AUGUST, 2013 (five months into our marriage) – As he was taking this photo, he was telling me how beautiful I was. I had just flown to Boston from Utah, and he had wanted to take me on a road trip to show me around. He knew I loved lighthouses and pulled over for this photo. I felt hope. I felt excitement for this new chapter. After two months living away from him as a newly-wed (living at his grandmother’s home in Salt Lake while he found us our apartment in Cambridge) I began to feel safe again. And in this moment I felt love.
We got back into the car and what I was feeling allowed me to open up. I shared how hard it had been to be away from him. I shared that I was feeling misplaced in my life as I had decided to switch careers, but I reassured him I would be okay. He always told me he liked it when I was honest and vulnerable, but I also knew he could be a bit narcissistic, so I was careful as I shared my emotions- wanting to make sure he didn’t feel blamed. I only wanted to continue this feeling of closeness. As I shared, tears came, as they often do when I open myself up. He pulled the car over, and I finished my thoughts while leaning on his shoulder. I finished, and it was silent. I looked up at him- searching his eyes for a response, waiting for a response. He was silent. I grabbed his hand and held it.
Then, he told me I needed to stop crying. That he couldn’t continue this marriage if I kept crying, and that he could no longer handle my tears. I had to stop right now. Right then. He put the car into drive again and started driving back towards Boston. Stunned by his response and ultimatum, my tears continued to flow. I had just wanted to be close to him.
But the next thing he said I thought I had misheard: “Lauren, I’m taking you to the airport.”
I sat there in silence wondering what he meant.
Our next stop was supposed to be what was going to be our new apartment. Just five months ago we were dancing with hundreds of family and friends at our wedding- this was the dream I had always wanted. He was about to get a degree at an Ivy League school, while I was planning to audit classes and find my way in the non-profit world. It was a sweet vision of a happy and secure future. But now he was slowing down and making a U-turn. I was processing the entire experience in slow motion-I remember it so vividly- even the tart taste of the air.
“I’m taking you to the airport,” he said. He paused as if to make sure he knew this was the best decision. “Yes,” he said with more conviction. “I don’t want to invite you into my world here. I don’t want you to even see the apartment. I’m taking you to the airport. I don’t want you to be around here like this.”
My mind was racing. I couldn’t understand who this was- or why and how this was happening. As my mind continued to process everything, I softly said: “Ok.” I sat back in my seat and let him drive. I kept thinking he might turn around, or tell me it was a joke. I didn’t even know where he was going to fly me. I didn’t have a home. I didn’t have a job. I couldn’t live with his grandmother again. My parents didn’t have a home. I remember wondering where I should ask him to send me when we got there. I knew one thing: If he really wanted me gone, I wouldn’t argue. If he really wanted me out of his life, this was not the man I thought I’d married. Some heartfelt tears and honesty- and how this? If he was capable of changing his mind about our marriage so quickly, I wouldn’t try to convince him otherwise.
And he was capable of such a rash decision. I knew when he pulled into the airport’s underground parking that he meant it. He was going to let me go after less than an hour in Boston. The man who I thought would cherish me the day we married in the Mormon temple was pulling out his smart phone to purchase a ticket to some unknown place in some location where I would never have a home. It would be any place that wasn’t with him.
He stopped. He looked at me: “I just don’t like it when you cry, Lauren. Stop crying. It’s time for you to go.”
“I can’t help it,” I said. “I cry. I have emotions.” He said I needed to learn how to stop crying if I wanted this marriage to work. I told him I couldn’t do change my tears and the underlying feelings that brought them on. And I’m so grateful that during this moment I knew my emotions were perfectly fine. I knew what I felt and shared with him was normal and acceptable- just not to him. I sometimes wonder if this is how women and men become trapped in abusive relationships- if they don’t know their emotions are normal and they are not allowed to express them. If I didn’t know what I felt and shared in that moment, and if I had to repress all of my emotions in that moment or in the marriage, I doubt I would be writing this book. I see this pivotal moment as a crucial point in my life, because I had enough self-worth to recognize that my emotions- my truth- in that moment mattered, no matter how much he wanted to reject my feelings and tears. I did not want to become someone I did not want to be.
I had known since I was young that I desired to be with a man who had emotional intelligence. I wanted someone who would listen and share and understand and discuss. I desired a partnership with empathy and unconditional love. What felt frightening in this moment was that before we were married, I believed this man had shown some emotional intelligence through empathy and caring for me. Had I truly been duped? This also was hard to comprehend-feeling duped. If I had really been duped, then I was so ashamed. I was so ashamed that I had married a man capable of ending our marriage because I had cried. I had married a man who could transform quickly from a man taking a sweet photo of me in front of a lighthouse while showering me with compliments, to a man who wanted to punish and shame me. How could I have been so blind? I look at these photos and in my smile I see the man I thought I had married. But here at the airport I was seeing the truth-a man who wanted complete control. A man who couldn’t handle my tears and emotions. He wanted the start of this marriage to be about him, to show me who was in charge and what was acceptable. Tears were not supposed to be a part of the marital equation. He only wanted me- and by extension, himself- to show strength.
It didn’t matter that he had thousands of friends on social media, or that he appeared to have empathy, because I knew now that it wasn’t empathy when he told me on our honeymoon that he believed he shouldn’t have married me, that our marriage was a mistake. It wasn’t a fluke when in our first home in Santa Monica he again repeated that he didn’t want to be married to me. We slept then on two floor mats I had purchased in L.A.’s fabric district. We had no money for a real mattress, he told me. It definitely wasn’t loving when he would push my floor mat away from his. It wasn’t the emotional intelligence I craved when he would walk into our Santa Monica studio apartment and refuse to acknowledge me, or even look at me. It couldn’t be just another lapse in judgement that brought us to the airport.
And so here in this underground parking lot, I finally started to believe the marriage would never get better. I finally started to accept that he was not who he pretended to be. I told him I would not be able to learn to never cry in order to make our marriage work. I told him he could buy me the ticket.
And then he did something he sometimes did when he felt desperate: He started crying. In the airport parking lot, a place we ended up because he was angry at my tears, he started sobbing. What if I then told him, just as he told me moments before, that his tears were unacceptable? That he needed to stop crying? He told me of his terrible childhood, and I held him. He told me he had no one else. He told me he makes mistakes and that he was sorry. And, as always, my empathy kicked in. I held him in that parking lot. I gave him what I had always wanted myself- unconditional love. He repeated he was sorry as he was now driving to see our Cambridge apartment. Hope entered the equation once again. I thought that perhaps we’d be closer now. Perhaps we’d make it through. Perhaps we’d have stories of our first difficult year like so many other couples. Perhaps he just needed love. I still think of the irony of him chastising me for my tears, but finding his tears completely appropriate and warranted. This double standard in our marriage never ended. When he wanted something or to exert control his behaviors were perfectly fine, but when I engaged in the same behavior it was considered unacceptable. His tears were always more important than mine- and he never let me forget it as long as we were married.
Copyright © 2016 Lauren Matthias / LaurenMatthias.com copyright 2016. all rights reserved. You may not take content from this site without written permission.
To continue reading along on Lauren’s journey, especially if you’re experiencing the pain and devastation (whether now or in the past) of being in a toxic relationship and you’re ready to get your life back – Click HERE for Lauren’s ebook to continue reading