A few months after D-Day, I thought 'Things are going so well.' "So well” of course being a relative term. Jacob had been wearing his wedding ring again. He seemed lighter. He had not admitted to a relapse in about six weeks and although he was distant at times, I also felt like he was making an effort at being married. We started to plan a dream vacation to Maui. Unfortunately, in the three weeks before Maui, I started feeling all of the sudden like something was wrong. Even though I tried to ignore it, I broke down and started asking, ‘How are you doing on your goals? Have you relapsed?’ Jacob vehemently denied it. The doubting did not go away.
My problem was that in the past six months since discovery day, each time I had felt like something was very wrong, even when Jacob was claiming to be “clean” I had questioned and received an answer from him of innocence to any inappropriate viewing. The feeling remained and I re-questioned, usually eliciting the same negative response. However, each and every time, he later admitted or I later found out that he had been lying and his acting up had started around the first time that I questioned him. Hence, my continued concern. I even asked him, ‘You are not just hiding something to make it smooth sailing until Maui, right?" Denial. What could I do except trust him? And so I ignored my gut instinct, made a decision to trust and pushed on ahead, giddy about going to Hawaii.
We left for Maui right after the fourth of July 2012. June had been an exhausting and overwhelming month at work and with my church calling. I had spent a week at girls’ camp which drained me and left me completely worried about Jacob at home by himself, not even getting a phone call from me every night. It was stressful enough without worrying about an errant husband. I could not wait for the relaxation of a well planned vacation on a tropical island. But even when we got there, I could not shake my feeling of stress and unease. Mentioning it to Jacob, I asked him, ‘You are not going to drop a bomb on me as soon as we get home, are you?’‘That is not the plan!’ he responded.
Unfortunately, even this last piece paradise with Jacob was tainted. My uneasy feeling crept in and out of our trip. I especially felt it when it was just the two of us hanging around in the hotel room. One afternoon we had spent the morning dancing around and returned to take a nice long nap. After a couple hours sleeping, I woke up and was ready to spend more time enjoying Hawaii. I attempted to wake Jacob in the nicest way possible. He woke up, pushed me away and very rudely rejected me, demanding me to leave him alone and making it obvious that he wanted nothing to do with me. Then he rolled over and went back to sleep. Insulted, I grabbed my sandals and my iPod and left the room-- I was not about to sit around in a hotel room watching him sleep.
Fuming, I hit the beach, hoping the waves and sand would calm me down. At first I just walked along, trying to calm down. Then I started wondering if he would notice I was gone and come looking for me. I knew that was wishful thinking and that for the last few months, Jacob had not paid attention or cared about my feelings at all. The more I walked, the more pieces of the truth dawned on me. I started to cry even though I did not really understand why.
Now I know and can recognize-- somewhere deep inside of me, I knew. For the first time, part of me knew we were over. At least, part of me realized it would never be the same again. We were broken already and there was no way to be completely whole with him again. Panic welled up and to calm myself down, I blasted Enigma in my ears, let the waves lap my ankles as I walked, watched the sunset and let the tears fall. By the time I finished three or four songs I was under control, resolved to let it all go. I returned to the room. Sure enough, Jake did not even know I had left nor did he care; he had no idea of my inner torment on the beach. I said nothing. What could I say? And so we were swept ever towards the inevitable.
It was Sunday July 29, 2012. We had only been back from Maui for two weeks. Those two weeks had been horrid. I was back at work but Jacob had no school and no work-- it was his break. He was going stir crazy. Doom seemed to hang over our apartment. We blamed it on the post vacation blues, but something was not right. I wanted to know what was going on in his head. Finally, I said, ‘You have GOT to talk to me. What is going on?’
And then he opened up-- in a way I did not expect and I am not sure that I desired to hear what he had to say. He told me that he was unhappy. I knew he was struggling with his major and trying to decide if he wanted to stick with it, so I tried to direct him down that route, because I could feel what was coming, but it was no use. He told me that he did not love me. He told me that he was never going to be “the husband I deserved.” I asked him what he thought my expectations were in a spouse and he said, ‘Some one who can support your family, be a worthy priesthood holder, take you to the temple and actually have a career. I am never going to be those things. I want a divorce.’
Once again, I tried to persuade him to tackle one thing at a time. If he was discouraged about school, it was not a good idea to blame the stress and unhappiness of his choice of major on our marriage. We could fix one thing at a time! We could first get him into a different program on campus and see if that helped. If he struggled with his testimony, he could ask to be released from his calling, work on rebuilding his testimony or even just not go to church and then we could see how he felt. If he was still unhappy and wanted a divorce, we could go to marriage counseling together. I pushed for that with all I had. ‘Please, please just let us go to counseling! It could not hurt! This is so sudden. Please let me try. Please let me try to make you happy. I do not know what I have done!’
He paced around the living room and started talking again. I sat curled up on the corner of the couch, watching him, not saying anything anymore-- just listening to his internal demons come spewing forth and swoop around darkening our house and ripping my life to shreds. Part of me wishes I would have been able to record what he said because it is all such a blur and I felt so numb that I no longer recall what was said. But then again, why would I want to hear all those horrible things again? In the midst of it all, he kept repeating, “I do not know. I just want a divorce. I do not know.’
What it all came down to was that he was done-- done with being married. He did not want the responsibility of a family. He was done with the gospel and trying to live the way someone else wanted him to. He was done being married. He was done with me. He maintained that he had not relapsed and it had nothing to do with pornography. I think he lied, but it did go much deeper than I had thought. He wanted to be a bachelor. He thought that it would make him happy to have no expectations and that he would stop feeling pressured and stop feeling guilty. ‘But I don’t know. I want a divorce. I don’t know. I don’t know what to do’ he continued to interject.
I look back at that moment. Was that really me? Was that my life? Did that happen to me? Was that my husband and my marriage? How did it happen? How did it come to this? All my hopes and dreams. All my love. All my energy. All the times I looked at him, amazed to have him in my life. How? Why?
I finally asked him, somehow (probably because of complete shock) with no tears or anything, ‘Do you want a divorce or not? I can not take this back and forth anymore. I need support. If you want to try and work it out, I will turn to you to be my support and we can go to counseling and do whatever it takes to make this work. But if you are serious and want a divorce, I need to tell my family so that they can help me bear this. What do you want? This is a serious answer, Jacob. You better be damn sure you know. What do you want?’
‘Yes. A divorce. That is what I want. I want a divorce. I am done. I am sure.’
Jacob was leaving for his annual training on the upcoming Saturday. At his request, I was to move out and be gone when he returned home from his two weeks away. That week we lived together might still be one of the strangest of my life. The thing was, there had been little yelling or fighting. It was all so matter of fact and so cold. We stayed in the same house, Jacob just moved into the guest room. I still went to work. We still ate dinner together. He asked me if I still wanted to run errands with him. We walked through the mall not holding hands. I wanted to scream. Inside I was screaming and yelling and crying and falling apart. Outside I said, ‘What would you like for dinner?’ and he said, ‘How was your day today?’ Every night I lay there in our bed with the bedroom door shut, wondering if he was sleeping. Once in awhile I even snuck into his room and crawled into the guest bed and did not even say anything. Just lay there. Sometimes I whispered, ‘I miss you.’ He would say, ‘I am sorry. Goodnight.’ And I would leave, feeling worse than before I sought out his comfort.
I did not sleep so well that last night. Once again I slipped into the guest room to find him watching a movie on Netflix; he could not sleep either. I asked him ‘Why?’ There was no answer. I could not comprehend that the next morning he would leave and I might never see him again. In the morning, oh so early, I heard him moving around, packing up the last of his bag. Before he left, he opened the bedroom door to say goodbye. I walked out to his car with him. He was in uniform. Why did he have to be in uniform for our “goodbye?” This time was so different. He was not coming back to me because he did not want me there for his return. I did not cry-- it was too unreal. We shared a long hug; not one piece of me wanted to let him go. He gave me a quick kiss on the lips and said, ‘Well, bye.’ I watched him drive away while I stood there in my pj’s.
Back in the bedroom I texted my father, ‘It is so depressing when your life is like the words to a Dixie Chicks’ song. I am going back to bed.’ And I did. I went back to sleep without a tear.
When I woke up, I cried. I did not stop crying for weeks. But in spite of it, I moved to Dallas, moved in with my sister, and I worked on surviving.
And I decided to go to New York-- on my own. It was to get away. To clear my head. To be me and do something I wanted to do. To check things off of my bucket list. I was pumped. I bought the tickets, I did the research, I made the reservations, I packed my bags, jumped on the plane and left. I was to hit New York in mid-October-- just in time to see the leaves changing and enjoy beautiful fall weather. When my plane landed, I dropped my bags at the hotel, jumped on the metro and rode it into my first sightseeing destination.
I was standing in the middle of Grand Central Station when I got a call from Jacob. He was working on finalizing the divorce. As he was filling out a section about our ‘irreconcilable differences” and why we could not reconcile them, it got him thinking. He told me that he wondered if we could still make it work-- if our differences really were irreconcilable. He told me that he loved me and missed me; he wanted to put the divorce on hold and see me. He asked me what it would take in order to make it work. Listening to him tell me that he loved me I started crying. Right there, in the middle of this famous place with hundreds of people walking around me and taking pictures, I stood on my cell phone with tears pouring down my cheeks. I mentioned that it was awkward to be crying because I was in a public place.
‘Where are you?’
‘Grand Central Station.’
Yet another dramatic, ridiculous movie moment.
Jacob told me that he was willing to give up porn in order to keep me. He promised to go to counseling, to go to group work, whatever he needed to do. I told him that I would think about it and get back to him. The only catch? He needed to know by the next day because that is when he was going in to the court to finalize the divorce.
This phone call gave me, for the first time I felt, some choice in what was happening in my life. And surprisingly, my initial reaction was "I don't want to make that decision!! Why do I have to choose?"
The rest of that day in NYC I spent by myself, wandering around, crying, smiling, forgetting everything, thinking of everything; I realized that I had been playing the victim card. I decided it wasn't what I wanted to do. Sure, I had been hurt. Sure, I had no control over many many things. But I realized I still had control of my own life and my own actions. Not only that, I DID want to be able to choose. And I have surprised myself with the tough choices that I have been able to make.
I called him back. I asked him questions about what he saw in our future, what he was willing to do, why he had changed his mind. I asked him about the church and his testimony. From a source that I believe was Heavenly, a question popped into my head.
‘Would you make these changes if I was not coming back to you?’
‘To be honest, no. If we get divorced then I would not go back to church or try to get rid of my addiction or take care of the depression you think I have.’
I knew what I had to say. I had the courage to say it. I knew that any promised change was coming from simply being lonely and not from his heart or a real desire to do better. Without a true change of heart, things would never really improve. And I was done. I could forgive him, but I did not want the life we had together anymore. It was tainted and it was over.
‘Jacob, I love you. I wanted nothing more than to be happy with you. But I cannot be married to who you are right now. I would not even date you. We need to go through with this divorce.’
I was sobbing. I felt like my heart was ripped out. I could barely speak.
He responded, ‘I can honestly say that I still love you. I really always loved your friendship and your companionship. I was always physically attracted to you. Please know that. I understand what you are saying.’
We knew it; we could not be happy together anymore.
‘I still believe you can do better than me, Jennifer.’
‘I always loved you, Jacob, and I will miss you.’
‘I love you, too.’
The divorce was final the next week.
In the end, it was my choice. I was not a victim. And I am grateful. I am grateful for deciding to stay on a path I didn't originally choose, but that has ultimately brought me peace. I am grateful that when things spin out of control, I am still free to choose what new path to take.