Never assume the person in front of you is the person I left behind me. If that were true, he never would have met you.

He was friendless when you met. He told you it was because being with me was so tumultuous there was no time for anything but damage control, and his friends drifted away one by one.

He told me the same thing about the girl before me. She was crazy. She ruined his life then left him for some sugar daddy. Gold digging bitch. The shit she put him through just made me extra-determined to show him that not all women were like her. Because, she wasn’t the only one. His luck with women (before ME, of course) had been abysmal. And not just the women he dated. His boss was on a mission to ruin his career. It was personal — everyone else at work was moving up the ladder except for him. His boss wanted him gone, and if she couldn’t find enough cause to force him out, she was going to create such a hostile space he would leave just to escape.

I was baffled. Just, why?

He was such a sweetheart. He lavished me with affection and his undivided attention. He paid attention to the details; treated me like I was special, and important. It didn’t take long for me to realize he was the one I had been searching for my whole life.

Let me back up a bit, though, to when we very first met. I had just (JUST!!) left a long-term relationship and I was grieving that. I wasn’t expecting to connect to another person so soon, and to avoid leading this new guy on I told him I wanted to visit the ex and make absolutely sure I didn’t start something new before I finished the old. He agreed, enthusiastically. Finally! I thought. A man secure enough to let me breathe, to trust the process!

It was easier than I expected, closing that door behind me and moving forward. We just connected so perfectly. The transition was seamless; the most natural thing in the world. We floated together with ease and it was like we’d always been that way.

And for a few years things were pretty great.

I wonder if he mentioned any of this to you. I don’t imagine so.

He probably told you about the part where I’m an alcoholic, and left out the recovering part…It will be 10 years this October. If the date sounds familiar, that’s probably because it coincides with the divorce. Causation, or correlation? I’ll let you decide for yourself. Also, I had been sober a year or so when we met, and I remained that way until our youngest was a year old, and the oldest was five. Until we almost lost our nearly newborn child and no one could say why, or whether it would happen again. Until I went 12 months so afraid to fall asleep and miss the next time his lungs filled with blood that I wanted to die, just so my spinning thoughts would leave me alone**.

Things escalated pretty fast after that.

But they started long before the kids. I’d say everything tilted on its axis right after the wedding. It was our very first argument as married people, and he exploded in a rage over whatever, I can’t remember. The man I’d confided every hope, dream, fear, and insecurity to; the man who had held them all so dear and promised to be the force in my life that taught me I never had to be afraid again…that man morphed into the personification of my personal traumas — he was in my face, ignoring my personal space, screaming and red faced and that feeling is all I remember about that moment.

Well, the feeling, and the last thing he said before he stormed out of the room.

“Let’s just get a fucking divorce and get it over with!”

I couldn’t breathe. We had made vows before God. We’d talked and talked about neither of us ever using the “D” word; that whatever issues may come, we wanted to do whatever necessary to work through them. We had promised to never let the sun set on our anger.

One little stupid thing too small to even lodge in my short term memory, and all those long, sincere conversations and heartfelt promises had gone out the window.

I can’t remember a single fight after that day where the ‘D' word didn’t make an appearance. For seven more years.

Anyway, he was gone, wherever, for a couple of hours, and when he came back he gave no indication anything had even happened. No apology; no acknowledgement, but I wanted so badly for everything to be back to normal, I didn’t dare raise the subject again. And for a while, it was like it never happened. And after a while, I wasn’t sure if it really had.

Until the next time. And the next. I became used to forcing myself to pretend with him, because any time I tried to bring it up, so I might understand what just happened, he either acted like he had no idea what I was talking about or flew into another rage.

It really fucked up my sense of reality. Was I imagining something that wasn’t there? Misinterpreting the situation, or his reaction, or my own common sense? Was I nuts?

One time, I was attending an AA conference. The second day, I posted on Facebook, “Tired, but happy.”

Three words.

The next thing I remember was listening to a speaker when my phone started vibrating. I silenced it. It happened again. And again. And again. I became alarmed, sure something must have happened to our daughter, so I stood up in the front row, disturbed the entire room, and made my way to the door as quietly as I could.

I called him back, terrified, only to be greeted with, “What the FUCK is his name? I always knew you were a whore. That the second you had five minutes away from me you’d spread your legs for the first guy you saw!”

Apparently, that’s what “Tired, but happy” means. The ONLY thing it means. I should have hung up on him and gone back to my speaker meeting. But by now, most of our (read: MY) friends had at one time or another picked up on his erratic behavior and made the mistake of either cornering me and inquiring about him, still within earshot, or just asked him outright what the fuck was going on. Whenever that happened, that person was immediately cut out of our life. I had become accustomed to being isolated from the world, and adept at doing whatever the hell it took to reel him back in and calm him down.

So, I left the conference and rushed home, only to find out the whole problem. He didn’t trust me. HE NEVER HAD. Obviously, any woman who takes an afternoon to visit her ex so she’s absolutely sure she’s ready to move forward with someone else cannot be trusted.

I pleaded with him, please, to believe I just stopped by his house to talk. He didn’t. He never had; he’d always assumed I went back for one more fuck. He just never told me.

There’s so much more: the way, not long before I ended up in the loony bin and rehab, he used to lose his temper and throw the kids and me out of the house and then blame me when they didn’t want to come back as soon as he called to tell us we could. Or how I’d be huddled on the couch with them both as he raged through the house before throwing his ID and his phone on the kitchen table, grabbing his rifle and keys and screaming, “I’m just going to blow my fucking brains out!” before storming out and slamming the door behind him. Leaving his terrified wife and children there with no way to find or identify or contact him.

I could go on, and on, and on. But I won’t.

I know what he says about me, and I don’t blame you for assuming I’m the one who fucked him up.

I wanted you to understand, there are two sides to every story, and even in a perfect world, in the perfect relationship, with the perfect guy,

If you’re the new girl, he’s not telling you the whole story. Who the hell WOULD?!?

What is it they say? Something along the lines of, No matter how perfect he seems in this moment, there’s a woman out there somewhere who is sick of his shit.

But at some point, you’ll have pieced it together, either way. A person can only hide pieces of himself for so long.

I don’t know your life together, and I’m not trying to send you a warning. Because what the hell do I know of him today? Nothing. Maybe he’s changed, and things will stay wonderful.

But he’s not broken because I broke him. People live through things, and those things shape who they become. Hopefully that means they get better after each thing they live through, and that means that at some point, a new person gets to benefit from all that experience.

But never assume the person in front of you is the person I left behind me. If that were true, you would not be married to my ex today.

From, me.

*I know, you didn’t actually marry MY ex. But my ex did marry someone who feels a lot like you seem to feel in this piece. So I got a little triggered by your words and decided to process my reaction by writing a faux response. In no way am I making assumptions about your situation, I’m just relaying my own. Think of it as therapy for me, and maybe a different perspective for you.

Maybe she’s not as bad as you think. 😎

I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but I know I want it to be spelled right and punctuated correctly. I guess that’s something.

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