Knowing When to Walk Away

He was a decent husband.  He was successful. He was a good provider.

Each time I came home with a pitiful new stray animal, be begrudgingly accepted it into our home.

But he was too busy with work and hating his job to appreciate the beautiful home I had made for us.

He chose working overtime over spending time with our 2 beautiful daughters.

After Hurricane Katrina, my dear friend Rose and I packed a tent and drove her Avalanche to New Orleans to volunteer. The HSUS had turned an equestrian center outside of the city into the largest animal rescue facility to date. We set up our tent outside the humongous FEMA tent.  It reminded me of a giant circus tent. We woke each day at 5:30am, and by 8am, we were exploring the barren streets of New Orleans most devastated neighborhoods. Dumping giant bags of cat and dog food, leaving water and occasionally rescuing a stray dog or cat, when we were lucky.

Rose and I befriended two FEMA firefighters. Two men: one was married, one was not.

Ryan, the single one was adorable. A big friendly smile. And the fact that he was there to save animals was attractive to me, a fellow animal lover.

Ryan and I hit it off immediately. I told him about my 2 girls and husband back home. I even showed him the pictures of our happy little family.

He talked to me. He listened. He was interested in me. Something that was lacking in my marriage.

Each day, Rose and I spent every daylight hour searching the streets of New Orleans. We dumped food. Left water. Witnessed the devastation. Found dead animals. Found starving animals. We cried. And sometimes we would laugh at ourselves. And then we would cry even more. It was heartbreaking.

Each evening we would find our 2 new firefighter friends and drink beer. Compare stories. Feel sad. Drink more beer. And try to forget.

That week, Ryan and I became close. We bonded over our sadness. It was easy to be attracted to someone who was so attentive.

I had been feeling so unloved, so neglected at home for so long. The attention was nice. And he made it very clear that he wanted me.

I was married. Unhappily married. But still married. Rose was put off.

She was happily married. And she knew how unhappy I was.

She was sympathetic, but slightly judgmental.

I kissed Ryan that week. And even though we had many opportunities to, I never took it any farther than that. But technically, I cheated on my husband. In my eyes, even just kissing was cheating.

I felt like a horrible human being.

I’m not proud of what I did, but no one is perfect. Certainly not me.

Ten days later, my husband was waiting for me at the airport when I returned home. He was beaming with excitement. He had missed me. A lot. It showed.

I had not missed him.

It was not that I wanted to leave him for Ryan. In fact I wasn’t even sure if I was interested in Ryan at all. It was the fact that time away had made me realize I needed more.

I deserved more.

I was unhappy.

I desperately wanted to be happy again.

He could see from my face that things had changed between us. That week, I asked him for a divorce.

He fell apart.

He cried and begged for another chance.

I agreed and we saw yet another marriage counselor.

The fact is, we had gone to four different counselors over the years. We had even attended a Marriage Encounter weekend. The ME weekend was actually fun.

He and I bonded that weekend. It breathed a new life into our marriage. But that was only a temporary fix. Two weeks later, things were back to normal again. And normal for us meant he was never around. And when he was, he was miserable. And that made me miserable.

[2.5 years earlier]  We moved into our new home that Christmas. The house was completely empty. The heat was not working. It was cold and empty. But it was ours. We were happy. A new home. A new fresh start for us. A new chance to make things work.

I remember sitting in our living room a few weeks later. On our shabby old couch. The house was still bare. We had not purchased any new furniture yet.

He walked in the door from work. More complaints. He hated his job. It seemed that was all he ever wanted to talk about.

I asked him to sit down. I told him I was unhappy. I asked him for a divorce. He begged me to try. Again.

I agreed. Again.

We found yet another counselor. She suggested a trip. Maybe spending time together alone would help us?

We booked a hotel and drove to Florida. Two days before we left, 911 occurred. We thought about cancelling our trip but we decided to go anyway. The Disney parks were barren that week. The entire country was mourning the devastating losses of 911. We tried to enjoy ourselves.  We used wine to numb the pain.

We had dinner al fresco on Disney’s boardwalk one evening. It was a beautiful night. We laughed. We had wine. I felt happy.

A fortune teller had a small kiosk set up along the water. After dinner, he suggested I have a reading done. He knew my fascination with that sort of thing. She read my palm. She shuffled her Tarot cards. I giggled. It was the wine.

But the one thing I vividly recall her saying to me was: “You will have a daughter that is exactly like you.”

He and I had not had sex in ages. Sex had been the last thing on my mind in all those unhappy years.

After strolling along the moonlit boardwalk and more wine, we had sex that evening in our hotel room.

One month later, the pregnancy test came back positive.  I was shocked. How could I be pregnant? 

We only had sex once. One time in over a year. Maybe TWO YEARS? It had been so long, I had lost track.

It must be a sign. We were ecstatic to have a child.

We decided we would stay together and try to work things out. [end of flashback]

Things never did change. And 6 months after I returned from volunteering for Hurricane Katrina, we filed for divorced.

Looking back I know I gave him everything I could. I did everything in my power to make it work.

Counselors. The Marriage Encounter weekend. More counseling. More chances. More time…. More tries.

You get to a point when trying is all there is left.

At one time I adored him. But over the years, adoration turned into resentment.

I resented him for working so much. I resented his refusal to communicate. All he ever did was complain about work.

I resented him for not appreciating the beautiful family and home we had created.

But yet, I still tried and tried and tried again.

The saddest part is that I know he still loved me. But he stopped trying.

When I finally decided to walk away for good, I knew in my heart I had done everything in my power to make it work.

I also knew I no longer loved him. He stopped trying. He had destroyed the love I once had for him.

And when there is no love left, that’s when you know it’s time to gracefully walk away.