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When Stories Fail Us


Me and him. And her.

by Anonymous

When Stories Fail Us | A Practical Wedding

I met the love of my life, A, two months before he found out he was going to be a father. Our meeting was one of those immediate connections with fireworks and vibrations in your core that I thought only existed in stories. We were enjoying carefree, single-person lives and loving it, but figured out we felt mutual earthquakes and heart palpitations quickly. Meeting up casually on Friday nights quickly turned into goodnight texts and surprising each other with food and coffee on busy Tuesdays. Then Wednesdays and Thursdays.

I was one of the first people he told about his son.

We were lying down on the bed, holding each other after our respective long days. He started telling me about a girl named S, and how they had casually been together in the past. His story dragged on, until eventually he got to the long-delayed line he was so scared to say: “I’m going to be a father.”

I pulled away and sat up, looking at him. “Say that again?”

“I’m going to have a son.”

“Wait, what? Son? How far along is S?”

“Four months.”

“Oh. …. Are you getting back together? What does this mean for us?”

“No. And I don’t know.”

My mind was spinning. There were a million more questions to ask, but I couldn’t find the words. So I settled down, this time putting my arms around him.

“Congratulations. And I’m sorry.”

He held me like his life depended on it, and we’ve been holding each other tightly ever since.

As the months went by our relationship only strengthened, as we realized that everything else aside, this was the partnership we had both dreamed about. No matter what happened, we were worth it. We supported each other in the stressful moments that made up only a fraction of our otherwise amazing life.

I got a great job at home, three thousand miles away, and we’re doing the long-distance dance. I proposed first, during a visit in the fall, writing it out on a napkin I now have framed. He made me a ring, and gave it to me on bended knee the night we celebrated our January Christmas, with a tree we cut down from the woods. We’re planning to get married winter of 2015. If this were a fairytale, our love story would be that simple. We overcame a time of adversity, only to emerge triumphant and carefree in time for the credits to roll.

But this is real life, where you can’t always choose the other characters that you meet along the way, and there is no such thing as good and evil. Only complicated people. Our life’s story will always include S, and their son. He’s a happy, healthy baby, with a million possibilities in front of him and surrounded by people who love him. Including S. And the story she had planned for herself did not involve me.

S had feelings for A, and wanted to be a mom. She thought A would be excited to have a son with her, as he had raised a child not biologically his for eight years in a previous relationship only to have contact cut off when he left the deeply problematic relationship. (I like my wine and coffee like I like my men: complex. His path is a tale for another time.) The story she had written involved cohabiting co-parenting, and a future as a happy family together out of her parent’s basement.

We all react differently when reality is different than how we imagined. S feels betrayed by A. She is angry. At us. At me. At what she saw as a chance to change her life for the better, only to fall further into the grips of the spiral of poverty. None of us are financially well off, but A and I have advantages she does not, including established careers (him) and college degrees (me). There is only so much we can do.

S loves her son, and wants the best for him. So does his father. And so do I. If I somehow thought leaving the love of my life would help his baby boy grow up in a happier, more stable environment, then that is what I would do. The tension between S and me is not healthy, to the point where my anxiety has me almost physically ill at times. I can only guess how it’s affecting her, as I’m hardly her confidante, but living with this kind of stress and hostility can never be a good thing. Our relationship is Newtonian in nature, where one puts in energy and the other reacts just as fiercely in opposition. But my leaving would just lead to more sorrow in what should be a happy time for everyone.

This is the path I am on. I have accepted that. This includes mourning the life A and I could have had. I allow myself to imagine it once in awhile, in the moments where we can forget the hostility that’s being sent in our direction.

Then I look again, at the life I actually have. I love A. We are lucky to have found each other. Planning our wedding and our life together is a joyful act. I don’t know exactly where the different twists and bends along this road will take us, and there’s beauty in that.

I just hope that somehow S and I will find some peace. Because we might have at least one thing in common. We are each struggling to reconcile the place where our stories meet. Hoping that maybe, possibly, there will be a happy ending.

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  • http://rationalcreature.com/ Amy

    This is an incredibly heavy subject, but you seem to be navigating it with such grace and light. Well done, dear. Wishing you and A, and S and her son, strength and happiness.

  • MDBethann

    Best wishes to you, A, and S as you navigate a path to create a loving environment for yourselves and A’s son. I hope you will all be able to find peace in your own way and that your wedding and marriage to A will be a loving and joy-filled one.

  • Sarah

    Thank you for sharing this. Although our story is different, I can still relate. No one every expects to have to negotiate their partner’s past in this way. When things don’t turn out like a romantic comedy it can be hard to explain to others, let alone yourself. It sounds like you’re handling things with more grace than most though- good luck!

  • SM

    Oh, anonymous. I feel for you. Who expects these things? Did you daydream about marrying the love of your life and suddenly being tied tightly to his ex who maintains a hostility toward you that really has nothing to do with you personally but is nonetheless difficult to brush off and how is this going to affect their child who is now your stepchild and is your relationship strong enough to survive all of this and OH MY GOD IT’S SO COMPLICATED.

    No one can expect these things and yet they happen and we hold hands and jump. I can tell by how you write about it that you are beginning this new life in a thoughtful, open, and mature way. That’s the best you can do.

    I have similar-yet-different circumstances. I write about them here and I love hearing from people who are also living similar-yet-different circumstances: http://myyoungyears.com/2014/04/02/the-realm-of-the-hypothetical/

    • SM

      Just wanted to add that if it’s inappropriate to post that link here, I apologize and will take it down. I linked it in one of my comments on the last APW post about being a stepparent and was really happy to “meet” a lot of great women in similar situations who came over from that link. I don’t make any money from the blog or anything – I honestly just want to communicate with others in blended families. :)

      • Meg Keene

        Oh god, totally fine!!

  • Nicole Cherae

    This is a beautiful peace. My heart froze when I read the title. I found myself in a similar situation. I was dating my now fiance for about six months when he found out his ex was pregnant. It has been a stressful, confusing, difficult, complicated ride in so many ways. Thank you for sharing.

  • Anonny

    This is so close to our story. Only the disappointed parties are the parents. M and B get along great and are committed to co-parenting little B. I have always known about B and little B and we get along as well as can be expected. But both sets of parents had dreams for their children and none of them involved me. B doesn’t blame me for her and M not being together (they never really dated in the first place), but both parents sure do. When M and I announced our engagement, we were met with silence. In my head I know that it will take time for his parents to process that really and truly, M and B are never raising little B as a married couple. But it just stings that they are using our engagement to do so.

  • Daniella

    Your honesty and grace is incredible. Sending you lots of good thoughts!

  • Anonforthis

    Kudos to APW for once again taking on difficult topics and stories that don’t fit into the WIC version of what a wedding story is supposed to look like; sympathies and strength to the author of the post.

  • Stacey Fraser

    Very impressed at how respectfully you are considering everyone’s feelings in this.

  • z

    Am I the only one who’s a little uncomfortable with this? I definitely don’t find it respectful. The picture of S isn’t pretty– and maybe that’s how it really is– but it seems a little condescending too. Uneducated, basement-dwelling, impoverished, hints of gold-digging and entrapment, not much nice to say… if you wrote this about me, I’d feel pretty hostile too.

    And maybe she has good reasons for feeling betrayed. Seems like A’s role in the baby-making decision is a missing piece of the puzzle here.

    • MTM

      But this isn’t about A and his role in the baby-making. The author stayed anonymous and acknowledged S’s feelings, so I did not read this as disrespectful. The author is sharing how she feels about her relationship to the parties involved. Stating her and A’s privilege is not condescending — it’s simply the reality of her situation, and something that many couples who share custody struggle with. Society makes it really easy to make the future step mom the villain, but the author seems like she is trying to make the best out of a difficult situation.

    • Marybeth

      Agreed. I was cringing reading this.

    • laddibugg

      I just think ‘I’m sorry’ is a weird thing to say when someone tells you they are going to have a child. That’s what rubbed me the wrong way about this. It sounded like he dreaded telling her, not that he dreaded having a baby.

      • Eh

        I took the “I’m sorry” as her saying that she was apologizing for her reaction and all of her questions that he couldn’t answer since he hadn’t figured that out yet. She did ask him at least two sets of questions before she congratulated him.

      • MTM

        Having a child (and now a life long commitment) to someone with whom you are not in a relationship with and did not intend to have a child with probably isn’t a 100% cheerful situation. That doesn’t mean he would love the child any less, but is probably not a situation he would choose. I read the “Congratulations. I’m sorry” as accurately stating the mixed emotions of the situation.

    • Jacky Speck

      I read it as one side of a complicated story, and A and S would probably have different views of the situation if they were writing this.

      I also got a sense that the author knows she is only telling one side of the story. She doesn’t seem to blame S or be insensitive to her feelings. For example, she said that there is “tension between them” and “one puts in energy and the other reacts just as fiercely in opposition” instead of “S is causing tension” and “S acts fiercely in opposition to me.”

    • VenusAD

      I didn’t read it like that at all. She clearly says that S had feelings for A and saw the pregnancy as an opprotunity for them to form a happy family. That’s not gold digging, that’s unrequited love. Now, she may be putting through and expectations on S that she didn’t actually have, but it’s not clearly conveyed if these are the writer’s assumptions or if S has said that this was the story she was hoping for (I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s told A and A passed the story along to the writer).

    • Sugar

      Its makes my uncomfortable because generally don’t get it.

      You’ve known the guys for all of 2 months, and decide to stick around for his irresponsible baby making?! It ain’t that much love in the world for me to do something like that. I truly don’t believe in ops babies.

      • Anon24

        I’m in a similar situation to the author, but further down the line (for him). My finacee dated his ex for two months before finding out she was 4 months pregnant. The biological father wanted no part in the child, and the mother wanted to keep the baby. They had an on/off again relationship, but two years later, she was pregnant again (his). Shortly thereafter they got married, as he thought it was best for both kids to have a dad around. Well, she has drug/alcohol problems and took off (came back, took off again, etc). In an effort to keep the older child safe, he had his name added to the birth certificate, so he is legally responsible for her. The mother of the children is now rarely heard from, in and out of jail and he’s changed his whole life around to raise both kids on his own. In the divorce, he even got full custody of both children. The kids are now 10/12 years old, and I’ve been around for almost two years. He’s amazing. The way he has handled this situation and how fierecely he has fought for these kids is the greatest demonstration of his character, and I love him so much for it. Granted all of this had already happened when I met him, but he had only known her for two months when he made the decision to stick around. I just don’t think it’s as simple as you are making it. Accidents do really happen, and it’s not always for the good or for the bad. It just is.

  • http://cheriarmour.com Cheri Armour

    You know what I like about this? You didn’t once cast S in a negative light, like I feel a lot of women might. Very very very graceful of you!

    http://cheriarmour.com

  • Jen

    I wish all of you the very best. And I appreciate deeply how this post captures the bigger goal of safety and security for that little one without a voice or choice while you each move forward (even painfully) to discover a path for yourselves and him in a place that will be a place to grow under the love of many.

  • Lily

    This sentence really stood out to me: “The tension between S and me is not healthy, to the point where my anxiety has me almost physically ill at times.” My partner has children from a prior relationship, so I can easily empathize with you here. From what I know of blended families (reading and studying about them became an obsession when I got with my partner) tension between the stepmother and the mother can be a pretty negative force for the kids, not to mention the stepmother (which you are already feeling) and that tension can make the relationship with your partner more challenging. I feel compelled by that sentence, that whole paragraph, to offer some advice – given how awful it is between you two, how about stopping all interactions with her? From what you are saying, it sounds like you would all be better off if the communication regarding the child, custody hand-offs, etc, were all between just your partner and the child’s mother, leaving you blissfully out of the loop and reducing stress for everyone involved.

    Best wishes to you as you navigate this challenging time. You aren’t alone!