It has been almost one year since I walked out of the house, and left my wife with a sour letter of resignation. Instead of focusing on the way my ex-wife usually acted around the house, I have been focusing on the way she would become sad when I would try to leave. I would envision her face, red and confused, with tears streaming down her cheeks, curving around her jaw. I would think of her protests to keep me in love with her, even though I knew in my heart it was over. I would remember the hugs she would give after an argument and then I would remember how gentle she would become after the week long storm that had erupted from her soft body in bursts of fiery anger.
I would think of my ex-wife reading the letter I left on the steps, and immediately I would feel grief in my heart, because I knew without a doubt that I had brought sadness into her life. I would think of how she must have felt the following week, realizing that she would have to put off her dream of becoming a good wife.
These memories and visions helped me shape my remembrance of her, but not in the way I should remember her. I chose not to remember the anger and the hatred, and went out of my own way to forget the horrible words that she would say during an argument. How many times should someone call you a “loser” before you finally decide to leave? How many times should someone punch you in the face before you decide enough is enough? How many times should you be told to get out of the house before you rationalize that leaving is the only way out?
To some this may seem irrelevant, but to me it was the only way which I knew how to cope with the loss of my wife, the loss that I initiated with haste. The level-headed man will say, “You needed to leave her because nobody should ever hit another person they love.” The forgiving Christian would say, “No, you need to stay with her and work it out to find a way to help rid her of this abusive behavior.” Her family will call me a coward and a jerk. My family will call me brave and tender. The time for confusion and condemnation would begin immediately after the separation. The ultimate struggle over right versus wrong waged a bloody, violent war inside of me, and the end result was an absolute mess of human emotion.
My next marriage will indeed be different. I will shower her with love and affection, while reminding myself that I may only have this day, this moment to show her how much I love her. Whether it be the devils of anger or the angel of death, one day my new love will leave me. Until then, I have learned that the most important role a man can ever have is the role of being the one who loves his wife the most.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.