“We’re meant to be” and other lies I told myself about my marriage
AKA: I found an opportunity to incorporate Taylor Swift into my blog
When Taylor Swift released her Folklore album at the end of July, 2020, I told my then-husband that he needed to listen to the song “Invisible String” with me before bed. I said that when he heard it, he’d understand why.
As he got under the covers, I pressed play and stared at him expectantly as the bubbly tune began.
Green was the color of the grass where I used to read at Centennial Park
I used to think I would meet somebody there…
He looked over at me, puzzled. “Just wait,” I said.
Teal was the color of your shirt when you were sixteen at the yogurt shop
You used to work at to make a little money…
He sighed, not a patient person by any means. He certainly wouldn’t be listening to Taylor Swift at 10PM but for my insistence. Still, I looked at him with the hopeful smile that had been plastered on my face for all of our ten years together. Then, like always, I believed he’d come around. I handed him my phone so he could follow along with the lyrics for some eye karaoke.
Time, curious time
Gave me no compasses, gave me no signs
Were there clues I didn't see?
And isn't it just so pretty to think
All along there was some
Tying you to me?
He smiled. He got it, now.
“This song is about us,” he said.
“Mm hmm, that’s what I thought, too,” I whispered through that same tired, hopeful smile.
That summer, I was still hanging on to the fairytales I'd been telling myself about our relationship before it imploded.
While I wasn’t much of a Disney Channel kid growing up (it cost extra in our cable package, and my parents said nope), I still got the message loud and clear that I needed to find my prince one day.
I thought he was my soulmate. We’d both risen from households that were marred by the tragic, early death of a parent. In our parallel experiences, we relished in exceeding everybody’s expectations as we excelled in college and career. He understood me in ways I'd never been understood before. And when we met at the age of 22, I just wanted to be understood. I believed that we’d always been connected by that invisible string Taylor was singing about.
The earliest days of our relationship were punctuated by red flags and straight up landmines, but I stayed singularly focused on the beautiful future that we would create together. The fairytale that played on repeat in my mind drowned out our reality. Our story was perfect even though our day-to-day was nowhere close.
He proposed to me when we were 24. When he was down on one knee, in the back of my mind, I heard the faintest scream: “Don’t do it!” I ignored the voice, said yes, and basked in all the congratulatory messages—we were the first of our friends to get engaged. “You’re such a power couple!” they said.
I believed them.
A few months before we got married, he sat me down for a surprise. He handed me an emerald and diamond gold ring that looked a little beat up, and told me an unbelievable, but true, story: He'd found it in a gutter as a child while playing outside. At the time, he and his mom turned it into the police, but no one ever claimed it, so he got to keep the ring. For years, he prayed that he'd be able to give the ring to his future wife one day, and that she was healthy and safe—wherever she was. Of course, emerald is my birth stone, and when he put the ring on my finger, it fit perfectly without ever having been re-sized. He said it was fate.
I believed him.
At our wedding, a cousin taught me the Yiddish word, bashert, which translates to something like “destiny” or "meant to be." After hearing our vows and the parade of speeches, he said my then-husband and I were bashert.
Everyone believed it.
The truth is that fate and fairytales aren't real. But these stories were so powerful that they trapped me in a relationship that was truly miserable. I normalized our constant fighting. I accepted that I would always be scared of him when he drank. I soothed myself with the false comfort that we were meant to be, and that everything would work out in the end, because it always does in fairytales. I believed in what the relationship could be, always future-oriented, if I just kept working at it. But we never, ever got there.
Listening to Taylor Swift together in the summer of 2020 was the last sputter of faith I had left in the fairytale. In March of 2020, my dad, my only living parent, died suddenly, on the same day that we went into Covid lockdown. And we, like so many other couples, spent the next few months with only each other. Day in and day out, I had nothing to distract myself from the challenges of our relationship. Eight months after the death of my father and the beginning of the Pandemic, I found out about infidelity years before, which I had long suspected. When there was nowhere else to look, no one else to turn to, the fairytale finally cracked. I asked myself why I was tolerating a relationship I wasn't happy in. When was this fairytale ending I kept waiting for? It didn’t exist.
After I'd worked up the courage to end the marriage in the spring of 2021, there were months of back and forth throughout the early separation proceedings. He tried to win me over by playing back the fairytale that had sucked me in in the first place. He texted me a link to the “Invisible String” song, and said “I love you. And I am sorry. For everything...”
But the string had been cut. I’d finally freed myself from the fairytale—all along, it had been a nightmare dressed like a daydream.
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