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Lessons from a shattered dream

“I did not marry you to be married to a bartender!” I should have paid more attention to the truth of her words, they clearly stated that she did not love me for who I am.

In retrospect, it was the most obvious red flag she ever waved, but I was young, naive and in love, and the real meaning went right over my head.

“I’m not a bartender; I’m a writer,” I replied defensively.

“You’re not a writer; you’re not published.”

It was a sucker punch. She knew I was writing eight hours a day, five days a week, and had for years. She knew I had completed dozens of short stories and two novels. She also knew I had a stack of rejection letters to show for each.

My wife of three years was saying the same sort of things that my father had said. It was a sore spot for me, and a fight we would repeat many times.

A short time later, she asked me to become a partner in her business. She explained that she wanted to expand the business into several new states, and needed help to do it, but couldn’t afford to hire someone. She said my experience in advertising would be beneficial to the company.

I was already feeling guilty that I was not more of a success in her eyes; and thinking I could win her love for good, I acquiesced. My decision meant working up to sixteen hours a day in an industry I hated. It meant travelling alone all over the southeastern United States by car, selling a product I didn’t understand or believe in. Worst of all, it meant giving up writing full time. It was the biggest sacrifice I have made in my life. And, in the end, it went completely unappreciated. Four years later, a change in the industry caused us to close the business.

By that time, I’d lost the momentum of writing fiction. On the other hand, I had learned so much from the experience of marketing my own company that I was able to take that knowledge and assist other companies in growing their business. But, the biggest benefit I gained from the experience wouldn’t come until years later when we divorced.

As our marriage deteriorated and the fighting escalated, one day she yelled at me, “You’ve never done anything for me.”

“Are you kidding me?” I cried. “I gave up my biggest dream for you! I quit writing fiction to help you build your business, and I’ve never been able to get fully back into it.”

She said, “That was a long time ago. I’m talking about now.”

I was shocked, my loving gift had meant nothing to her.

Love is a powerful motivator that drives us to do all sorts of things. It puts a spring in our step, and at the beginning will even make us believe we live in a perfect world. Too often, however, we fail to begin the process in the right place.

The good news for me is that my divorce started me asking questions about myself. I needed to understand why my marriage didn’t work. And, what my part had been in its demise.

Surprisingly, I was eventually led to the wisdom of William Shakespeare:
“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”

I learned that in order to win true love, you must love yourself first.

When you love yourself, that is, take care of your needs and dreams, you develop the self-confidence to attract a lover who will respect you. And, while there may be compromises, there will never be sacrifices.

Nowadays, when I find myself acting all goofy around an attractive woman, I start singing these words from rocker Big Bopper’s Chantilly Lace:
“Chantilly lace had a pretty face;
And a pony tail hanging down.
That wiggle in the walk and giggle in the talk;
Makes the world go round.
There ain’t nothing in the world like a big-eyed girl;
That make me act so funny,
Make me spend my money;
Make me feel real loose like a long-necked goose.
Oh baby, that’s what I like!”

Then, I laugh myself back to reality.

– Robert Wilson 

• Robert Wilson is an author, humorist and innovation consultant. He is also the author of the children’s book, The Annoying Ghost Kid. For info, visit www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com.

Posted: Oct 31, 2012

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