Have you ever looked back in your life and found a moment in time when you had all the information you needed to make a major life decision, if only you had paid attention and followed the signs? My husband and I now refer to these as “Butterfinger moments.”
An old friend of Doug’s told him about a time when she was first dating her future husband (and eventual ex-husband). They were walking outdoors somewhere, could have been in a park, maybe a concert, when she saw him casually drop a Butterfinger candy bar wrapper on the ground. It bothered her a lot, but she stayed quiet and let it go. Maybe he didn’t know how she felt about littering. But it should have told her that if he didn’t share those principles with her, there were probably other issues that they wouldn’t agree on.
I was recently looking through one of my old journals and it struck me that within the first year of dating my first husband, there were plenty of Butterfinger moments. I thought about them, and even wrote about them. I was trying to tell myself something but I guess I wasn’t listening.
I was young and inexperienced, away at college and away from my family and the country I grew up in. I really was in a whole other world. He was the first guy that paid any real attention to me, and I fell in love. And so I married my first boyfriend, the first guy I ever kissed.
I knew he wasn’t perfect. I was convinced that I would make a difference in his life and we would live happily ever after. His mother told me herself: “he’s so much happier since you’ve been around.” Butterfinger moment?
When I called him today he was depressed and mad at his parents for some reason. He was seriously considering living in the library and keeping his clothes at Gene’s. He even asked me I would take care of his stereo. I hope I can cheer him up tomorrow.
I don’t think I ever could cheer him for any period of time longer than a couple of days. A month or so later:
I want him to talk to a counselor or somebody and maybe that person could help him feel better about himself. But he doesn’t want to and he won’t let me talk to anybody about it….Sometimes I get so frustrated with him and wonder whether maybe he is right and I should find somebody else. But I love him so much and he can make me so happy I’d never leave him.
Week after week, there are more and more entries like this. Before the Christmas break I wrote:
Only 29 more days and I’ll be home. I can’t wait. I can’t handle all this stress.
It’s probably safe to assume that at least every once in a while I went back and read my previous entries, right? Why wasn’t I paying attention to what I wrote? The signs were all there. There were enough Butterfinger moments to send me running in the other direction. Maybe the problem was that I didn’t have the ability to step back and look at the situation objectively. I probably thought that all his problems were caused by his parents and once he was on his own these problems would go away. But he didn’t ever go on his own. He moved in with me and my friends. And the problems didn’t go away. Depression and drama-filled days came and went constantly. His suicide threats just kept boomeranging back my way.
Of course it wasn’t like this the whole 20 years we were together. There were good times sprinkled throughout and we had two great kids together. But that’s what made it harder to recognize those moments and events and realize that life didn’t have to be like that. It doesn’t have to be so hard.
There finally came a point when we both came to the realization that it was time to part ways. We didn’t get to this point simultaneously however, and the struggle it took to break free from that cycle of good times/bad times/worse times only served to reinforce my belief that I was making the right decision.
He’s remarried now and I hope he’s happy.
For myself, I can’t believe how easy life and marriage can really be.