I dream about my ex-husband from time-to-time and it always does a number on my psyche the next day. He is, in dreams, much as he was while we were married. He is always young; always beautiful, always funny and generous. He is also capricious, giving and withholding love and affection in equal measure. I was never sure when we were married that he was consciously doing it as a means of controlling me, though it certainly had that affect. Time has softened a lot of my memories and it’s very simple for me to remember the good times with him. But there were so many bad moments. The week after our wedding, he fell into a deep depression from which it took almost a month to recover. He thought our marriage was a mistake. He thought he’d ruined his life by joining his fate with mine, but he advised me not to take this personally. He gave up a full-ride scholarship to a prestigious university located out-of-state for the flimsiest of reasons. He gave up on so many dreams and ambitions and, though it wasn’t said in so many words, I understood that it was somehow because of me. When he rebounded suddenly it was surprising. He was buoyant, full of energy and life, up, uP, UP until suddenly he wasn’t again. The pattern would continue for our six and a half years of marriage. I understand now that he had an emotional or psychological condition that could have been treated, but back then, I owned it. I wore his mood like an outfit and I took personal responsibility for both his ups and downs. Neither did me any justice. I was no picnic to live with, either, given my massive insecurities and phobias, which seemed to magnify with each of his ups and downs. We fed off one another’s worst traits-the dissolution of our marriage was inevitable.
In my dreams, I revert from the confident, happy, self-sufficient adult I grew into. I’m young again and insecure and I desperately crave his approval. Just as before, he seems to blame me for something I can’t even possibly begin to understand, so he withholds. I still follow him begging, pathetically, and he shuns me while still beckoning me forward. When I wake, I am confused and disoriented and for a moment, it feels like it all just happened; like we just barely mutually agreed to stop hurting one another and let go. I still feel like the only loser even though I know both of us were. And I still, deep down inside, want it to go back to the way it was before we got married when time together was the only thing we wanted. And I’m angry, so furious with myself for being pathetic and begging. For the next few days, I will feel off somehow until the dream fades away and I forget again.
I dreamt of him again last night. We were up north in a place I’ve never been in real life, not far from the university he would have attended in our original plan. The dream had the usual hallmarks; the absurd situations, the sense that no time had passed, and I still craved his love and approval. I followed him in my dreams for what felt like ages. We lived lifetimes and in the dream we pursued our ambitions together until just before we’d met our last goal through thousands of ups and downs, just before the moment we could finally slow down and just be, he stopped. He just stopped, like he’d done after our wedding; stopped moving and talking and gave into his despair. He seemed to revel in it and he took pains to ensure I understood that even though I was not the cause, I was still somehow the cause. Ordinarily, I wake up at this point, my cheeks wet with tears and sleep will elude me the rest of the night. But this time, I slept and I stayed in the dream and I felt something that I’d never felt during them before: anger. I was furious with him; furious that he only wanted to live in the large, expansive, profound moments and had no appreciation for the small, still, and mundane moments. I hated that he felt a failure for having had an ordinary day and lacked the ability to see the threads of love and family that could have made it anything but ordinary. I yelled at him for his fear to trust himself and his fear to trust in me. I said horrible things to him in my anger but it was so satisfying to verbalize my rage, I couldn’t stop. I didn’t temper my words with compassion or understanding. I just let loose. And then just as quickly, my rage evaporated. We stared at each other in my dream and the words died on my lips. And then he smiled at me, the way he used to, with kindness and affection and kinship. He held my hand in his and I could feel it-that once again we would mutually agree to stop hurting one another; to let go. And then I woke up.
It’s the first time that a dream about him didn’t leave me in tears. I felt hope. I felt like somehow, even if only in the dream, we’d finally forgiven each other for being young and terrified and inexperienced and desperately in love anyway. I felt forgiven for having let go.
I don’t keep in touch with him. I am not sure we could ever be friends again. Too many things have happened and the hurts were too much-I don’t know if we could ever get past them. Aside from that we have both moved on. Though I have not remarried, I have followed my heart and found happiness and friendship. He found love with someone else and moved out of state. I haven’t seen him in almost 18 years and based on how I’ve grown and changed over the years, I am sure he is a completely different person now, one who would be a stranger to me if our paths crossed. When I’m asked about my one attempt at marriage, I always (truthfully) reply that he’s a genuinely good man who deserves happiness and joy, but I still felt a little hollow when I thought about it. But I don’t today. I spoke my mind and even if it was only in a dream, I know I was heard. Maybe it was the universe or maybe it was the 19-year-old lovesick girl inside of me who finally forgave me but I feel like an old chapter finally ended and a new one has begun.