On Regrets

I kissed another man when I was dating my husband. He was a man who I had seen around town many times. I thought he was handsome. He had eyes that gave me shivers, and he looked at me in a way that made me feel special. I had been dating Caleb for a few months, and we had decided that we would not date other people, but Caleb was at his sister’s wedding in West Virginia, and I went out with my friends. I saw that man, and he looked at me in the same way, but this time, he came over and said hello. We talked for a long time, and I said nothing about Caleb.

I let him walk me home. I let him come inside my apartment. We listened to Bright Eyes on my stereo and talked for an hour, then he kissed me. I had wanted that moment for so long, and suddenly, it was happening, but the time was no longer right. I pulled away and told him that I was sorry, but I was seeing someone. He was so kind. He said that he appreciated my honesty, that he wished he had approached me sooner. He then told me that relationships don’t always last forever, and if mine didn’t, he hoped I would call him.

My relationship didn’t last forever, but it lasted too long for me to call that man. And I regret that. I regret that missed opportunity.

I have so many regrets.

I regret picking my husband up from the airport the next day. I regret telling him about the kiss. I wanted to be honest. I made myself vulnerable, and he forgave me, but what I didn’t know was that he was forgiving because, while he was in West Virginia, he had been having sex with another woman. He did not tell me about this woman, and he did not tell her about me. He also had sex with many other women while we were together, but he did not tell me that either.

I regret not being smarter when he told me that, while on a drunken road trip to Nevada with a friend who was a married man, Caleb had taken a “tour” of a brothel while his friend disappeared into another room with a prostitute. Later, while hanging out with some of his friends, one of them asked me if I knew about the brothel, and I said that it was fine, that he had just taken a tour. I regret not knowing what their silence meant. I regret not knowing why they were looking at each other as though they felt sorry for me.

I regret that, when my best friend came to me and said that one of Caleb’s professors had told her he didn’t think I should marry Caleb, I didn’t listen. The professor thought that I didn’t know Caleb. He thought that Caleb was misrepresenting himself to me. He was right, but I chose to believe Caleb over the professor, and I regret that.

I regret pushing Caleb to tell me the truth when the sick feeling in my gut started to overwhelm me. I regret pushing him to tell me the truth because he did, but he didn’t tell me all of it. He only told me bits and pieces of the truth, and I was left trying to piece together the rest of the puzzle. I was going slowly crazy, so I regret ever seeking the truth. I still don’t have it, but I have all of that pain of trying to find it.

I regret asking him for the truth because that pressure is what made him crack. When I started to see the real Caleb, instead of the Caleb he wanted to be, he cracked. And he hated himself. And he hated me. And maybe hitting me was the only thing that made him feel better. When the lies started to unravel, the blows started.

I regret staying with him when he made all of his promises–when he went to Sex Addicts Anonymous (that wasn’t the problem), when he went to Alcoholics Anonymous (that wasn’t the problem), when he went to Anger Management (that wasn’t the problem), when he took medication (that wasn’t the problem). Each of those promises was just another Hail Mary in his quest to keep me from leaving him, and I fell for them. I regret that.

I regret thinking that I could fix him.

I regret thinking that, if I fixed myself in some way, it would fix him.

I regret loving him even after I had seen the darkness inside of him.

I regret marrying him even though I sobbed on my mother’s shoulder the night before the wedding. I regret chalking my tears up to nerves instead of intuition.

When I think back on my life, I mark events as B.C. (Before Caleb) and A.C. (After Caleb):

A.C. Kelly still dreams about the look in his eyes, the one he had right before he was going to explode.

A.C. Kelly can’t make Spaghetti Carbonara because she remembers him throwing the hot bowl of spaghetti on the kitchen floor. She remembers knowing that she was next.

A.C. Kelly can’t listen to Bright Eyes because it reminds her of that period in her life when everything seemed bright, right before it all fell apart.

A.C. Kelly can’t have long hair. She cut it all off so that no man could ever rip it out again.

A.C. Kelly cries when she watches How I Met Your Mother because the marriage between Lily and Marshall is so sweet and respectful, and she knows she’ll never have a Marshall.

A.C. Kelly fears that Marshalls don’t really exist, but she knows that Calebs do.

B.C. Kelly was this girl:

A.C. Kelly misses that girl. That girl didn’t know what was coming.

2 thoughts on “On Regrets

  1. Anonymous

    Yours is the first blog or writing I have found that has truly resonated with me. I read a lot of DV writings and think, well, what I lived with wasn't as bad as that and maybe I'm just overreacting and maybe I didn't try hard enough and he didn't financially control me or tell me what to wear or who to see, so maybe it really wasn't abuse. But I, too, lived through the name calling (so much so that it seems normal) and explosive rage and the violence. I still live with the fear. A few months ago I posted something on a blog I had started thinking he would never see it, but he did, and he went wild. This is why I am commenting anonymously. I am still afraid. Thank you for sharing this with me. You make me feel less crazy.

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  2. Anonymous

    This comment, and all of your writing, Kelly, really resonate with me as well. I spent the last year in a relationship that seemed, almost immediately, to be the one I'd been looking for. As a mid-30s, very selective dater, I was charmed by my partner's intelligence, his mix of arrogance and self-deprecation, his social justice ideals. His dimples. It felt very much like I'd arrived in a comfort zone, one abounding in shared references and passions, including for each other (though I had my reservations about superficial things at first — his height, his aversion to the kind of workout routine I was committed to. But our connection in every other area soon trumped these concerns). He was very forthcoming about his past, telling me about the ostensible misunderstanding that led to a DV charge for him in his last relationship. DV had never touched my life, and I thought myself too educated and self-aware for it to do so. But soon, the fights began. And as the commenter above references, the name calling and explosive rage became a regular occurrence. The calm period would last a week or a few max, and then, another fight that seemed to me unwarranted. He never hit me but he threatened to, and I marvel at how hard it's been for me to leave. I'm always willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Which, ironically, is the opposite of the trust he extends toward me while in the paranoid state that spurs the name calling etc. I write all of this in the hopes that, like I have begun to, someone else may recognize the troubling patterns that indicate abuse, and know that they are very unlikely to change or improve.

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