Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Updates: “Baggage Claim” Responds

It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing today. After the jump, we hear from “Baggage Claim” whose letter appeared in a “Your Turn” column late last month month. She was the 21-year-old military woman who’d just ended a whirlwind marriage that went from bad to worse really quickly. And while she was relieved to close that dramatic chapter of her life, she wrote: “I don’t know how I can move past these angry feelings and finally feel a full sense of closure […]. I feel like I can’t trust my judgment on men anymore seeing as I was completely blindsided in my last relationship. So what would be the best way to approach dating as well as moving on from all the baggage of my marriage? After the jump, see how you advice has helped her and how she’s doing today.

Thank you so much for posting my letter on your site! Most of the reader comments were so helpful and touching, and being an avid reader of your site I was elated to see my letter posted. As it usually goes in updates, there was more to the story than I was able to articulate in my letter, and given some of the comments I figured it would be better to clear a few things up. First of all, when my ex and I met I was still moving forward from getting burned in a previous relationship three months prior, and therefore I was on the rebound. Granted, I take full responsibility for not being completely healed before I jumped into another relationship, but he seemed so genuine and devoted to me it was nice to be wanted and feel a sense of security.

I whole-heartedly agree that you should at least live with someone for a year before marrying them, and I have always believed in that, but being in the military is a completely different world for relationships than it is as a civilian. I’m not saying people shouldn’t take responsibility for their mistakes, I’ve taken full responsibility for rushing into a marriage with a man I barely knew, and have suffered the repercussions and humiliation that comes with the failure of that marriage, but you would be shocked to know that 70% of the people I’ve met in the military are either unhappy in their marriage, separated, or divorced. Not saying that this is an excuse in any way for my personal situation, but the military does force people to choose the decision to get married too soon by either not allowing them to be stationed near their significant other if they are both enlisted or by a couple not being able to afford a normal living situation unless they are making marriage pay.

Also, before my ex and I were married he seemed to be the most mature, caring, wonderful person I had ever known. He NEVER had crazy outbursts, or temper tantrums before then; he always seemed level-headed and understanding. However, a week after we were married we had an insignificant argument about something (so insignificant I can’t even remember what caused it) and he proceeded to cry hysterically, refused to let me leave the room to get some space, and punched himself in the head repeatedly. This was obviously the beginning of the end, but since I had never seen this behavior before I felt obligated to try and make it work. After a few months of marriage I eventually called him out on the way he was acting by saying it seemed that he had been holding back and hiding his problems from me while we were dating. His exact response was, “Would you have married me otherwise?” That is how I knew he had deliberately hidden these things from me.

Now, to my own personal update: I have begun seeing my therapist again and she has been amazing at helping me move past my anger and resentment towards him and towards myself. She also suggested writing letters or emails to him and not sending them, and honestly that has been very therapeutic. Also, yelling my feelings out loud in the privacy of my room has also helped — some of my neighbors think I’m a little crazy but oh well! Haha. I am slowly but surely making progress and letting go of the pain and frustration, and therapy has also helped me with my confidence level. I have started dating a little bit — nothing serious just having fun and meeting new people and it has helped a lot as well. I plan on continuing moving forward and not living in regret, because I have learned and grown so much from this experience; it has definitely made me a better, stronger person. Thank you so much again for the help from your wonderful readers!

Thank you for the update. I’m really happy to hear that you’re doing well and that therapy is helping you so much. Here’s to happier, more functional relationships in the future!

 
If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at [email protected] with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.

19 comments… add one
  • avatar

    MsMisery July 26, 2011, 12:37 pm

    Glad you’re healing!!

    And yeah, my bff was in the Navy. She married pretty young because she and her boyfriend at the time would have been deliberately separated (stationed at opposite ends) by the Navy since they were not married. Of course, then she got preggo and ended up leaving the military life, so she didn’t have to worry about being stationed herself anyway…

    Anyway, keep up the therapy 🙂

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  • avatar

    El July 26, 2011, 12:43 pm

    This is great news, LW, but my heart breaks for your ex-husband.

    He seems to honestly feel like he’s undeserving of love because of his mental condition. I sincerely hope that he seeks therapy as well.

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  • avatar

    Greebo July 26, 2011, 1:31 pm

    Good for you!

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  • avatar

    mcj2011 July 26, 2011, 2:38 pm

    great news! Happy healing and good luck to you!

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  • avatar

    SGMcG July 26, 2011, 2:40 pm

    I love updates like this! Good for you LW! Keep rewarding yourself for every phase of MOAing that you cross.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark July 26, 2011, 4:00 pm

    Interesting. But it’s still more than a little troubling that she still seems unable to accept any responsibility for her own actions and thus her own mistakes. It’s all blame, blame, blame. Rationalize, rationalize, rationalize… I was on the rebound. Bad relationship. (Really? Surprise, surprise…) I hadn’t “healed.” Everybody in the military is unhappily married. My psycho ex husband deliberately mislead me… Blah, blah, blah. Woe is she, the hapless victim of circumstances she cannot control.

    I dunno. Writing (unsent) angry letters and emails to a mentally ill ex seems a wee bit childish. As does yelling out her feelings so loudly that her neighbors very well (and with good reason, I might add) all think she is a little nuts.

    Hey, I wish her the best of luck, but I am not exactly convinced she is somebody I’d want anybody I know to date. Whoops… Now, of course, I have violated the Rah Rah Sisterhood, you go, Girl! mentality that pervades around here… So go on, everybody, bring on out the purple thumbs…

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    • theattack

      theattack July 26, 2011, 4:09 pm

      Writing unsent letters is a very healthy way of sorting through emotions. What’s childish about working through your issues in a way that doesn’t harm others? Do you think she should have sent the letters? THAT might have been childish to start unnecessary drama. It’s an extremely common technique, and therapists recommend using it very frequently.

      And did you read where she said that she was taking blame for jumping into the relationship too soon? She admitted that she was wrong in doing that, which is not blaming the situation on anyone but her. She took the blame for not healing before she jumped in. Those are explanations of her own behavior, not excuses where she explained what other people did wrong to her.

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    • avatar

      Amber July 26, 2011, 4:15 pm

      Actually writing letters to people and not sending them is something that’s suggested by many therapists for a variety of reasons. You get to say what you need to and work things out in your head. When I was in therapy as a child they gave us foam bats to hit pillows with to deal with anger and emotions we couldn’t express in words. If it works and helps you move on and deal with your issues AND isn’t hurting anyone in the process, more power to you.

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    • avatar

      MJ July 27, 2011, 12:38 pm

      Not sure why you feel like you have to attack everyone on the site in addition to the letter writer. People do what they need to do to cope with stuff. She says multiple times in this letter that the responsibility for many of the things she did is hers.

      There’s a place for tough love, and it’s why I love my guy friends…they are not part of the Rah-Rah Sisterhood and tell me things that I don’t want to hear. But they have compassion, too. It must suck to be as bitter and angry as you are.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark July 26, 2011, 4:15 pm

    I’m sorry, I simply don’t read her letter that way at all. Sure, at the top she gives brief lip service to how she accepts responsibility for a whole line or two… then proceeds to go on with paragraph after paragraph about how, really, none of it was her fault…

    The original letter had ZERO self reflection.

    Amazingly, a month later, this one appears to have even less.

    With regards to the letter writing… I’ve heard it helps, yes. But usually it’s ONE letter. Not numerous letters over and over again. And of course I don’t recommend her sending them. For God’s sake, she has already blamed the poor guy enough.

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    • theattack

      theattack July 26, 2011, 5:03 pm

      Who cares if it takes more than one letter? People heal differently, and there’s no reason to be judgmental about that.

      I really just don’t see her blaming others for this. I see explanations of what happened with self-blame for most of it.

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  • avatar

    EmFerg July 26, 2011, 5:00 pm

    I have to say I totally see bittergaymark’s points here. Although I will say, this LW doesn’t sound unique at all. So many young women claim to “grow” and “learn” and “heal” from bad relationships but when they explain and look back, you see they haven’t grown at all or learned to take any responsibility for what happened. The guy she married was crazy for sure, but don’t say that just because the military wasn’t going to let your 3 month-long relationship thrive in the same town, that your only option was to get married. I mean seriously…try long distance. Get to know him slowly. He wouldn’t have been able to hide his true behavior forever and you wouldn’t be a 20 year old divorcee.

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    • avatar

      ForeverYoung July 26, 2011, 7:46 pm

      I know, all I heard was excuses. It’s great that you learned, but she could have learned these same lessons without marrying him. The other thing I love hearing from people in the army is that they have to get married to get the marriage salary. Well isn’t that just fucking romantic. Shocking, a marriage based on greed didn’t last.

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  • avatar

    demoiselle July 27, 2011, 9:30 am

    It seems to me that people are getting awfully judgmental of LWs and their updates lately, to the detriment of the community. I’m sure I am guilty of it too, but I’m sorry to see this trend because I think it makes it a less compassionate community.

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    • bittergaymark

      bittergaymark July 27, 2011, 6:23 pm

      Blind compassion and hand holding usually just encourages people to make the same mistakes again and again… God knows the LWs on this site seem to make the same mistakes again and again.

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      • avatar

        demoiselle July 27, 2011, 9:13 pm

        That’s because the LWs are not all the same person.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark July 28, 2011, 2:03 am

        Actually, in a lot of them it’s…. I was just in a horrible relationship then I rebounded into another one and blah blah blah. Again and again people make such dumb mistakes it’s exhausting. If I have to read another…. My boyfriend is awesome, oh, but he beats me letter I am going to scream.

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  • CatsMeow

    CatsMeow July 27, 2011, 10:56 am

    It’s a healing PROCESS. At least she’s getting professional help and feeling like she’s making progress. I was in a similar situation – moved across the country with someone I hadn’t been dating for very long – when he started exhibiting behavior similar to what the LW is describing. I think both my ex as well as the LW’s ex waited until we were “stuck” with them, in a sense, before showing their true colors. I know that it’s truly exhausting to be with someone like that, and unfortunately, my ex turned physically violent before I got away from him. It’s been 3 years since we’ve been broken up, and I STILL have anger inside me (especially after reading letters like this – it triggers me – but mostly I’m fine). One of the weird things was that I didn’t let myself FULLY feel all my anger and emotions until he was completely out of my life – up until then it was just denial, denial, denial… or maybe I was just in “survival mode”, I don’t know. Like, I had to just keep moving forward until he was gone, and then later it ALL hit me at once. Everything I had been pushing down inside me came to the surface at once, and it was intense. So I’m rambling, but I think it’s normal for the LW to still have a lot of anger – and honestly, some of it may be directed at herself, for getting into this situation in the first place. That’s how I was, anyway. But keep moving forward, LW, and you’ll continue to heal with time.

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  • avatar

    MissD July 27, 2011, 11:05 pm

    I agree with CatsMeow, and will add that I know of a few married couples who married after a whirlwind courtship, one of whom married when the woman was distinctly on the rebound, and those marriages are still going strong (30+ years in one case). So going forward in what seems like a healthy relationship only to find out the person you’re with isn’t who you thought they were doesn’t just happen to people who got together too quickly and under less than ideal circumstances. It happened to me, and my husband and I were together for 3 years before we got married. So, I don’t believe the LW is entirely to blame for how things turned out. I agree that generally it’s a bad idea to get married too quickly, especially on the rebound, but who’s to say he couldn’t have held off revealing his true colors for longer-i.e., long enough to get her hooked and then surprise her with the truth? And I agree that at least she’s getting help and dealing with her feelings. I’ve actually been journaling through my divorce experience, and I don’t see how venting in a journal entry is so different from writing a letter. Far better to process your emotions on your own-that’s a sign that you are independently moving forward. Good luck, LW. And just curious, bittergaymark-have you never made the same stupid mistake(s) several times before you learned your lesson? That’s generally how most people learn-the hard way. Better to learn from your mistakes early on instead of being doomed to repeat them, don’t you think?

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