I have a friend, let's call her Jenny, who is separating from her husband, let's call him Larry.
They have been married for three years and just two weeks ago, Larry told Jenny that he has been seeing someone else for a year and he's been unhappy for two years and he just doesn't want to be married any longer. He does not want to talk about it, doesn't want to try counseling, and the worst part is, he never said anything to Jenny about how he felt at all until he'd already made up his mind and would consider nothing else. On top of all of this, Larry has done all the slimy things a real big asshole does when you hear these horror stories about a friend of a friend or the couple in apartment 4. Never do you think it could happen to someone you know, and especially not you!
I met both Larry and Jenny at the same time and knew them both equally. I say this only to establish that I am not predisposed to blame this break up on any one person.
As I listened to Jenny tell me and Quinn everything that has gone on between them in the past two weeks, and even the events leading up to those two weeks, I began to feel more than just appalled, I began to feel frightened. Here was this man that I thought I knew (not that we were great friends or anything but still) and it turns out that he had an amazing capacity to inflict some pretty hard core pain on someone he had at least claimed to love at some point. How could I have not known what he was capable of?
But as we got into the details of the story I realized that the truly scary part of this real life horror story was how Jenny had been fooled. Fooled into thinking she was safe in her relationship. Safe in the idea that Larry had vowed to always be there and always love her and at the very least, always try. Jenny had entered into a marriage with one man and had found herself separating from someone she didn't even know. And there had been no warning.
That is absolutely terrifying.
I have nightmares on a semi-regular basis. This is the kind of thing that happens in those nightmares. This is the kind of thing you wake up from and think to yourself, "thank god that's not going to happen". But for Jenny, it DID happen and that gives my fears and my nightmares more reality to sink it's roots into. A sturdy foundation of, "well, it happened to Jenny!". Not to mention my own experiences with a previous relationship (a case of mistaken identity in which I had mistaken him for a nice guy).
I was so thoroughly shaken by this new information that I couldn't sleep. Around three in the morning I began questioning Quinn about the specifics of his last two beak ups. Irrationally searching for red flags that would clue me in to just exactly how Quinn would inevitably turn into the evil heart smashing man-monster.
But how could that man hurt anyone? Quinn successfully talked me down off the ledge after only a half hour and I woke up feeling incredibly lucky to have such a wonderful man in my life. And if I have learned anything from my past (which has, on the whole, never been too easy), I've learned that even if Quinn did manage to hurt me, although I would be shattered for a long time, I would eventually be ok again. It always seems that when something you thought was wonderful ends, something more wonderful comes along shortly thereafter (although it is hard to imagine a man more wonderful than Quinn).
I hope that Jenny can keep that in mind in this massive time of transition.
*The illustration at the top of this post was done by Grace Liu
Photo credit: Moi