We’d just had our daughter but staying would have made everything worse.
I saw her and liked her immediately. I pointed to her and asked my friend who was with her group, Who is that? He offered to introduce us and we were dating in a matter of days.
She was beautiful. At least I thought so. Curly blond hair, a Jennifer Aniston nose, sea blue eyes, athletic calves, and a brilliant smile. I was happy to be dating her, and I showed her off to everyone I could. I even did the picture-on-the-dashboard thing.
But not all romances last. In fact, many end. There is a variety of reasons why relationships end. She and I actually ended ours about three times.
Mostly it was my fault. I didn’t know how to really treat ladies in my early twenties. I laid sarcasm on pretty thick at times, and was vocal about things disapprovingly. And I took advantage of women’s kindness. The gifts and sacrifices were always acknowledged, but did I truly appreciate how well I was treated?
Probably not. But it wasn’t all me. She was kind of needy. She was also going through some things herself.
She was good to me, I have to admit that. She was kind and generous, and did whatever she could to make me happy. But we broke up, got back together, broke up and got back together again. Familiar. Convenient. I wanted her to be my “ideal,” but she was as human as I was.
One day, as friends (after we had broken up twice), we went to the mall—her and me, and two of her friends. After her girlfriends left, she and I hooked up, with no intention of becoming anything more. She got pregnant and I did what any religious person does in a situation like this: I bought a ring.
We tried to play house. She stayed with her folks through the pregnancy (religion, right?), and a couple of months after the birth of our beautiful daughter, without being in a “sanctified” marriage, she finally moved in with me.
It worked out pretty good for … a couple of weeks. After that, the annoyances started to build up and we were wearing on each other.
Having a daughter didn’t dissolve the reasons we didn’t work. Our differences were only magnified. This, in addition to her parents and her grandparents not really liking me, I wanted out. I tried to get her to break up with me, but she was loyal.
The whole time, her family didn’t like me. She and I fought often. We were poor and were holding each other back. But I wanted the best for my daughter—our daughter.
In church, you hear about the fatherless often, and I didn’t want to do that to my little baby. You hypothesize the future: you leave and your child turns to drugs, bullies others, joins up with the wrongs kind of friends…This exaggerated view of a “broken home” is strong, especially when you’re looking for the exit sign.
The exit sign is the light at the end of the tunnel sometimes.
I knew life could be better but everyone tells you that staying in the right thing. You get a girl pregnant. You stay.
I wanted to be good. I wanted to do the right thing. I bought the ring but I didn’t know what to do next. A ring doesn’t come with an instruction manual.
I started to wonder if I might be a better father if I wasn’t in a relationship with my daughter’s mother. I was confident I could make more progress personally, professionally, and financially. I knew I needed to grow up and wasn’t sure I could do that in my situation.
Finally, on a wonderful couple-day vacation to the Seattle area, I made it official and broke up with her at the end of it. “But why?” people would ask all of the time. “Why, after you had the best couple of days with her?”
Because I wanted it to end well.
I wanted the last memory of us together to be good.
But nothing ends good. It dragged out. She lived with me. Her stuff was in my apartment. We had a daughter.
It didn’t end well. And like I was with most relationships before I was 30, I was naive.
Nothing ends well. Otherwise, it wouldn’t end.
I did grow from it, though. Sometimes to become a more secure, mature, responsible person, you just have to walk away.
Knowing when, that is wisdom.