Twice I stood up and told the woman I loved that I would be there for her for better or worse, for richer and pooer, in sickness and in health. We had a union ceremony before we could legally marry and then during that brief window, before Prop 8 passed, we married legally, too.
Even three years after it's been done, I still struggle with reconciling that with leaving her nonetheless.
To be fair. She didn't give me a choice. Anyone who is familiar with even a tenth of the details would tell you that I didn't have a choice to stay. She'd become increasingly unstable, violent, destructive. All-in-all Scary. In addition to the threat of physical harm, the harm she threatened to me and my reputation and tried to incur was also devastating. She was calling everyone close to me and many who weren't that close to me and spreading lies about me. Those who knew me, fortunately, knew the truth about me. But she has borderline personality disorder, so those right on the edge found themselves questioning because her stories were laced with just enough truth to be convincing.
"For better or worse"
Well, there was no question that at that moment it was the worse. It had been, in hindsight, about two or three years of "worse" but I had stayed in there, I had been trying to stick it out. What gave me permission to let go then? What was so different?
"For richer or poorer"
My friends would be quick to tell you that my ex had no problems with me as long as we were richer. But as we steadily progressed towards poorer, she began to disintigrate. But surely in this last economic, um, setback, we are not the only ones to have had to struggle with hard times and hard decisions about how to make it through those. Not EVERYONE separated simply because finances became tight.
"In sickness and in health"
This, though, is the one that trips me up. Because I don't think I broke the first two vows - I was there for those times, and willing to be there for more. But for some reason, I couldn't stick it out through sickness. Because, unfortunately, that is what she is.
Nowhere, though, is there a release from my vows. The answer, I think, lies in this. (To the extent that I have found and accepted an answer). Before I broke my vows, she broke hers. Others have suggested that gives me a release. That you can't hold up a marriage single-handedly. That both parties must remain committed to their vows to make it work, and that if one gives up, the other is released, then, from holding up their end.
I admit that I'm not completely sure I accept that.
In a legal contract, when one party breaches the contract, the other party is not automatically released from their obligation. A number of defenses may be raised, but if the contract is not written so that one's obligations are dependent upon the other fulfiling their obligations, then there is no excuse for the second party to breach the contract. Impossibility, however, is a valid defense for breach of contract. And so others would argue that she made it impossible for me to keep my vows.
It is not easy to walk away. But sometimes it is the only choice. My friends convinced me that losing myself would not help her in anyway, and if I stayed, I would have lost myself. I probably did lose a little of myself before I escaped. Fortunately, I have a pretty rock-strong core.