After years of wishing, hoping and planning for a relationship, Jennifer E. finally found The One. It was a storybook romance -- until it wasn't. Below, she shares with us how a big reveal destroyed her marriage while teaching her what qualities need to be present for a relationship to last.
I was a late bloomer. I never dated or had a boyfriend until I was in college. Essentially, I was a hopeless romantic with no romance in my life. Shortly after college graduation, I met my first husband through a mutual friend. There was instant mutual attraction. He had just enlisted in the military, so our entire courtship was long-distance, except for the handful of times he took some leave and we’d meet in fun cities for long weekends. He proposed to me in New Orleans and a year later we had a beautiful wedding. Within a year, everything fell apart. He met someone online -- a man -- and realized that he was gay. I was completely devastated. How could this happen to me? I was sure things like this only happened on daytime talk shows, to other people, from afar. My world fell apart.
I moved back in with my parents. I admit I really needed them then. Over the next few months, I stayed in my childhood bedroom at their house in a daze. I’m a teacher and since this all happened mid-year, all I could do was take substitute jobs. I saw people regularly who had been to my wedding barely two years earlier and asked how the marriage was going. I couldn't escape the questions but I certainly wasn't going to explain it to them. I stayed silent and in return, people in town stared at me with that unmistakable "what happened?"-look on their faces.
My ex had already moved on to a new relationship and was happy because of it. Meanwhile, I lived in a fog, feeling humiliated and utterly worthless. I went back to the bar scene. I had no significant job and I idly sat by watching all of my friends enjoy life and relationships. I was ashamed. Who would have thought? Married and abandoned in less than two years, and only 26 years old.
I had been staying with my parents for eight months the summer after the “big reveal” when I finally decided I needed a fresh start. My sister had moved up to Atlanta and was also a teacher. She'd always talked about what a great place it was for single professionals, but then she told me about an upcoming teacher job fair the county was holding. I flew up for an interview, accepted an offer, found a roommate and started my life as a young adult all over again. No one there knew me before my marriage in Atlanta. No one knew about my divorce. I never had to explain anything to anyone and I had new friends and a new job. Still, deep inside I was still hurting and certain I was destined to remain alone for the rest of my days. But with time and with the help of good friends, the pain began to dissipate. I found me again -- not the ex-wife or the pitiful divorcée but the person who had been MIA the last couple of years.
About two years later, I met my current husband. We spent so much time together really getting to know each other and we fell in love on a much deeper level than I did with my ex. That’s made all the difference. We've been married almost 14 years now and we have two sons. Don’t get me wrong; our marriage is far from perfect (whose is?), but this time, I went into the relationship with my eyes wide open. I was older, wiser and stronger and he loved me because of that.
I learned a lot from that dark time in my life. The rose-colored glasses I had worn for so many years are long gone now. But I became much stronger and less naive because of that struggle. I learned how to handle so many different kinds of emotions and I came out on the other side in one piece -- a whole, happy person.