This story is by Meghan McQuillan and was part of our 10th Anniversary Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Oh, the dates are so specific.
I married my high school sweetheart.
I met him in grade eleven. I remember it well; it was social studies class, well, maybe we didn’t formally meet. I watched him, secretly. He was older than me and wasn’t supposed to be in that class. In fact, he should have graduated the year prior.
The Sweetheart sat near me; I tried to hide my staring. I’m not sure what was harder, hiding my staring or trying to focus on class work while staring. After a few classes with him, I concluded he was worth telling my BFF about.
Everyone had secret nicknames for their crushes. One of my friends’ crushes, his nickname was ‘Visor Boy’ (he wore them all the time.) They nicknamed another one ‘Cowboy’ and another one ‘Muscles’. My friend nicknamed this crush of mine as ‘Mr. Big’. That described him perfectly on so many levels.
Big guy, big personality, big heart. And sweet, just like the chocolate bar.
I certainly never anticipated that I would celebrate any sort of anniversaries with Mr. Big. As life would happen – the first anniversary to celebrate, dating. I guess my staring wasn’t so secret.
05.15.05 This would be our special day to celebrate for another seven years. During those seven years we worked, continued to university and tried to be adults. HA! If I only knew what real “adulting” was back then. That makes me think of the famous song by Alanis Morissette, “Head over Feet.”
We embodied carefree; had no worries, no major responsibilities (other than what movie we wanted to watch and the late fees for keeping it too long). Mr. Big was my best friend. That’s what we celebrated year after year, friendship, devotion, loyalty and, of course, love.
08.21.12 Proposal of my LIFE!! He invited everyone there. Family, friends, friends of family. It really caught me by surprise. I don’t like surprises, this one I loved. What a ride those years had been. Regardless of any red flags, we represented love.
At least, I thought love was all that was needed. We did all the “couple” things. We had consistently spent our time together. Inseparable. We represented the cookie cutter relationship.
We had a big traditional wedding; you know the kind where you have: a colour scheme, the flowers, the personalized wine bottles, and all the makings of the perfect Pinterest wedding.
No traditional corners had been cut.
I swear – walking down that aisle, the red carpet of doom changed everything!
We instantly began arguing and bickering like an old married couple. Oh, if hindsight in fact was 20/20. We lost our respect, admiration, and compassion for each other. I started working more hours away, taking on jobs where I’d be a minimum of a 3 to 4 hour flight, staying in hotels. I even started being dishonest about needing to stay. It was the only way I felt worthy. I needed to feel independent and be my own person.
Emotional connections were dismantling. The lack of togetherness crept right up. Mr. Big, the Sweetheart, became Mr. Distant, the Lacklustre.
There were men I was getting more attention from. Men that I made laugh. Men that I could have an intellectual conversation with, which I desired so greatly. One man, in particular, caught my eye. Let’s call him ‘Hollywood’. He was definitely out of my league (hence the nickname). Hollywood dressed in ties and suits, matching belts and shoes. His voice was soft when he spoke, and yet it was one that once hit my ears…
Hollywood was tall and slender; one could say he was model material. Every time he came around, I would have to take a deep breath and compose myself.
He would come to my office and sit right across my desk. Let me explain what I mean, my desk was ‘L’ shaped and the one part of the desk had a very narrow piece. This meant that he would be two feet away from me. He would pull up a chair to this very narrow area and that composure I thought I had would disappear.
I could feel my body get warm. Another deep breath and I would slightly adjust my chair back a little further, not too far though. I was desperate to regain composure. There were moments during our conversations, easy, fluid conversations, where I’d question if I was having an “emotional” affair.
Quickly, I felt immense guilt and questioned why I didn’t have this with Mr. Big anymore. As a district manager, Hollywood only came around every couple of months, and after each departure it left me with an empty feeling. I could only describe this as feeling a lack of purpose and connection. This feeling brought me to question how I was showing up in my marriage.
Can we just not feel attracted to each other?
Can we just be together for the sake of comfort?
Was I leaving Mr. Big feeling empty?
Was I to blame for the Lacklustre?
As quickly as these questions came up, they were dismissed. Life went on.
Being traditional, we did everything in order. We got the dog (of course we thought we knew what it would be like to have children), after marriage, then house, then baby number one, then baby number two. One parent per child would be easier, right? Family of four made practical sense. As soon as our youngest son was born, I went back to work full time. I needed to escape the mundane. I needed to escape the traditional homemaker scenario I found myself in.
‘Traditional’ – we had so naïvely believed it would mean it set our lives forever.
All the boxes checked.
Long gone are the terms of endearment, reduced to his first name. Rarely referring to him as ‘husband’, as I honestly no longer felt it was a marriage worth acknowledging.
My confidence dissipated; feeling sexy and vivacious, gone. Desperation to be desired became my daily motive.
07.04.24 This would be our 10-year anniversary. So many big plans, from heading back to the place that we honeymooned to organizing a re-commitment ceremony, having some fancy dress, rereading our vows and writing new ones. This would be the ticket to bringing a new light to our marriage, RIGHT?!
But instead of focusing on the traditional milestones, we focused on the anniversary of the day our marriage died. I’ll never forget the day he told me he had met someone else. Although I had my suspicions, I really didn’t even care. That’s how awful it became, that’s how sad life became.
I was numb.
01.28.23 We officially separated. For me,this became the Anniversary of the day I took back control. I took back everything that he had no right to possess. I built my compassion for self, my devotion to self, my love for self. The feeling of worthiness was returning. My confidence came back without needing someone else’s touch.
Of course, Mr. Big said it was the biggest mistake ever. He tried to say over and over and over how sorry he was for not seeing the signs. He tried to defend and justify his actions. This is what he does. This is how he handles the tornado alley we reside in emotionally. We know it’s not safe; we know that the disasters that are our coping mechanisms will evict us. Yet, we try to rebuild them every time. Most of what he said went in one ear and out the other. I digress.
This would be the date our “high school Sweethearts” status would forever end. Time dedicated to grieving, the past and future of what could’ve been. I packed my grief-case; I took all of my heavy emotions and responsibility with me. It was time to create a new life. To create all that I wanted, yet sacrificed for the greater (or what I perceived as) good for our marriage.
Letting go of expectations, letting go of failed attempts to be someone else for someone else. It was time to just be ME.
18 years of togetherness
18 years of living someone else’s life
18 years of learning who I deeply authentically am
All my friends encouraged me to go on vacation. Immediately I knew I needed to be where we spent our honeymoon. Bali. I needed sandy beaches, tropical water and space to grieve, to reflect.
Reflection brought an entire world of hope. The idea of starting over was no longer daunting. Then, as I was lying on my bed, in the hut just like the one we stayed in together, I missed him. I had to remind myself that it would be inevitable. Of course there will continue to be moments I miss him, the Sweetheart. And moments I miss us.
The date, so specific.
Anniversaries: death, marriage, death of a marriage…
Goodbye Mr. and Mrs. Big.