“I met a man in my 20’s, fell for him fast, and married him quickly. We had a great life… on paper. We had two beautiful children, a lovely home, a golden doodle — the whole nine yards. He cheated on me consistently throughout our marriage, for years. What looked perfect from the outside was a complete lie. I was constantly trying to paint a pretty picture but inside, I was sad and defeated.
I finally got the courage to leave him and filed for divorce after finding out about his online sex addiction and yet another affair with a coworker. I became a single mom of two young children with no job at 42 years old. My ex did not want the divorce and became erratic. He started stalking me and his ‘twisted love’ turned to hatred of me for moving on without him. It was a terrible year, full of uncertainties but I was still so happy to be free! I got a cute, affordable little house, had full custody of my kids, and I was figuring it out on my own.
Once I felt ready, I began to date casually. I met some nice guys, some not so nice guys, and lots of guys who just weren’t for me. I ended up meeting a wonderful man, who was divorced from a woman who had cheated on him and then left him alone to raise his son. We had basically been through a lot of the same awful situations. We hit it off instantly. We dated for about a year and then decided on a whim to move in together and buy a house. He even built a studio in our new home for me to work from home. A year after moving in together, he proposed. Life seemed perfect. Everything was falling into place. Then a tragic, freak accident happened that changed everything.
On a Tuesday afternoon, I decided to get a box of fall decorations out of our walk-in attic and fell straight through the attic floor to the concrete garage floor, 13 feet below. To put this into perspective, the deep end of an Olympic pool is 12.5 feet deep. It was like I jumped into an Olympic sized pool that had no water. I was rushed into the ICU and scans showed I had shattered both of my feet and broken my neck. I was told my bones resembled a scrambled jigsaw puzzle.
I was in the trauma unit for 2 weeks and had extensive, complicated surgery on both feet to try to save them. My bones and joints were put back together with metal plates, pins, and screws running from side-to-side and front-to-back. I was put in a C-collar for 8 weeks to stabilize my neck. I couldn’t move at all. I was trapped in a bed. During this time, I was told I might never walk again, my muscles would atrophy, and I’d become addicted to pain medicine. Occupational therapists came in and filled my room with a wheelchair, portable toilet, and adaptive equipment like lift belts and slide boards to show me how to live this way.
I thought my life was ruined. I had just lost everything in a split second: my ability to work, my ability to care for my children, and possibly myself. I cried constantly and told my boyfriend daily to get out now. Who would ever want to be stuck with this mess? I was terrified but he remained calm. He never left my side and never even thought about leaving our relationship. He said, ‘Whatever happens, we are in it together,’ and he meant it. He handled the surgeries, our children, his job, and me as if he was born for this. It was hard to watch. He had to lift me up, carry me around, bathe me, feed me, and deal with my emotions. His life changed just as much as mine did. I was grateful but scared.
As someone who was cheated on and put down for years, all I could do was wonder why. ‘What good am I to him now? When will he resent me? How long before he decides to move on?’ The honeymoon phase was way over now, and I was certain it was only a matter of time before he realized I wasn’t worth all of this. I tried to push him away. I picked fights and was difficult. He never took the bait. He carried me through the entire situation and kept me safe and sane. Gradually, I stopped crying and fighting and started smiling again as I adjusted to the new normal. Life became amazing again.
I now use a wheelchair. My feet are permanently damaged, making me ‘disabled.’ I am learning to walk again. I will never run or dance but I will walk, at least a little. It might always be painful or it might not be. I am regaining my independence a little more each week and figuring out the chair is really no big deal. The long-term results remain to be seen. But I am alive, I’m healing, and my life was NOT ruined as I thought. I learned a lot and still am learning. This tragedy was horrific, yet some beautiful things happened because of it. 3 weeks ago, my boyfriend and I got married. You truly NEVER know what or who is just around the corner. Life can and will change — that is guaranteed!
Liars lie and abusers don’t change. My ex lied to me all the time, about big and small things. He cheated on me more times than I can count. He belittled me, tried to control me, and I don’t think he really even liked me! He was often irritable for no reason. He procrastinated a lot. He kept secrets. He locked his phone and kept it guarded at all times. He stayed up late at night alone and came home late from work. He was unapologetic and stubborn. He was mean to our son and made our daughter the golden child. He was selfish with affection and never thought of me on holidays or birthdays. As hard as I tried to be perfect, I could never make him happy. What was wrong with me? Why did I stay so long? How did I ever think that this was enough?
My new husband is an open book, maybe honest to a fault! His phone is always just lying around in the open. He gave me a key to his house once we got serious. He’s trusting of me. He’s optimistic. He’s loyal. He goes to bed when I do and is romantic and fun. He never played mind games. He is a patient father and loves being a goofball with our kids. He’s considerate and generous with both his time and his resources. He is slow to anger and apologizes quickly when he makes a mistake. He’s not perfect but he’s caring and humble and has a giant heart.
Here I am, literally rebuilding my life. Absolutely nothing is perfect… and he IS happy. He keeps choosing me. He has shown me what real love looks like. After 45 years, I can say now it was worth every painful minute and I would not change a thing.
To women or men who have been through a terrible relationship, struggle with self-esteem, or have just been disappointed too many times — I say keep going! There is love after divorce, after abuse, and after a tragedy. There is even love after 40! Look for it around and you’ll see it! Believe in it. I know it’s hard, but it is out there. It may not look like what you thought or expected, but it is out there. Not all men are bad. Not all women are good. But if you stay open to the idea and keep meeting new people, you just might find your person after all!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Melissa Johnson. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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