I watched the person who had promised to love me for the rest of my life walk out the door after a tear-filled fight with no goodbye, only the words, “I’m leaving you.”
I sat and I cried. We’d been married just six months. Our relationship made sense, we had so much in common and we planned to build a solid family together like our parents had built for us.
He returned two days later at the end of the weekend to work it out. When someone walks out stating, “I’m leaving you,” it’s difficult to know what comes next. I was confused at his return, but I was so glad and relieved he was home. And I learned to adapt. Our life could go on as scheduled… I was not “left” any longer.
I knew no one in our new city except for his friends and my colleagues at the job I’d had for only two months. As the new girl, it’s hard enough to feel your way through a new office’s dynamics, and while I wasn’t intuitive enough to keep my husband from walking out, I did have the sense that his behavior was not to be discussed. So the flowers that arrived almost weekly on mornings following a fight were romanticized by the other women in the small office as newlywed adoration. To have them sit on my desk as his penance made me ill. At the first sign of wilting, they would hit the trashcan only to be replaced days later.
He left four more times under the pretense, “I’m leaving you.” Sometimes he would be gone for an hour, sometimes for days, but he always came back home. I always got flowers. He always resurfaced the consummate charmer… a true politician. I was constantly sickened by my dependence, by my relief at his return, by my life. I walked around with the metallic taste of vomit and self-loathing in my mouth.
It felt like a game.
It was my life.
I started to hate him like I’d never hated anyone before.
It bubbled to the surface when I spoke of my relationship without warning or intention.
It was shameful.
It was well known that each time he walked away from me, he took the car, the credit card, the paycheck that paid the rent and all of the acquaintances.
So I played the polite wife through it all because I didn’t know what would happen if I didn’t.
Abandonment makes you paranoid. Being left is lonely and isolating, and the unexpected reunion sparks endless doubt of any certainty. In my case, neither state of being was guaranteed, neither alone or married. I needed something I could count on, even if it was scary, bypassed my belief that marriage was forever, and stripped away any sense of security I dreamt I possessed.
And the sixth time on his way out the door, when he said, “I’m leaving you.” I said, “Leave your keys this time.”