When you've suffered the embarrassment of multiple marriages, it is considered uncharitable to compare one husband to another. It is gauche to say that the new husband is taller, handsomer, richer, and has a bigger dick, even though he does.
When my last fairy tale ended up in the psycho-horror section, it felt like I was destroyed at the time. It was impossible to imagine my life ever righting itself after such a devastating wrong. Such feelings are transient, things are never as bad as they seem and in fact it wasn't very long at all before I realized that this was a positive move for me, an upward move, an improvement. And just as I was finding out what a relief it was to no longer be attached to 200 pounds of depressed man, he was finding out that he was still 200 pounds of depressed man.
In short, he refused to grant me a divorce. I live in Canada, where I do not need his permission, but the courts do not make it easy and so of course neither did he. He hid. I sought. I was made to take out ads in the newspaper, contact his relatives, hire a private detective. Marriage, in the end, is just a piece of paper, but that paper meant something to me, always did, always will. I didn't sign my name to it lightly, nor did I seek to have it removed without the same amount of thought and gravitas. I wanted to be free, felt I had earned it, and so I jumped through hoops.
This of course took years. Years during which I struggled to find the perfect moment during a first date, or a second date, or a third date to drop the bomb: yup, still married. But very, very separated, I assured them all. Years during which I still carried his dumb last name hyphenated to my father's dumb last name. Years during which I rebuilt my life without him in it, without the stuff that he stole, knowing that whatever I amassed now could still potentially be his. If I had been hit by a car, he had the legal right to pull the plug.
And yet, I found happiness. Big, crazy, banana-split happiness. You don't realize how much you're sacrificing of yourself until you don't have to do it anymore. When I stood on my own, I stood so much taller. And then I met Sean.
I had never seriously thought of remarrying, in part because I wasn't divorced, and in part because I never thought I'd marry in the first place. I had learned to never say never, but I was still surprised at how quickly and deeply I fell. I fell hard.
Within just a few months we were living together and engaged to be married. Engaged to be married, and also married. To someone else. Not a winning combination.
Ex continued to pop back into my life on occasion - sometimes mutual friends would report on his condition (generally not good, sometimes more alarming), other times he would randomly find me online through an old account and want to show me his pet rabbit (I wish this were a euphemism, but it's not). Obviously his mental health issues were persistent, as was his conviction to never, ever divorce.
Luckily Sean happens to be, among many a splendid thing, a lawyer. My fiance convinced my husband to divorce me by talking turkey. When my ex saw dollar signs, he signed the papers. I was on vacation in Mexico at the time, a bit stressed knowing we were planning a wedding that may or may not turn out to be legit, but sunning myself nonetheless. And then a call came in with the good news: my fiance could make a dishonest woman out of me.
It's still a bit surreal to me, that whole period of my life. The terrible end has coloured my sense of the whole relationship. I find it hard to remember the good times, and there must have been good times. The bad times are so much sharper. My family will not say his name aloud. It's as if they've wallpapered right over that decade. I gave away the old wedding dress, and threw out all his pictures. I don't need to forget, but I much prefer looking forward.
I don't hear from him so much anymore - most recently I had an email from him in my business account. He was shopping for wedding invitations. Small world? I'd say so. I wish I could say that I was happy for him, but mostly I'm just sad for her, whoever she is, and achingly happy for myself. Happy that I got away. Happy in a better life.