At the age of 36 I filed for divorce after 16 1/2 years of marriage. When asked to check a box to give a reason I chose "irreconcilable differences." Understatement of the decade as far as I was concerned. "Broken beyond repair" would have been a better choice.
How did things get that bad? Let's begin at the beginning shall we?
I met the man I would eventually marry when I was 17. We worked for the same company and saw each other several times each week. He wore a leather jacket to work everyday...I remember the leather jacket vividly. I noticed him right away, but was quickly distracted by another co-worker who (being much closer to my age) asked me out one Saturday night. I dated the younger guy for 4 months...I broke it off when he began to exhibit signs of possessiveness and control that freaked me out.
That summer I graduated from high school and turned 18...and began hanging out with the "older men" at work. The age difference was only 5 or 6 years, but at the age of (barely) 18 a 24-year-old guy seems *much* older. Besides, I was legally an adult - no one could tell me with whom I could or couldn't associate - right?
Our first date wasn't really a date - we went with a group to watch a fireworks show. The next evening a few of us watched old Vietnam movies - the difference was that he picked me up to drive me there....and he was driving me home...but we didn't go straight home. That was the beginning.
My family and close friends tell me that it was only a matter weeks before I started to change. They say it was like "the real me" disappeared and I became someone entirely different. My mom says it was like I was "under his spell." I lied about where I was so I could spend more and more time with him. Eventually, I dropped out of college after a long talk we had about "our future together" effectively putting my life-long dream of becoming a nurse on hold. This occurred soon after we moved in together - and had our first major fight.
There were many red flags. I ignored them all. Why? I wish I knew. We argued a lot. Yelling was a regular part of most days. My good friends stuck by me and did their level best to get me to see the mistake I was making. One time they even took me to see an old boyfriend under the guise of "going to lunch"...I hesitated...for just a second...but the "spell" was too strong.
We were married just 6 days after my 20th birthday. My mother tried to stop the wedding - while we were in the church - I kid you not! My dad cried...I've only seen him cry one other time - when my parents informed my brother and me that they were separating...it was bad. I'm pretty sure that bets were placed regarding how long our marriage would last.
There was one problem: I loved him.
OK...so there were two problems: I thought I could change him.