I was stubborn enough to hold on to my bad choices for far too long.
Now that I'm approaching my 40s, I think back to my first marriage and I can feel the grimace forming on my face. It's like looking back at a car accident you almost can't bear to watch.
What on earth was I thinking?
I married a man I shouldn't have.
Everyone knew it. My family, my best friends. Even I knew it, deep in my heart. But I did it anyway. And thus began my journey into adulthood — the hard way. I experienced love, lust, excitement and then abuse: Emotional, verbal, physical.
The man I married had issues that went way back. He couldn't control his temper. He had drug problems. He never had steady employment or money. He already had one failed marriage and two estranged children he never saw.
Life constantly seemed to be difficult for him and I thought I could help. I thought I could change him. The classic old story. We went to therapy. I worked hard every day to bring home money because there was always some reason why he couldn't hold down a job. I took care of him as he floundered.
The irony, of course, was that I was barely in my mid-twenties and he was middle-aged. How we must have looked to everyone on the outside. Preposterous, I imagine.
And so the story unfolded, getting worse with every year. His behavior never improved; in fact, it got worse. I lived in fear and dread, not knowing how to extract myself.
But there are things I learned.
I learned how to be resourceful. I learned how to earn an honest living. I learned I was a caring and loyal wife, even though I may have chosen the wrong partner. I learned I was an immensely fierce and independent woman, that free spirit who had left home seeking experience was still inside me.
I also learned I was stubborn enough to hold on to my bad choices for far too long.
And after the whole sordid mess was over by my late twenties, when I finally escaped and clawed my way back to myself, I was closer to the person I was destined to be. I started to form into the human being, mother, stepmother and wife I am today.
But my first marriage gave me a lot. My first husband taught me that you can't get anywhere in life by blaming others for your actions and choices. He taught me that the more you run away from your problems, the more they shadow you and manifest into every part of your existence until you either deal with them or become eaten alive by them.
And now that I'm almost the age my first husband was when we were married (he was much older when we married), I marvel at how I have survived and flourished. I'm glad we didn't have children together. I realized two years into the marriage that would be a mistake.
I would never say 'everything happens for a reason,' but I would say that there's often a method to the madness. The subconscious knows things we may not be aware of and we all go through the Hell we need to go through in order to stand the test of time and life.
So, here I am. Married to a fantastic partner raising two lovely children. We're both flawed but we both love each other and have a vision of our future together.
Will it last? I think and hope so.
Originally a Vancouver Island native, Michelle Zunter now resides in California where she is an ex-corporate slave, writer, artist, mother, stepmother, and wife. Join Michelle as she explores society, parenting, step-parenting, relationships, and much more.
This article was originally published at The Huffington Post. Reprinted with permission from the author.