When I was 16 years old I got a job at Casa Bonita, the largest restaurant in the world (on land). Tourists came from all different parts of the nation to visit this place to see it’s 30 foot indoor waterfall, divers, entertainment, caves, magic shows, arcades and sopapillas. The food is less than desirable but the environment makes up the difference. My neighbor worked there and referred me so I filled out an application and was told to stay in the office wait room for the manager. Shortly after, a man came in with more energy than I could keep up with and asked me a few questions then hired me on the spot. They serve hundreds to thousands of people every day and especially during their peak season so they are always looking for staff leading into the summer. I had no idea that the man who just hired me would end up becoming my future husband and the father of my children. I started as a specialty staff member who took orders, carried trays and sold tokens then quickly moved into a specialty supervisor position. Probably on account of my awesome sales-lady-ship and being able to make record token sales. I was not eligible to serve or become a manager due to being under 18 but I didn’t mind. I loved the fast paced environment and the staff who were all friends with each other and hung out after work and on weekends. I remember the first time I was invited to hang out with my boss and his friends. A bunch of us went to a park at night to hang out. While driving in the car some of the girls were gossiping and I learned that many of them had a crush on our boss but one girl in particular just started dating him seriously. He was 20 years old when we met and I was 16 so it wasn’t abnormal for him to be hanging out with all of the staff as we were all generally in the same age group. We became friends both inside and out of work and were strictly platonic. I casually dated some of his friends but nothing serious and he continued to date the other girl who moved in with him. About a year and a half after working with him and building a friendship he did something that I never expected. He pulled me into one of the back offices and while we were alone he grabbed my hand placing it on his heart which was beating very quickly and said “This is what you do to me”. I was confused… and intrigued… and don’t even know what I said. I knew very well he was in a relationship and I don’t recall even having a crush on him at the time but I loved and respected him. Nothing happened that day and he left me just thinking about his words. He asked me to take a drive to the mountains with him the next week and that was the day we began our secret love affair. I am not proud of this fact and as you will learn in the upcoming paragraphs, it is never wise to trust someone who is willing to cheat on another person to be with you.
All shame aside, I fell deeply in love with this man to the point of being selfishly shortsighted. The thing that made me fall in love with him was the love letters he would write me describing how he felt about me and how he missed me all the time. I would write him letters of the same magnitude describing my deep adoration and love for him, wishing that we could be together. This was back in the day when computers were not commonplace so we communicated by hand on paper. His letters were lengthy, poetic and so romantic that they even made my friends melt when reading them years later. I suppose it makes sense this was the thing that made me fall in love with him since literature and writing is so important to me and one of my top love languages is words of affirmation. I still have those letters to this day.
He would wake up early once a week to drive his girlfriend to school then come pick me up so we could spend the morning together. The most ignorant part about this situation was that this woman also worked with us so our secret was blatantly under everyone’s noses. One day about six months into things, he pulled me aside and told me he had to break things off with me. He informed me that he had kept one of my letters and left it in his pocket and his girlfriend found it while doing laundry. It was only a matter of time before everyone was gossiping about our affair and we were fully exposed. Within a couple days upper management pulled me aside and fired me with no explanation, but I knew that the reason was that there was too much drama in the workplace and I was the easiest one to cut loose. I called him right away and told him they had just fired me which was a surprise to him. He met me outside and we sat in his car while he held me as I cried. After parting ways he stopped calling me and I fell into a depression. I moved back in with my mother who didn’t ask me to pay rent while I couldn’t find the motivation to seek other work. I played video games and smoked weed all day and night until I could pass out. I cried more times than I can count and still I tried reaching out to him every so often to see how he was doing. That time was a big blur to me but I remember showing up to his house one day crying and his girlfriend answered the door. Surprisingly she actually let me see him and I just cried and told him I missed him…. But he turned me away. I don’t know what I expected from him at the time, I just needed to see him and tell him I loved him still. In retrospect it’s quite embarrassing to reflect on how desperate I was but I absolutely adored this man and if there is one thing I’ve learned about myself it’s that I am passionate and when I want something my will and determination won’t allow me to easily give up. About 6 months later I heard that he and his girlfriend broke up. A couple months after that I called him to check in and he asked if he could see me. It wasn’t long before we were spending every night together and he pronounced me his new girlfriend. I remember when he introduced me as his girlfriend at a party and I was both shocked and elated since he didn’t talk to me about this, he just announced it. I told him if he ever cheated on me that I need him to be honest because I never want to go through that again. I told him I loved him unconditionally and we were young so if we make mistakes we can work through it but we should never deceive each other.
I am not proud of any of this but these are the facts and it’s important that I be candid when I explain our love story because I have spent decades protecting him and realizing that it only hurts me and that I need to release this from my conscience in order to heal and grow. So… here it goes…. I was not on birth control and we were not being safe during our entire love affair and the start of our relationship. I wish that I could say I was smarter but sadly I didn’t grow up in a good home and honestly I was so ignorant when it came to sex. I didn’t have a mother to set a good example for me nor a father to discipline me or guard me from boys. What I learned about sex came from TV, movies and gossiping with friends. There was also Sex Ed in the 7th grade but we only spent about 2 days going over the reproductive system and then all of us kids embarrassingly went home not having any desire to talk to our parents about what we learned. Needless to say, I got pregnant unexpectedly when I was 19 years old. I was sitting in my bathroom when the test turned positive and I started crying. I wasn’t trying to get pregnant but I also wasn’t doing much to prevent it. I allowed myself 5 minutes to break down and then I looked in the mirror and told myself “This is your life now”. I knew I didn’t have the heart to have an abortion and I knew this baby was my baby. The night I decided to tell him that I was pregnant we were driving home from a friend’s house and at the same time we both said we had to tell each other something. I decided to let him go first and he informed me that he accidentally slept with one of our friends. He said he remembered me telling him to always be honest and that I wouldn’t be mad as long as he was honest… True to my word I didn’t get mad. Then he said, “What did you have to tell me?” I said, “I’m pregnant.”
He wanted to go to planned parenthood and get a real test to prove the diagnosis. When the verdict was up and the facts were beyond a reasonable doubt, we went to sit in his car in the parking lot and he told me that I had to get an abortion. I told him I would not do that. My mother told me once that she aborted what would have been my only full blood little brother or sister and she thought about it every day… that idea haunted me and I wasn’t willing to kill my baby and have that regret hanging over me. He slammed his fists on the steering wheel and yelled, saying this wasn’t going to work and I couldn’t trap him. He told me I had to abort the baby because he wouldn’t stick around to help. So I told him fine. I would do it on my own. He could be in the baby’s life if he wanted to but I wasn’t trying to “trap” him. This was my body, my choice and I was strong enough to do this alone. And so, we broke up.
I cried less during that break up because I knew that I had more important things to think about. I was focused on the new life I was going to create with my baby. Growing up without a father I knew that I wanted to allow this man to be in my child’s life as much as he wanted. I would never keep my child from their father because the pain of not having a dad was too much to bear and it would be his choice to abandon this child, not mine. Three months later I invited him to the ultrasound for the first trimester. He decided he would join so I went to pick him up and when I walked into his room he was sleeping next to another girl. I decided to wait outside for him to come out. During the ultrasound the doctor asked a series of questions and then lifted my shirt to put the goo on my belly and used the ice cold device to find the baby. Forgive my lack of proper terms, I am not a doctor. As we waited to hear the heartbeat I anxiously looked at his face from across the room. The moment we heard the beating there was an instant change in his eyes. Something clicked and suddenly it became real. After the appointment he took me to Brueggers Bagel shop and asked me to marry him. It was not romantic but rather, he said; “My parents would be really disappointed in me if I got a girl pregnant and didn’t marry her. Also, I have insurance and you don’t”. I asked if I would get a ring and he said yes… so I thought about it for a minute. That wasn’t exactly how I envisioned being proposed to… and I wasn’t exactly intending on getting married at that age… but I did love him and thought I could marry him some day… So I said “ok”. A couple months later we were wed in my mothers backyard. I didn’t plan a thing and the “friend” he “accidentally” slept with took the lead and organized all the moving parts. She didn’t ask me what I wanted but planned a Hawaiian themed outdoor event with a pig roast and flowing booze. I was the only one who was sober that day and I got a hand-me-down gold wedding band from his mother.
Then we settled into married life. I moved in with him, we had our first born and we named him after his father. Only 4 months after giving birth I was ready to go back to work. I never saw myself as a stay at home mother. I wanted my own money and had been working since I was 12 years old so having a man support me was a foreign concept to me. I worked at a couple restaurants and bars until I decided I wanted to get a real job with benefits and try and build a career so I began working at a bank. He always said he wanted a big family and lots of kids but I told him not until we were more stable and he quit smoking cigarettes. Once our son was 3 years old and he quit smoking (in front of me anyway) I decided that it was then or never as I didn’t want to have kids so far apart that they wouldn’t have things in common and I remembered that I loved growing up with a sister. Our second child was far more intentional. I knew right away it would be another boy and already had his name picked out. He was born with colic and since I had 12 weeks leave from work I woke up 3-4 times a night to take care of him. He cried several times throughout the day & night for the first 6 months. When I went back to work full time, I was the only one who woke up with our son at night. I was so exhausted during this time but I never knew how to ask for help. I felt responsible for juggling motherhood, full time work, dinner, cleaning, laundry and even ironing my husband’s clothes every day before he went to work. I was an excellent wife, mother and employee but after work, feeding the kids and putting them to sleep I found myself alone sitting on the couch, watching ‘Desperate Housewives’ and drinking wine. My husband still worked at the restaurant so he wouldn’t get home until late at night and worked over the weekends, but I had to work Monday through Friday early in the mornings so I would be in bed by the time he was home. The only family time we had together was 2 nights during the week and Sunday mornings before he went to work. We didn’t plan date nights and we didn’t have much money to do fun things outside of the home. Somewhere along the line I realized I was not happy. Maybe it was due to the lack of attention I was getting from him. Maybe it was the lack of help and utter exhaustion. Partly there was a friend at work that I had a crush on but I never cheated on my husband. This guy just gave me a spark that I hadn’t felt in years and it got me wondering if I would ever feel that again from my husband. Maybe it’s because we got married too young and grew apart. We rarely fought but maybe that was a part of the problem. I was too passive and didn’t know how to ask for what I wanted. I didn’t even know what I wanted or who I was. Maybe it was my fault for not speaking up sooner, but then again, he never asked. We both just settled.
I wrote him a Dear John letter and slept on it for a week. Every time I would reread it, it would solidify my feelings, or lack thereof. I knew that I had to come clean. I knew that I needed to break free. I was suffocating and something in my heart was tugging at me and I didn’t want to live that life anymore. I needed to learn who I was in this world. I knew there was more to life, more to me! Our newest born was only 8 months old and I had just told my husband I was leaving him and there was nothing he could do to change my mind. He told me that I just had postpartum depression and it would go away. That only made me feel misunderstood, judged and like he was downplaying my feelings and making me out to be “unstable”. He told me that he didn’t care what I did as long as I didn’t leave him. To me, that felt desperate as I saw him clinging on to a relationship that was so far dead that he would even allow me to sleep with other men. He asked if there was another man and I said no, I never cheated on him, but then later confessed that yes, there was a man at work I had interest in although I didn’t pursue him. He then told me that he had feelings for another woman at work a year prior and they talked about having an affair and he almost pursued her but later the feelings went away and that my feelings for this other guy would go away too… That confession only made me more certain that I didn’t want to be with him anymore. He told me he would keep the house and I said fine, take whatever you want. He yelled and threatened to take my kids away and that was the only time in my life that I lost my temper and actually hit him, although it was only on the arm in an act of desperation to get him to let go of my son who he was holding in the other arm, trying to actively walk away with. I ended up moving out a few months later against his will and against the wishes of his parents, family and friends. They all told me I was a horrible person and said I was making a huge mistake breaking up the family. They all sided with him and I realized that none of our friends were my friends, they were loyal to him and I was just the estranged wife.
It took almost a year for the divorce to be processed and eventually he stopped fighting it. He did get a lawyer which was a huge waste of money in my opinion because I was completely amicable and had no desire to argue. The only thing I cared about was equal custody and decision making power for the children. I let him keep the house, his car, the dishes, the entertainment center, the Christmas decorations and basically everything else material in the home. I kept the bedroom furniture and my car only because they were financed in my name and I was actively paying for them. We didn’t have any savings or investments but because I made more money than him (on paper) I was told that I had to pay him child support. I didn’t care about any of this. I knew it was going to be challenging to be a single mother and pay rent all on my own. I knew what I was getting into but I needed to do it. I couldn’t breathe in the dynamic anymore and had to take flight. We tried to work it out once or twice after the divorce but it always ended the same. I would go to him at some weak point and he would pull me back in, later for me to discover that he was pursuing other women. Then I would remember how unhappy I was and how this is our pattern. He would always deny his infidelity, but there were signs throughout our relationship that I lied to myself about. There was even a time after our first born when I got a call from my Doctor after an annual pap smear saying that I had chlamydia. Knowing I was faithful, I was bewildered and asked him if he had an affair. He said no and I let it go, knowing all along that he was lying. The real icing on the cake came several years after our divorce when I was driving in the car with my children and my son asked me “You heard about Xander right?” I said, “No, who is Xander?” My son informed me that they had a brother and I thought oh my, he got another woman pregnant and he has another baby…. So I asked how old he was and my oldest said “6 months younger than me”. Turns out the woman who organized my wedding was sleeping with my husband behind my back and got pregnant. I always wondered where she went because she stopped coming around shortly after the wedding. She ended up marrying another guy and having 3 additional kids but when they got a divorce and the man was told he’d have to pay child support he said he would only pay for 3 of them but not Xander because Xander wasn’t his. That is when my husband’s name came up. As horrified as I was to be told this story by my children, I felt relief more than anything. FINALLY, I got the truth. I felt validated for leaving him and was just grateful that I wasn’t still married when this information came out. I looked at my oldest son and just said “You know what that means, right?” and he bowed his head as if he were ashamed and said “Yes”. I never spoke to my kids about this afterwards because I never wanted to be like my mother and bad mouth their father. I wanted them to have their own relationship independent from what our marriage was like. My youngest never remembered us being married and used to ask me why. I could never find the right answer and just said things don’t always work out. He would tell me he wished we were together and I would say, “I know honey. I am sorry but we are not.” It didn’t matter why we weren’t together because they were still our kids who we loved no matter what. I don’t want my kids to think poorly of their father but I won’t deny that I was glad when they found out the truth on their own.
It took a couple years after our divorce to get on good enough terms and to actually be able to talk as friends. We used to spend the occasional holiday together when the boys were young and we didn’t want to be separated from them, however that became unnecessary as they got older. We see each other at school events and always put the boys first and our feelings second. We have been separated for 13 years now and the boys are almost fully grown. I consider him a life long friend and will always wish the best for him but looking at the people we’ve become and how we communicate, it’s very clear that we weren’t compatible for the long term. I didn’t know who I was when we met and I conformed to his whims when we were married. It took me a while to wake up and realize I didn’t know who I was but knew that I wasn’t being myself in that relationship. I know we were meant to be together so that our beautiful boys could be incarnated and that is the best thing that could come from our union. He taught me a lot about relationships and I’ve learned that I have to speak up about what bothers me, what I want and need from a partner and what I am willing to put up with. I do not regret having children and getting married so young because it made me grow up quickly. Being responsible for other people gave me the motivation to pursue a better career and strive for bigger goals. It was hard but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Fortunately we are usually on the same page about decisions, although our parenting styles are very different. He is their buddy who lets them do whatever they want and they have fun, while I am a bit more structured and have certain rules and expectations but usually can afford to buy them what is needed, not just what they want. It all works out and our boys are truly spectacular! We have one of the best co-parenting relationships of anyone we know and many people admire our situation. We are flexible with scheduling when we need to be. We are always in communication and on the same team so our kids know they can’t get away with something at one house that won’t also carry to the other. Our mutual connections still ask me why I divorced him, “He seems like such a good guy and dad”, they say… Only a few people knew the intimate details (until now) and I never felt like it was appropriate to explain. I would just say that he is a good guy and a good dad… but not so much the best partner.