My fear in moving alone to Boise started to dissipate. Being a reporter in that city brought the best out of me — the me I had buried in my desperate attempt to save my marriage.
… ‘What if I fall?’ Oh but my darling What if you fly?”
My boss Grendel valued and trusted me in a way I had not experienced for a long time. She quickly gave me opportunities to anchor and improve my reporter skills. The producers respected my story-telling abilities. I was handed top stories, tough stories, and emotional stories. It all helped boost my self-esteem after a stint of being belittled in my marriage. Getting out every day and interviewing people helped me to connect quickly to my new community and Boise exceeded my expectations in every way. It was a beautiful city, a vibrant city. A city with character and sophistication I hadn’t expected. I met new girlfriends— Karen Lehr and Bri Eggers befriended me quickly. For that I will always be grateful.
I was also grateful to be reporting again. I realized how much I’d missed it- the chaos, the deadlines, the emotions, even the yelling-matches between producers and reporters. I had missed it all. Those I worked with quickly began to feel like a family. In news, emotions are constantly high because of the challenging stories and rapid deadlines. You go to battle together as a news team. You put your work face on when you’re covering a child who drowned, a murder, or a young teenager killed in a crosswalk. It makes for tighter relationships among co-workers. We’ll make news jokes to keep things light, or focus on the deadlines instead of the tears of those we interview. Still, the tears come before and after. Karen and I would joke about how many tears are shed in the edit bays (the tiny dark rooms where we write, voice, and edit our stories). But I loved it- tears and all. I loved telling people’s stories. I still do. Now it feels good to finally be telling my story.
I stayed the first two weeks in Boise with my welcoming aunt and uncle until I could locate an apartment- hopefully with my husband. When I found the apartment, thanks to my fellow reporter Chris Oswalt, I called my husband and shared the rent price. I sent photos. I shared that it was a year lease, but they would allow for a 6 month lease under the circumstances. He agreed. I believed this meant we would eventually live together in Boise. He told me to sign the lease. He said it looked great. He would be graduating in just a few weeks. He paid the deposit and the first month’s rent.
I started finding furniture at thrift stores—a $50 couch, a piece of wood for a make-shift table, a blue chair off of craigslist for 20, a $3.99 coffee table, and A $5.00 oil painting. Our Boston apartment had come fully furnished, and I wanted this Boise apartment to be ready for him—a temporary shelter to call home. I framed and hung our wedding photos- a standard ritual for newly-weds that I had always dreamed about.
Later that month I flew to Boston and attended his graduation. I asked him about his career plans now that graduation was officially here. I told him he had a fully furnished apartment waiting in Boise. He told me he didn’t know what he was going to do yet, but he would most definitely visit me in Boise. He reminded me that his future wasn’t there. He was better than Boise, Idaho- smarter, more accomplished, and more deserving than a small city like Boise. An all too familiar conversation began. Somehow I still believed I could reason with him.
“I understand your future isn’t in Boise,” I told him, “and I don’t want you to feel tied down either. I’m open to moving anywhere you want, and I’m ready to move at any time, but don’t you need a place to sleep in the meantime?”
“My future isn’t in Boise,” he would always say without any discussion.
“But your wife is in Boise. Am I not a part of your future?”
I’ll never forget his exact words to this question:
“You left me, Lauren. No good wife leaves her husband. You left me, plain and simple. No good wife leaves her husband.”
“But you told me to go!” I pleaded with him. “Don’t you remember giving me your blessing on the last night before I left? I would have stayed if you told me to stay. You told me to go- so I went.”
“You know that’s not true. You left me. I never told you to go. YOU LEFT ME!” he proclaimed.
I wondered: Am I losing my mind? I know what he told me- and he told me to move to Boise.
“But where was I supposed to go?” I said. “You weren’t working. You had no good options for me. I attempted to discuss this matter endlessly. I will still go wherever you want me to go! I want to be with you!”
Absolute, deafening, maddening silence. Always silence when the big issues arose- like the fragile state of our marriage. He never had answers when it mattered the most.
“You left me,” he kept repeating.
I visited with my therapist one last time during this last trip to Boston. He reminded me: “You can’t reason with the unreasonable. It will feel like you’re going crazy, but it’s not you- there’s no rationality with someone who’s irrational.” I decided to take a break from the confusion and enjoy the graduation, the celebrations and friends. When people asked where we were going after graduation, he’d often mentioned moving to Boise and figuring it out from there. Other times he’d say we were going to get into the oil industry. I was confused, but kept repeating to myself: “You can’t reason with the unreasonable. Let him be in charge. If he has nowhere to go, he’ll come to you.” Or I’d say to myself: “Trust him. He’s driven. He’ll find a job and a place and you’ll be able to move there. Just have patience and let him be in charge.”
These were my internal conversations and how I kept myself from the unfortunate reality of our marriage- he was stalling and he had no intentions of being with me. It was all an act- and an act he could readily blame on me for “leaving him.” Luckily I had a job. I had taken my Aunt Ruthanne’s advice and taken care of myself. I didn’t need him to survive, as much as he would have preferred that I become dependent upon him in every way.
Then another issue came up on the trip. I was getting work calls. One was from the father of a little girl I was scheduled to do a story about. The girl was 12 years-old and transgender. She wanted to tell her story of being born in the wrong body, and the station trusted that I was the reporter to share her story. I would be non-biased. I understood and had empathy for the conservative religious population who the story might upset. I was sensitive to this little girl, and I would ask the right questions and bring out the emotions between parents and daughter. But we had to be cautious. This girl was young. The consequences of her going public were real. During the phone call in Boston I wanted to discuss these consequences honestly with her parents. I also wanted to make sure everyone in her school understood she was transgender. I wasn’t going to “out” a little girl- I was going to tell her story so she could be understood. My husband overheard this phone conversation. He told me afterwards that I had to stay away from that story, and in no way could I cover it. I explained that this was my job. I told him I understood his concerns, but I was asked by my boss to do the story. This was what I did- shared peoples stories in an objective manner, no matter where that led me. This was the career path of a journalist. He told me that if I knew what was best for everyone involved I’d walk away. The story was embarrassing and I would embarrass him and everyone else in the community by covering it. “Walk away,” he said, “you simply cannot cover such a ridiculous story.”
I flew back to Boise and when I returned to work there was talk of two high-profile Mormons —John Dehlin and Kate Kelly—possibly being excommunicated by the church. I was the only Mormon reporter in the newsroom and they asked me to cover it. I appreciated that they would assign it to me because of my knowledge. My husband called me at work and I told him I had just interviewed Dehlin and Kelly. “Lauren, you cannot do that story. Tell them no. This is far too controversial. It will make you look bad.”
“But this is my job and that was my assignment. I’m expected to collect information and tell this story in a non-biased way. I’m a journalist. This is how I earn a paycheck.”
“Come on, Lauren,” he said, “You cannot tell this story. I’m telling you- don’t get involved in this. It will make you look bad within the church.”
“What am I getting involved in? I don’t decide what stories I’m assigned.”
“I don’t care,” he said. “That story is too controversial. You need to tell your boss no and back out of it. You’ll look really bad here if you cover it.”
Even from afar he was trying to control me and how I did my job. He was trying to control and censor every story that came my way. I realized quickly that he didn’t take my career seriously and he never would. He believed I could just pick and choose stories at will, especially stories that made me “look good,” and I could tell my boss what I wanted to cover. Apparently in his world a job meant imposing your grandiose will upon the workplace. I wish I knew where to get one of those jobs- certainly not in a newsroom. I covered these stories because I needed to make a living in spite of what he wanted me to do.
He never did come to Boise, not even when he was homeless and jobless. He left our Boston apartment days after graduation. He stayed with friends in Salt Lake City. Or he stayed with his grandmother. He would visit me for a few days, but when he did he would leave all of his belongings in his car, going out to his vehicle a few times a day when he needed something. He constantly reminded me I had left him, even if there was no home I could have left and even when he had endless opportunities to move in with his wife in Boise. His future was still not in Boise- even when his close friends offered him temporary and good work there. He eventually left to live with his best friend Evan McMullin in Washington, D.C. (yes, that is the same Evan McMullin currently running for President of the United States three months before the election). There he lived with Evan in his bachelor pad for four months, reminding me that Boise was for losers and he was too good for such a place.
Meanwhile, I had accumulated significant debt from the marriage and our many moves. He stopped helping to pay any of my rent quickly after graduating. He didn’t have a job and the student loans had stopped. He didn’t have a home. He had significant debts himself. If I had understood there was never going to be any financial partnership, I would have opted for roommates, but I still clung to the hope that he might move to Boise. Now I was really starting to understand. He didn’t want live in my home- our home- with me. He’d rather be on Evan’s couch than with his wife. I realized my new home in Boise wasn’t a newly-wed’s apartment and it never would be. He had left me alone in spite of all my pleading and wishing. I decided to take down all of our wedding photos in a symbolic gesture of feeling abandoned by my new husband. That was the end of August of 2014, almost 5 months after moving to Boise. He refused to be with me. I was married, but had never felt so alone in my life. I was beginning to relinquish hope that the marriage could ever work. What husband refuses to live with his new wife when he is unemployed and has no other options except for the couch of a best friend? And then to constantly blame his absurd choices on me? I couldn’t help but recall my therapist’s dialogue about narcissists. I was beginning to understand what I was really up against in the man I had married.
In spite of being alone I was also finding myself again. I owe so much to Boise, Idaho and my family at KIVI-TV. I was falling in love with my talents and I was becoming more confident. I was enjoying new friends. I was asserting myself and discovering my authentic self. I began to fly, not fall. The blue sky was opening up for me. At the Idaho Press Club Awards I won first place for my 2014 report on DW- the story of the 12 year-old transgender girl my husband had so strongly attempted to squash.
If my husband didn’t believe in me, at least I did. And Boise, Idaho became the perfect incubator for my eventual road to freedom because my work colleagues believed in me in a way that my husband never did. I knew this discrepancy was demoralizing and unacceptable. Once again I thought: If someone shows you who they really are believe them the first time. How many times did I have to be shown before I would finally believe this truth?
I started to look to the future and believe in myself again. I was an empowered newlywed consisting of only myself- a couple of one. I desperately needed to believe in myself for the tumultuous road ahead.
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