moving on

What I Wish My Ex-Husband Had Seen

We were deeply incompatible. I learned that too late.

images of a broken male doll in a tuxedo
Emma Chao/Scary Mommy; Stocksy
The Divorce Issue

I once read that not everyone goes around with a constant internal dialogue inside their head and was dumbfounded. That sounds peaceful… and bizarre.

Alas, I am (drumroll) not one of those people. Constant, I mean constant, dialogue is happening inside my brain. I'm neurodivergent and have a tendency toward hyper-empathy; I am (is that drumroll still going on?) emotional and, at times, anxious.

And for a long time this quality of mine was seen as a negative by my then-husband. He would tell me to bottle up my emotions or "calm down," a phrase he liked to use when I was in the middle of an epic Justin Bieber dance party in the kitchen or when tickling the kids. He would tell me my behavior — i.e., excessive silliness — would "cause dysregulation." Sure, he has his doctorate in child development psychology, but that's no way to talk to your spouse.

With him, work trumped everything. I spent our years together putting aside my desires to follow him around the country. His job mattered more; he mattered more. I'd do my best to support him by reducing his stress as much as I could — without much emotional support and connection in return.

The most persistent and cyclical thought I had was, "Meg, don't you dare get sick. Sickness causes stress on your husband. He is already supremely stressed with graduate school/postdoctoral work/tenure-tracking, and he needs the rest of the areas of his life to be easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy."

The thing was, life always has other stressors: Relationships are messy, loved ones die, and health can be complicated. At times, he'd listen, but at other times, he would completely ignore me. Still, for reasons I won't go into and for lack of space on the internet, I saw him as the ultimate parent and was quite agreeable to anything he said, even when that incessant dialogue in my head would tell me something wasn't right.

So I stayed, unseen by the man I made vows to over a decade prior. I put aside much of who I am and tried to make "home" in him rather than finding that sense of stability and love within myself. I longed for an emotional connection with him, but he's not an easy person to open up to or with.

The problem with us — since it really wasn't all him — is that we are deeply incompatible. He's logical, I'm emotional. After all, I was initially attracted to him because of his brain. He came across as super mature and focused. On dates, we'd discuss science and various studies he was reading from top journals in psychology, and I soaked up all of that. His intellect was sexy, and that whole "opposites attract" was a truth… until it wasn't.

Sometimes, "opposites attract" doesn't lead to a long-term, healthy, and solid marriage. I lived much of my married life to my ex unseen and thus unknown — I literally tried not to be seen toward the end of it by developing a bit of undiagnosed depression and by becoming more silent within our home. I kept that dialogue inside my head to myself.

So, after more than a decade of utmost commitment, I left. I left to go be seen again. Seen first by myself and then by others. And it turns out that I'm OK. I'm actually more than OK. I'm remarried to a man whose brain works more similarly to mine, and it's amazing. We see each other.

Yes, part of me wants to get an epic apology from my ex for making me feel insignificant and unseen, but even more than that, I want him to be stupidly happy and even find someone who is more logic-leaning. I think many people think you wish harm on your ex(es), but that's not the case in my situation. I want him to find a person who brings out his best qualities. I want him to find someone he genuinely likes. I want him to see someone — because I think if that happens, he will experience a love I could not give him, as much as I wanted to.

At the end of the day, I truly believe when humans are loved in the way they need, they fly. I want him to fly.

I learned so much and continue to learn as the years pass when I reflect on that marriage. I'm no longer tuning out the dialogue inside my head that gives me fair warning that something isn't sitting right. I'm listening. I'm no longer trying to suppress my emotions to present myself as someone I am not; I'm leaning into those. I've realized and have seen that my emotions can be celebrated and tended to by a partner who is also a feeler. I can be my Meg-self and still be a really neat human. Because I am seen, I can fly — and I am flying.

I hope others who are in marriages where something is massively off realize this, too. I hope we start normalizing that sometimes what seems good and right initially can transform into something that might actually be harmful for both involved, and it's a loving act to walk away.

Meg Raby is a mom, children's author of the My Brother Otto series, and Autistic residing in Salt Lake City, where you can find her playing and working with neurodivergent children as a Speech Language Pathologist and friend, or writing and planning big things in the second booth at her local coffee shop that overlooks the Wasatch Mountains while sipping on her Americano. Meg believes the essence of life is to understand, love and welcome others (aka, to give a damn about humans).