Thursday, December 11, 2014

Finality

It's Over.  In my dirty little hands I'm holding a sheet of paper stating that the court has ordered that "The bonds of matrimony which have been established between the parties are dissolved and the plaintiff is granted an Absolute Divorce from the defendant." 

Absolute divorce, absolutely.  In this case I was the plaintiff.  It really didn't matter in our case, it was just a matter of who filed first.  Joan and I both wanted this and now it's over.  We are now Officially divorced.

Sometimes I tear up when thinking about where this failed marriage might have led if only for this or for that, even though most (but not all) of my tears over this have already been shed.  If we had been different people leading lives, in a different world, with a different set of circumstances, in another life, we would have lived happily ever after and been the most content couple in the world.  In this life we were always a mistake.

There are, of course, two ways to look at life.  The proverbial glass can either be half empty or half full.  As y'all know, the glass of my outlook on life has overflowed in recent years, or at least tipped past the half full point.  In the case of my marriage though, the truth is the glass wasn't full at all.  It was completely empty.

*****

I met Joan when I was but 23 years old.  Being an "older woman", naturally it was she that made the first move on me.  Being sort of directionless, I played along and soon found myself in a relationship.  We actually got along really well.  We shared the same taste in music and enjoyed doing the little things in life together.  Joan and I both looked at life from what I will call a childlike perspective and everything we did seemed like sort of an adventure.  We couldn't wait to see what was around that next curve.

For several years we shared the intimacy that loving couples are supposed to experience.  My favorite thing was kissing.  I remember sitting with her in the back seat of a car riding somewhere with friends, Joan and I making out like teenagers.  We do have some good, loving memories from our early years.  In those days we were as close to being a normal couple as we would ever get. 

There's one memory, from our first months together, that haunts me.  Even though Joan lived in an apartment where her mother stayed downstairs, I would stay over sometimes and sleep upstairs with her in her bed.  When the lights went out, Joan wanted to cuddle with me and go to sleep.  Somehow I wasn't comfortable with that.  I remember her asking me if I liked to spoon.  Having never technically slept in bed with anyone, let alone a lover, it was just something I wasn't comfortable with so we barely did it if at all.

Seeing things now from a woman's side of the bed and realizing how amazing and important cuddling at night with your lover is (now that I finally have that in a relationship), I feel horrible that I deprived her of that special feeling of being held at night.  Sometimes I feel that was the beginning of the end of us ever having a great, lasting relationship.  

In later years, when we finally got married, I remember trying to cuddle up to her at night.  I think by then I'd realized the importance of holding someone and I felt it was something I needed myself.  By then she didn't want to anything to do with it.  I could almost feel her cringe when I would touch her and after a few seconds she would kind of wiggle away.  Had I planted that seed of coldness by turning my back on her all those moons ago?

*****

Of all the things that made ours an empty marriage I believe it was the lack of kissing that stands out the most.  Our last kiss, our last really good kiss that was more than just a peck, occurred the night before we got married.  We'd been dating over 11 years and by then any true physical romance had already left the relationship.  We weren't fully having sex and what's worse, we never really kissed.

That night in the hotel room Joan and I made out for what seemed like the whole night.  One kiss lasted at least an hour and in her arms I felt the passion I'd felt in our first year together.  That was the year that she told me she loved me more than anyone she'd ever met.  I yearned to feel that same thing and I was moved by her revelation.  Somehow to me it didn't feel exactly right but I knew I loved her.

That kiss, I might call it our Last Kiss, is something I will never forget.  It gave me hope that marrying someone I cared deeply about was the right thing to do, even though our relationship had grown cold and was more of a friendship.  Maybe there would love in this marriage after all.  Maybe I would finally find inside myself the real love that would make me a normal person.

The next day we drove to a wedding chapel in Winchester, Virginia and said our vows.  Joan was so pretty in her wedding dress and I wore a suit.  Everything felt empty to me then, it always had, but in going through the motions of life some days were better than others.  At the time I considered that a good day.

We never consummated the marriage in the normal fashion of husband and wife and we never again shared a passionate kiss.   We were truly great friends and pretty good partners in life.  We slept in the same bed most of the first half of our marriage but only some of the last half.  Occasionally we would satisfy each other but still never truly consummated the marriage.  We enjoyed our trips to the beach, occasional trips to the mountains and raising our dogs together.   Yet, over the years we grew more and more apart.

When I finally realized that I had to transition at some point in order to survive, I came out to her.  It took me almost 2 years to get the courage to talk to her and by that time it was 2010, just a little over 4 years ago.  From that point on she never touched me, not even a hug.  Even the little pecking kisses went away.  She moved into a separate bedroom and our lives became more separate than ever.

She did support me in my idea to come out to my parents and go "full time."  She even made me begin to believe that it would be a possibility while they were still alive, and she supported me in other little ways like encouraging me to get my ears pierced and grow my hair.  Overall though, she was more tolerant than she was supportive.  It seems like she was happy with being only friends and she spoke of leaving me when I transitioned.

*****

One of the things that hurts the most about my divorce with Joan was the fact that she tells me today that it wasn't my transition that caused her to leave, but rather my finding another lover and finally coming clean about it to her.  No, that is The Thing that hurts me the most.  If she had simply left because of my transition I could look at it as abandonment during a tough time in my life.  That's how many others want me to see it but in my heart I feel that she left because I had someone else and was bringing them to the house. 

I don't regret starting to date Mitchell.  Looking back I would have done some little things differently, like not bringing him to the house when Joan was away, but I needed a chance to experience real love for once in my life.  In a sense I met him a little too early but in a way I met him at exactly the right time.  Joan and I were never truly happy in our marriage and if somehow we were still married today I think we would be taking that unhappiness to a whole 'nother level.

In fact, Joan and I are taking our relationship to another level today.  It is a level of truth, honesty and reality.  We are friends.  We seem to be starting over on that friendship again recently after having a hiccup for a couple months after my surgery.  I think she needed a little time to digest that and to get used to not only being separated but being divorced.

I saw Joan twice this week and I will see her again at Christmas, maybe even once again before the Holiday.  I'd be lying if I said that a part of me didn't want her to come home, even though all I (we) want her to do now is live in the guest house.  No one else in either of our families seems to want that so I doubt it will ever happen and that's for the best really.  We do get on each others nerves and bring out the worst in each other I believe.

We need to have separate lives but we need to be friends.  We still have the common bond of the dogs, which are like our children.  She needs visitation time with them probably more than she does with me, but that's okay. 

Unlike in our marriage, in our friendship the glass seems to be half full.  At least it's not completely empty and it is an honest relationship.  It's not a mistake.  And occasionally I get a chance to glimpse that childlike sparkle in her eyes.....