Category Archives: Ginger Emas

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Could The End of Your Marriage Be The Beginning?

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There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.” – Louis L ’Amour

Eighteen years ago the world I’d always trusted came crashing down on me. I had been engaged for about five days when I discovered that the man I loved had a substance abuse problem. The next year included therapy, extreme weight loss, multiple occasions of drug use discovery, and severe panic attacks until we both realized that his addiction was slowly killing our relationship – which by now had become a marriage.

Why did I marry my fiancé just as I was learning he had a substance abuse problem? We honestly believed we loved each other as much as a marriage would ever need. Plus, I had never met an addict before — he wasn’t like any addicts you see on TV. He went to work. He helped around the house. He was brilliant and funny. He was also tortured. And I was absolutely certain that I could love him enough to save him.

We went to doctors, chiropractors and a psychiatrist renowned for treating anxiety-induced addiction. We took yoga and behavior-modification; we held hands and cried and went to couples therapy. Pretty soon I realized I had a problem — I wasn’t able to separate myself from my husband. Whatever he was feeling, I was feeling, too. Within months I had dropped 10 pounds, too, and I was having panic attacks – like the one in the hardware store, where I sat huddled on an aisle floor while they paged my husband over the PA. This was not like me – responsible, confident, Type-A. I began going to therapy myself.

It was the worst first year of marriage I could imagine. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.

For 12 years we did the co-dependent dance. My husband would stop doing drugs. He would make promises and we would make progress. Then I would notice that something was off. I would ask if he was doing drugs and he would tell me no. Then I would feel bad for thinking he was doing drugs. Eventually, I would discover the drug use, and I’d feel like Charlie Brown when Lucy promises not to take the football away. But we never stopped trying to rebuild our relationship.

Over the next several years I learned what “enabling” meant. I realized I had a need to save people and the capacity to forgive my husband and myself over and over again when trust was betrayed. Until one day, I thought maybe I didn’t want to do this anymore. But we had a son by now – a miracle – and I could not imagine breaking up his family.

Things got worse before they got bitter. I fanned a flame of resentment that acted like a wall around my heart. I didn’t want to keep loving my husband because I didn’t want to get hurt again. I thought I’d stay in that state of limbo forever.

Then one day, I discovered once again that my husband was using, and suddenly I saw the possibility of divorce from a totally different perspective. This time I didn’t think, “how can I do this to my son?” but rather, “how can I NOT do this FOR my son?”

For the first time I felt empowered enough to make a healthy change. My husband and I separated in November. It was the end of everything. And that’s when it all really began.

Within two months, on his own accord, my husband checked himself into rehab. He worked hard and went to meetings and moved to a halfway house. My son and I visited, attended meetings, supported his dad, and learned to live without him. It was the saddest time of our lives; yet I felt better than I had in years.

After a year of trying to hold onto our marriage, my husband and I decided to divorce. We took a deep breath, smiled shakily at each other, and committed to creating a divorce based on a strong, supportive friendship.

And we have. It hasn’t always been easy, but when things got tense, one of us would inevitably remember that just about nothing was worth not being friends.

I told my ex that I was sorry; that all I had wanted to do was save him. He turned to me and said, “Maybe you did.”

My son’s dad is healthy now. He’s a thoughtful co-parent, a father who is more than just “present” — he’s involved. He has stood by my side through the tough adolescent times and I have to tell you, we are closer friends than we were when we were married.

Our family looks different now. There’s my ex, one of my best friends. There’s our son, remarkably well-adjusted and mostly unaware of how non-traditional this divorce is. And there’s my boyfriend, the proof of how far I’ve come in choosing partners. He is fully capable, does not need saving, and lets me rest the world on his shoulders once in a while. On any given night you might see all of us hanging out, having dinner or celebrating something one of us accomplished. My friends and family are amazed; my dad thinks we’re crazy, and some of my acquaintances are probably appalled. But I think it’s a testament to the fact that just when you think everything is finished … that is just the beginning.

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The Date That Started It All

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Last night I went on my first date. In 14 years. It may be another 14 years before I do it again.

My date was a doctor. Correction: surgeon. I think I should have started with a paper boy.
On my drive home, as I replayed in my mind every excruciating moment, I had a feeling that I’d broken every dating rule ever written. So when I arrived home, I went to http://www.godthisisawkward at firstdate.com. I read in horror the long list of “dating don’ts.” Sure enough, I had unwittingly committed nearly every one:

1. Do not talk about your ex-spouse on a first date. I practically told my ex’s life story: his terrible childhood, his resultant baggage, his brilliant mind, and the fact that, although he is my ex, we’re still good friends and I love him. At this point, I’m sure my date was trying to determine how long it would be before my ex and I were back together…unless he was too busy looking for the restaurant’s emergency exit. Thankfully, I left out the part about my ex having intimacy issues and all that that implies. How I managed to contain this part of the story, I have no idea. I must have actually let my date speak.

2. Do not mention sex. Well, technically, I did not break this rule, as I believe this means you’re not supposed to say you’d like to have sex on the first date. But here’s the rub: since my job involves teens and their everyday challenges, when my date asked what the research shows, I could have mentioned peer pressure, drinking or drugs. But instead I mentioned the trend of girls giving boys oral sex as routinely as we used to French kiss. Only I didn’t say “oral sex,” I said “blow jobs.” Talk about polite dinner conversation! According to firstdate.com, this is grounds for an end to any date, unless you’re actually offering said blow job. I don’t think I scored any extra points in the lady-like department when I tried back-pedaling, “Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for oral sex.” Although my date did perk up a bit after that.

3. Ladies should not drink beer. Now, I don’t necessarily look like I drink beer (I may have the Contour CoreBeltTM to thank for that!) and I don’t knock ‘em back, by any means. But I do love an ice-cold crisp light beer. It has been my drink of choice ever since I snuck into my first bar. I don’t drink wine, like I’ve always been told ladies should. So, on my first date after my divorce, not only did I drink a beer, I explained that the café we were patronizing used to carry a fabulous beer that is no longer available due to the fact that the brewery — which had been owned by a woman – recently shut down and I was disappointed because it was one of the best-tasting beers I had ever had and if I could, I would buy that brewery. I said it all without a breath, just like it reads here. At which point my date said, naturally, “Oh, you really know your beers.” I don’t think he meant it as a compliment.

4. Do not talk about marriage. I have no idea why my date asked me what makes a good marriage, since I had recently decided that marriage pretty much kills a relationship. (By the way, there is no rule about trashing marriage; the website must feel that this is so obvious it need not be mentioned. Obviously, they were wrong.) I think this is one of those Miss America-type questions, where I should have talked about saving the world and feeding the hungry. Instead, coming from the marriage I was in (see number 1 above), the first thing I said was “sexual compatibility.” My date said surely I meant the greater good of intimacy and closeness. I guess that was his Miss America response. But I was steadfast in my answer. After a while, my senses returned and I remembered to mention trust, respect and the true number-one for me, sense of humor. So maybe he thought I was kidding all along. One can only hope.

5. Do not reveal your shortcomings. Does this even need to be said? Apparently to me it does. Toward the end of the evening, it became apparent that I am geographically challenged. In fact, I can sum up the entire date in a single word: Okinawa. You see, my date was very well-traveled and we talked about the places he’d been. At one point, the noise level rose just as my date said that one of his favorite places was “Nawa.” That’s all I heard: “Nawa.” I asked, “Where?” If only I had asked, “What?” And he said, dryly, “Okinawa. You know, in Pearl Harbor?” Which I translated to mean: “You actually graduated college?” I nodded with a knowledgeable look, but my head was swimming: geography AND world history in the same sentence? (The High School basketball coach taught history.) By now, the notion of excusing myself and crawling out the ladies room window was looking like my best bet. FYI: I Googled Pearl Harbor later that night. Pearl Harbor is not in Okinawa. So now I’m wondering if he’s slapping himself on the head going, “How dumb am I? Did I actually say Pearl Harbor is in Okinawa?” Maybe we both sum up the date with that one word…

6. Do not kiss good night on the first date. Gotcha. You don’t actually think I got close to breaking this rule, do you? Instead, I did the awkward shaking hands with my non-handshaking hand thing. It was like I was possessed by my grandmother. Needless to say, there was no “I hope to see you again.” It wasn’t until I got into my car that I realized I hadn’t taken a breath for the past three hours. Surely the lack of oxygen was responsible for my geeky behavior? If I had only passed out, the evening would have gone much better.

First dates after a divorce are awkward, scary, sometimes nausea-inducing. We think we’re not pretty enough, smart enough, thin enough, worthy enough. You are more than enough! It takes courage to get out there, and a hefty dose of confidence (and maybe a little crazy on the side). You can do it, and I’ll be cheering you on! In the meantime, have a laugh and learn about fitness you can do while you’re surfing the online dating sites!

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