Worth Fighting For

Back in January, I ended things with Michael. I felt strong and empowered and sure of what I wanted and needed. I ended things, or so I thought.

His initial response was about what I expected. He was angry and hurt and didn’t understand where all of this was coming from. I blocked his number on my phone and removed myself from his Facebook. As far as I was concerned, this chapter was closed. What happened next, I did not see coming. After a few days of me barely responding to his e-mails, except to reiterate and justify my feelings, his tone changed. He began telling me how much he loved me and that he didn’t want to lose me. He went back to the beginning of our relationship and mentioned reasons why he had fallen in love with me in the first place.

At first, I was prickly. I stood my ground and wouldn’t let his sweet words break me down. I couldn’t figure out why he was so persistent and why he was wasting his time on what I thought was a lost cause. After a week or two, I read one of his e-mails, and something suddenly occurred to me. Michael was fighting for me. This man, who wasn’t getting much hope from my responses, wasn’t giving up on me, or on us. In my life, I’ve never had a man fight for me before. I was married for close to 20 years, and the only time my ex-husband did anything even remotely like fighting for me was when it was way past the point of no return. When he suddenly realized how much our marriage had deteriorated, it was too late. I had nothing left to give. I felt nothing anymore. Yet, here was Michael, a man I’ve known less than a year, texting me and e-mailing me every day. He was still calling and leaving voicemails, even though I still had his number blocked. This man loved me enough to fight for me. The walls began to crumble.

I unblocked his number and we started talking. We hashed out much of what had been bothering me and began to reconnect. Things haven’t been perfect, but I feel like we gained some kind of understanding through it all. We’re still not on each other’s Facebook, and that is still a sticking point, but we’re a work in progress.

He’s been amazingly sweet in the past few months. One night shortly after we started talking again, he surprised me by having 4 orders of chocolate lava cakes delivered to my house from the local Domino’s. He eventually did send a box full of Christmas gifts for my daughter and me. In February, he was told by flowers.com that there was no way to guarantee that anything could be delivered to me on Valentine’s Day, so he called directly to a flower shop near my house and made sure I would get flowers that day. And earlier this month, he knew money was tight for me and surprised me by wiring money to help get my daughter’s glasses, which I probably wouldn’t have been able to afford for a few paychecks. But it’s not all material things that have melted my heart. When I doubt myself, he shows me all the ways that he sees me as an amazing mom and a beautiful woman. He’s quick to list all the things I do, showing me that maybe I need to give myself more credit sometimes. Above all, he makes me feel loved every single day. No man has ever done that for me before.

You might think I’m an idiot for giving him another chance, and who knows if things will ultimately work out between us. But I think there’s something to be said for his actions. He could have easily said, “Screw it, there are other fish in the sea,” and deleted my number. He didn’t give up on me, and that means something to me. For the first time, I see myself as someone worth the trouble and I don’t feel so alone. He knows I’ve been through some things relationship-wise, and he’s understanding and patient. The distance is still an issue, but he’s coming back to visit in a couple of weeks, so hopefully we can make up for lost time, since his last visit was kind of a bust. He saw me at my absolute worst when I was sick, but he’s still here. That means something. For now, we’re taking baby steps, and I guess all we can do is see where it goes…

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Learning to Love Me

This reminds me so much of my marriage. It’s funny how you think that loving someone is enough to make things work. I can’t honestly say I was in love with my ex-husband, but I did love him at one time. We got along pretty well, and I thought it was enough. But over time, I realized that I was the only one being supportive and I was the only one who could be counted on. I convinced myself that it was better to be in a marriage like mine — which wasn’t really based on love — because I knew that if something were to happen to him, I would be ok. Of course I would care, but our marriage had taught me that I could do just fine on my own.

But I was afraid to actually be alone.

What if no one else wanted me? That was the main thing, plus the unbearable thought of splitting holidays and time in general with my daughter, that kept me in my empty marriage for so much longer than I should have.

I actually remember when the turning point was. I was talking to a friend of mine one night, whom I hadn’t spoken to in some time. She had moved out of state so we hadn’t seen each other in at least a year or more. She asked how things were going, and the more I opened up and told her, the more she saw how unhappy I really was. She finally said, “You are in danger of losing your spirit. That part of you that makes everyone love you. You’re losing you.” I thought a lot about her words in the days and weeks and months after that conversation, and I knew something had to change. I didn’t want my daughter growing up thinking that marriage was separate bedrooms and very little laughter or real conversation or meals shared together as a family. I didn’t want her to grow up remembering me being miserable and short tempered. Not only had I stopped loving myself, I had definitely stopped liking myself. How could I expect anyone else to love or even like me, if I couldn’t look in the mirror and think of a single positive thing to say? I had to change.

One little change at a time, I started finding myself again. I started wearing clothes that fit me properly, rather than hiding under baggy, shapeless outfits. I started wearing makeup {which I seldom did before that because I didn’t see the point} and making more of an effort with my hair. And something changed. Men began to notice me and flirt with me when I went out in public. My confidence grew a little. People began to see the change in me, which didn’t go unnoticed by my {now} ex-husband. He accused me of having a boyfriend I was trying to impress. I said, “Did it ever occur to you that I’m doing this for me? I’m trying to take more pride in myself.” He didn’t seem to like that. Looking back, I wonder if he wanted me to stay overweight and miserable because it ensured that I would probably never leave. I believed no one else would want me, so I stayed. And even though he hadn’t been thrilled with my appearance over the years, he didn’t want to be alone either. He had also resigned himself to an empty marriage.

I don’t see myself as some beauty queen, but I like myself far more than I did five years ago. I like the person I’m becoming, and I’m so much happier than I was back then. I know that it shows because people have told me as much. A friend of mine at work, who I hadn’t seen in some time, saw me after my divorce and said I looked lighter. I thought she meant I looked like I had lost weight but she said,”No, you used to look like you had the weight of the world on your shoulders. But now you have some pep in your step. You just seem like a load has lifted off.” And it really had. My dad, who had tried to convince me not to get divorced because he was sure that my daughter and I would somehow end up on welfare and living in the projects, admitted how much happier I seem. He said that for a long time, it was like I was plodding through life — kind of a shadow of myself. But now they genuinely look forward to me coming over and the old me is back.

The old me is back, only maybe with a few upgrades. I’m proud of how far I’ve come. It hasn’t been easy and some things are still a struggle. But I’m on my way. And it’s satisfying to think my ex-husband must have looked at me at least once or twice over the past few years and wondered what the hell happened. I’m no longer that person sitting around on the couch all the time. I’m no longer hiding behind baggy clothes. I don’t dress up when I know I’ll see him, but I do make a point to be put together. When we split up, I swore I wouldn’t be that bitter divorcee who gains a bunch of weight and lets herself go. On my worst day, I still look better than I did on many of my best days with him. He never brought out the best in me, and I think now he realizes that. I woke up and realized there had to be something better in store for me.

I took a very scary leap into the unknown, and I flew.