments of turbulence, I can’t help but think that nothing will ever be truly special between us because he was already married.

Why date a divorced person, Heather? In the beginning, John’s status as a divorcee didn’t bother me. I actually didn’t care about his past in the slightest. I have never been the type to care about things like that. Once our relationship became the deeply beautiful source of a life lived in a perpetual honeymoon phase, I started to think a little bit differently about the ex he’d mentioned when we were first seeing each other.

I knew that John’s past wasn’t a happy one. “The worst mistake of my life,” he’d called it, cursing the three and a half year long marriage through gritted teeth any time I mentioned that our future wouldn’t be special. He’d detail how he was physically and emotionally abused and contrast it to the robust and happy lives we were living together. “I can’t even think of it as a marriage. Whatever that was, it was doomed from the first few weeks we were married. It was constant hell from month number one.”

There were other less ridiculous ways in which I felt inferior. He’d had a beautiful house in a hamlet in Georgia with the ex. (To him, this didn’t mean anything because his entire time in the home was mostly spent having intense, scream-filled arguments).

Still, I had a difficult time being convinced. I was insistent that he must have really, really been in love if he’d married her and that I was not his first choice in life. No matter how great I was, he’d always be marked by the deep, dark tragedy of losing the real love of his life.

“I got married because I believed it was the right thing to do,” he insisted, “not because I met the love of my life. I did it because I had a good-paying job and I was in my thirties and everyone else was getting married. That person and I had horrible issues way before I allowed things to escalate. Once again, it was a mistake and it never should have happened.”

After a while, I tried my best not to say anything about the situation and I kept my malaise to myself. The Pinterest account with different boards for all kinds of wedding-related facets got shelved, and I just tried to not think about anything having to do with marriage, which was difficult considering all of the weddings around me. Still, I was determined to let it go.

On the day that I went searching through Facebook to find some old photos of John and I together, an album of his wedding that one of the ex’s friends had tagged him in appeared in the search bar.

Now you’re probably thinking, Why on earth would you click on that? It really isn’t even any of your business. Why would you do that to yourself and look at something like that?

Once I saw that the wedding album existed, I had to click on it. Pictures of my boyfriend doing various activities while dressed in the ugliest suit I’ve ever seen in my life while glazed with the expression of a bad hangover painted the screen, and I felt sick to my stomach.

There was John cutting a wedding cake, holding someone else, and giving a speech with many familiar faces at a long table. His ex wasn’t pretty and lacked any of the redeeming qualities of romantic attractiveness, but it didn’t make me feel any better about myself to know that she was ugly. She had him.

I gathered myself, closed the page, and eventually found a time afterward to politely ask my boyfriend to “clear house” and get rid of all traces of this part of his past. It didn’t make me feel comfortable to just have around for anyone to see, and if the past was really over and dead then I didn’t think it should be there. I knew that this was probably poor behavior on my part, but I’d never been selfish in our relationship. All of this subject matter had made me so uncomfortable that I couldn’t help myself.

I wish I were a stronger person, a better person, a more resilient person. But any time that John mentions even the slightest speck of detail of those years he spent with someone else at such a capacity, I get loopy. I feel sick. It irks me with tingles up my spine and the blood in my body swells at the top of my head. How can our future together be special if he’s already done this before?

I reluctantly agreed to go back to my cheesy life as a wino who liked to scroll Pinterest — at the behest of my friends and my therapist — except I made a promise to work not to bring up John’s past and to keep living my life with the confidence that our 21st-century spin on The Princess Bride was real, valid, and yes, special.

As a woman with very low self-esteem, I know that that’s exactly what this quest to invalidate myself is: it’s just my low self-esteem acting out. It’s the part of me that feels bad about myself saying, You don’t deserve to be happy, and if you and John are happy together, then it cannot be as good as his past.

But I digress.

It’s taking a lot of work to accept the fact that I accidentally turned my boyfriend’s baggage into my baggage and that was selfish. It’s taking even more work to move forward in life with my mantras and crystals and chakra-healing activities to feel better about myself and truly fix the framework behind what was making me feel this way about my boyfriend’s marital status for so long.

The other day, I chatted with a friend of John’s over Instagram and she offered to send me a sample of the nail polish strips that she sells as a side business. A few days later, a card came in the mail from the girl. The nail polish strips were inside, but the mail itself was addressed to his ex’s name, and I nearly had an aneurysm when I saw that she wrote the ex’s name inside of the card, too.

I took a deep breath and threw the card away. Instead of carrying on about it and crying into my wine glass, I let it go. I knew that this was the Universe, capital U. The Universe was messing with me. “Well played,” I said out loud, tearing the card up. And I think that for this topic, that’s where my mind’s melodrama ended.

I write about various topics and occasionally share wisdom I’ve earned through suffering.

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