Chapter 4, april
I was stupid.
I was not enough.
I was unlovable and destined for this nightmare…
Those are only a few things I would tell myself during my first marriage.
I was a child-bride; not in the “my parents arranged my marriage to a much older man” kind of way. It was in the “I was the OG Teen Mom so it was the right thing to do” scenario. We can all laugh about it now because we know that it was not in God’s plan for my first husband and I to be each other’s forever. We were meant to create two beautiful, amazing daughters, then run as far away from each other as humanly possible.
I believe that marriage should happen in your 30’s. Hear me out! Do you truly know what you want in a husband at 16? At 20, or 24? I did not! I barely knew what I wanted on my pizza at that time. Do I think that there are instances where people get it right the first time and at a young age? Absolutely! That person was not me. I had no business getting married at 16, but when you get pregnant at 14, it only seems natural for that to be the next step.
I met Jerry at the ripe young age of 12!
I was in middle school, a cheerleader, and an old soul. If you recall, I also had a large case of the “daddy issues”. My mother ran a tight ship. By that, I mean that even though we were not your normal, All-American family, my sister and I had rules. There was to be no dating until we were at least 16. Imagine her surprise when I asked to “date” at 12, not to mention the fact that he was 4 years my senior. Back then, (simmer down, it was not that long ago – I am only 26 remember!) dating meant something a little different than I think it does today. When I said “date” I meant that I wanted to talk to him on the phone for hours, or until my sister clobbered me and unplugged the phone. Throw in the occasional ride home from school, and you have yourself a date! My mother was not on board. We found other ways to have a relationship – he came to basketball games to watch me cheer, we talked on the phone, and met after school at the local diner to hang out. I really was a good kid, and my mother had instilled a certain fear in me. I appreciated that and went on to use that in my own parenting style years later.
Nearly two years after Jerry and I met, my mom began letting him bring me home from school, and I can recall only one time that I had permission to go to his house to watch a movie. I will save you from the cringe-worthy details of how it all happened, but Jerry and I became parents to a 7lb 2oz beautiful, baby girl in November 1996. Jerry had already enlisted in the military and was deployed for the birth of our first daughter. Once he returned, we became engaged in February 1997 and married in October of the same year. By my senior year, I was pregnant with our second child. I had moved back and forth between Tennessee and North Carolina a total of two times during that year. In September 1999 I gave birth to another gorgeous daughter in Tennessee, with Jerry by my side. This joyous event happened only a few short weeks after I found out about the affair he was having. He had developed a relationship with a girl he worked with at his evening job. He would later tell me that this affair began because I moved back to Tennessee to finish high school, instead of staying with him in North Carolina. I craved so much to have a “family”, so it was an easy decision to move back to North Carolina two weeks after giving birth.
Shortly after moving, the nightmare began. I did what I thought I was supposed to do in order to be the perfect little wife. At a very young age, I began a career in the finance industry, I kept a very clean home, I cooked dinner every night, and I took care of our children. In my mind, it seemed like the harder I tried, the more Jerry began to push away from me. That was when I found out that the affair he had been having during my pregnancy had not ended. I confronted him, but that only intensified things. I fought very hard for my marriage, and no matter how hateful he was towards me, I refused to give up. He agreed to quit his evening job, and it seemed like things were starting to get better. We made the big decision to purchase our first home together.
Little did I know that it would also be our last…
I realize now that Jerry was not mean to me because he hated me. He was irritated with me because I was interfering in his private life, the type of private life that you never want your wife to find out about. Especially when that private life involved your wife’s best friend…or so I thought. Things came to a head when I finally grew a voice and began to demand answers. It was her or me! Well, if you know Jerry, you know that ultimatums are not his thing. That was the night that will be engrained in my brain for as long as I live. To be fair, I believe that Jerry never really looked at me as his wife. I was more like a childhood friend that he created children with. He was the authoritarian, and everything was A-OK as long as I was not questioning him about things that were none of my business.
I do not tell this portion of my story to shame Jerry or to play the victim. I tell this because it is raw, it is true, and it is MY story. The verbal and physical abuse became more than I could handle. Those nights were almost always fueled by alcohol. When Jerry drank alcohol, he became a different person – a person I did not know. It was almost as if someone else took over his body on those occasions. Many times, he would not even remember, it was as if he blacked out. One particular night, I was not sure if would make it out alive, or if I even wanted to. I cannot recall exactly what caused Jerry to be so angry with me. On that horrible night, the man I was looking at so closely, eye to eye and face to face, was not the kid I met in the diner. The man he became was not the man I knew he wanted to be. He was fueled by what can only be described as a hatred for me, for reasons I may never know. I prayed for God to just remove me from the situation…and He did. I decided to leave Jerry and move back to Tennessee. I was scared, but proud of myself for getting away from a volatile relationship. Little did I know, that would not be the last move I made.
During the next year, I struggled as a single mom with two young daughters. Jerry begged me to come back and try to make our marriage work. We both knew that was not what either of us wanted, but for some reason we decided to try one last time. I packed up the moving truck and headed back to North Carolina. The bliss lasted about one month before things went back to our normal tumultuous relationship. I began suspecting that Jerry was dating a woman that he worked with at his new part-time job. After playing detective for a while and getting the solid proof I needed, I made the decision to end things once and for all. I waited until Jerry left for work that night, and with the help of my amazing friends, I began moving.
The next three years proved to be nothing short of a Jerry Springer episode. As I said before, Jerry and I both knew we did not need to be together as husband and wife, but it did not keep us from making the other suffer just a little bit for all the wrong we felt had been done throughout our marriage. I take full responsibility for all of my actions during that time. I would like to blame it on the things I witnessed from my childhood, or maybe just the simple fact that I was a child and had no business living that grown-up life. Either way, I think Jerry and I can both agree that the best thing we ever did was move on from one another. We have learned over the years that we make much better friends than lovers. I have been able to truly forgive him for everything that happened during our marriage. Even today, I know that if I needed him, I could pick up the phone and he would be there in a heartbeat.