A Personal Essay by Lynne Truax
Scott and I met in high school, when we were still into writing notes, pulling pranks and other such habits of teenage courting. We grew up together, spending weekends lying on the warm sandy beaches of Southern California, hanging out at the pool in my backyard and making out in the driveway. He taught mycocker spaniel how to swim and ate all the Sunday night roast beef leftovers. As young teens, we experienced the blissful joy of first love. When I was a sophomore in high school, Scott broke up with me, the first of many times we walked away from each other in the early years. Sitting on my mother’s bed, I sobbed in deep, wracking wails coming from somewhere insidemy body I hadn’t known existed. My friend Beth came to be with me in the dark bedroom and held me as I experienced the sorrow of a teenager’s first breakup. Within months, Scott and Iwere back together again, drawn together like metal fragments to a magnet. There have been other loves in my life, but I have never loved anyone the way I love Scott.
As we stumbled our way through our teenage years and into real life, it became a mutual conclusion neither of us would feel complete unless we were together. We married young, had two great kids and made a successful life. It was idyllic on the outside, but like every marriage or relationship, it wasn’t perfect. Scott had a laser focus on success in business and I worked full time and raised the kids. Scott lost any desire to spend leisure time with me. Overwhelmed by the responsibility of raising young children, I felt abandoned and could not figure out how to fix what was wrong between us. We made it through the parenting years together, a bit battered and disillusioned, and successfully launched our children into the world.
As empty nesters, we began each day together drinking steaming cups of black coffee while sitting in our favorite chairs. In the early evenings, we would meet up again to share a beer and discuss the stories of the day. It was comfortable and companionable but something big was missing. We had lost any sense of emotional intimacy along the way, something vitally important in maintaining a close relationship. There were lies. Lies he told me, lies I told him, and lies we shared because we knew our trajectory was headed in divergent directions. Neither of us were brave enough to admit our time together as a couple was ending. Over time I came to realize my spouse had an important career legacy to leave to our children and I was standing in the way. Meanwhile, my own goals, hopes and dreams had been sidelined in the name of being a good wife and mother and it was time to put my needs front and center.
In a friendly but painful exchange in the beautiful bright light of a summer day in our kitchen, we decided it was time for us to move forward with our lives. Separately.
I gazed into Scott’s brown eyes with their flecks of green visible in the morning light, eyes I had looked into every single day for almost 4 decades of my life and said, “I don’t think I can do this anymore”. I had spoken the words a few other times over the years, but this time his response was different. Instead of saying he would try harder, that he loved me and didn’t want me to leave as he had done before, he said, “I think you are right”. The words were both a tragic reality check and a huge relief.
It was an amicable divorce, mutually beneficial to each of us. We both compromised, but in truth, we didn’t fight about much of anything. Amidst the turmoil, searching for a place to live and start my new life alone became a priority. I was out of town when a promising home came onto the market so I made a quick phone call to Scott to ask if he would go look at it. After all, no one knew my preferences better than he did. Turns out, it wasn’t the right property for me, but I recall thinking at the time, “who can call the man they are in the process of divorcing to screen their new home?” It made me realize how lucky I was.
We lived together for five months during the divorce process, and we never once spent a night apart, sleeping together in our shared bed as we always had. We shared sweet but painful moments as our marital relationship was ending. During this time, I never once doubted Scott’s undying devotion to me. We navigated bumps during that first divorce year, born of anger, frustration, hurt feelings and disappointment. Despite the bumpy ride, it became clearly apparent Scott, while he could not love me the way I wanted to be loved, indeed loved me deeply in a way neither of us would likely ever experience again.
I am divorced now, after being married to Scott for 37 years. Divorce is devastatingly hard. It’s like imploding a building and the result is tons of debris left behind and it must all be carefully cleared and hauled off to the dump before a new building can be erected. It’s a failure, but it gave me a wonderful opportunity to reflect and grow. I had to let go of my unanswered questions, the dreams I had hoped to share, the inevitable bitterness I felt. I had to heal, recover and to learn to love myself exactly as I am. It took the better part of two years to feel whole again and to like the woman who looked back at me in the mirror. I was able to understand that unconditional love started with loving myself in a caring, compassionate way. I learned to be gentle and kind, forgiving myself for the frailty of my own humanity.
Scott and I share custody of our dog Rudy and we pass him back and forth regularly. Exchanging him at his home or mine, we often sit together for a time and chat like the wonderful old friends we are. As we visited together recently, drinking a Coors and eating chips and salsa (Scott will always make sure to have my favorites on hand whenever I am coming over) Scott shared how he’d been to a dinner party and had networked with people he hadn’t seen in years. He spoke eagerly of aninvestment he’d made, his eyes alight with excitement. It represented an expansion into areas of his life he never could have done when he was married to me. I was thrilled for him. While I haven’t told Scott I am finally starting to date, I know he will be happy for me when I do tell him because he knows how much I enjoy depth and intensity of experience to fill my cup. We want the best for each other. To feel that harmony with another is one of life’s most treasured experiences and biggest mysteries. Even divorced, we still fit, we still accept and love each other as deeply and passionately as two people can. If he does something I don’t approve of, I just accept it because I love him exactly the way he is. His quirks, which drove me nuts so many times when we were married, are exactly what makes him so special, so Scott. My love for Scott has been the finest, most cherished and richest love of my life. It is totally, organically unconditional. Our marriage has been dissolved but we will never leave each other. I will love him until my dying breath.
I’ve often marveled at how two people who stand at the marriage altar and profess their love for one another, who are intimate with each other, who have children together, can come to hate each other. Resentment, pain, hurt and anger all go hand in hand when a relationship is ending and are often quite necessary as a way to separate and move past into something different. Now, I can look Scott in the eye and remember the love we shared, the sweet words of affection we whispered into each other’s ears as we felt the deep intimate connection of lovemaking, of how we birthed and raised our children together. The acknowledgment of that love has finally become more important than allowing the anger and disappointment of ourfailed relationship to rule the day.
Unconditionally loving someone with all your heart and your soul satisfies one of the most basic human needs, the need to belong. The love and sense of belonging Scott and I have has been a rare and unexpected gift of unconditional love discoveredon the other side of divorce.