Saturday, December 4, 2010

What Attracted Me to My Ex-Wife

Insecurity is a bad ingredient for a relationship.

A friend recently mentioned on Facebook that she wondered what attracted me to my ex-wife. I replied that I often asked myself the same question. Which is true. I have a habit of ruthlessly thinking about and examining my life and the choices I've made. If you're honest with yourself which I have worked hard to be, it can be very liberating; however, it can also be somewhat depressing. Coming face-to-face with one's flaws is not the most comfortable thing in the world. Be that as it may, hopefully I can stop myself from making the same mistakes again or offer frank advice to someone who needs it.

So, on to the topic at hand - my ex-wife and what the hell was the attraction there. It's simple, really.

She was attracted to me.

I met her when I was 16 and I was certainly not at my best then. Not that anyone really is at that age, but I was definitely at a low point. I harbored a lot of anger and that drove many of my poor decisions. One of the biggest drivers of my anger was my insecurity. It's hard to underestimate how poisonous this can be to a person.

My insecurity stemmed from a number of things. I had few friends. I was picked on a lot. I was pushed around. I never felt I fit in anywhere. I certainly didn't have enough confidence to really talk to girls and I didn't expect any of them to actually be interested in me, anyway. My relationship with my mother was quite strained at this time and my relationship with my father was virtually non-existent. I had no adult figure in my life to mentor me or help me navigate this tricky time for any kid growing up.

So, when a young woman I worked with showed an interest in me, how could I help but "fall in love"? She was the first girl I dated, the first girl I kissed, the first girl I had sex with, and ultimately we got married. Her declaration of love for me shored up my deep insecurity and allowed me to feel better about myself, no matter how hollow this ultimately was.

Looking back now, of course, I cringe at what I did, what I thought. The warning signs that this was not a good relationship were all over the place, but they were willfully ignored. No one I knew, friends or family, thought she was right for me, but I was too stubborn to listen even if I had my own doubts (which I made sure to bury very deep). How could I walk away from someone who seemed to love me in a way in which no one else did, especially when I was sure no one else would?

Of course this set my life on a bad path that I am still trying to recover from. She got pregnant a few months after we started dating and my first daughter, Erica, was born just six months after I graduated from high school. Instead of going off to college I was working full time to support my new family which grew by another daughter the following year. The marriage dissolved a few years later when I finally woke up and realized how wrong she was for me, how unhappy I was. She got custody of our daughters then because she had a lawyer her grandparents paid for and frankly I wasn't ready to be the dad I needed to be then whether or not I had money for a custody battle.

Back in 2008 I realized the time had come for me to fully assume my parental responsibilities and get full custody of my daughters. Their mother did not provide a safe, secure environment for them and there was no convincing her to change what she was doing. It took over two years, but it was finalized earlier this year and now I have full custody of my lovely daughters.

This is wandering away from the core of this post, though. Insecurity is what led me to my now ex-wife. It took me a long time to get over that and I'm not sure that even now some of it doesn't linger on, rearing its head in my subconscious from time to time. It's a poisonous thing, insecurity. I wish there was a magic bullet cure for it especially now as I see it in my youngest daughter and I feel near helpless trying to combat it. My own experiences with it give me a tiny bit of insight into what she is feeling, but the sheer power of it is overwhelming. I feel like Frodo walking into Mordor.

But I'm not going to give up. I owe her that.

Pictured above is me (looking like I'm fresh out of junior high and demonstrating why I need some facial hair even now otherwise I don't look much older than that) with my then girlfriend (we weren't married, yet) and our oldest daughter on Christmas Day 1996, about six weeks after Erica was born.