20 Years in 2020 A 'How-To' Guide To Destroying A Marriage and Rebuilding, During A Global Pandemic.
I was recently asked by a woman who was interested in starting her own candle side-hustle, “How much does it cost to start a candle business?” It was an easy question, I could recite raw material prices from memory. As I started listing off the prices for a melter, pour-pot, and fragrance oils…I paused. Flashes of the past 4 years raced through my mind. I looked directly at her, and said
“Honestly, if you want the truth, it will cost you everything.”
When I started pouring candles, I did so as a form of therapy. I never intended to start a business and I never imagined people would want to buy them. I just wanted to learn how to make the perfect candle. I became obsessed with burn-time, burn quality and scent throw. So obsessed, I didn’t have time to think about anything else. Not my dead friend, not my father, and certainly not my marriage that was falling apart. I didn’t have to pretend to be grateful when a friend came to visit me or engage in small talk. I didn’t want to talk. I wanted to melt wax, put it in a jar, and set it on fire.
My husband, Joe, tried to understand. We started pouring candles together as part of my therapy, but it wasn’t a few weeks in before I ran him off too. I didn’t want nor did I feel worthy of a relationship, any relationship at this point.
Fast forward to August 2018. Our marriage was collapsing. Joe was sleeping on the couch or I was sleeping in the spare bedroom because I had “Just one more thing to finish on the website.” By this point, I had lost every long-term friend I had because I was too busy working. I spent my time avoiding relationships, which were bound to hurt when they ended. Even my relationship with my children suffered as all I talked about was candles.
Joe and I resented the fuck out of each other. He resented the hours I spent working and how little I did around the house. I resented how much he despised MWC and how his shitty attitude filled the house with darkness. It was about this time that Joe really wanted me to shut this down and basically said “It’s me or the business.”
Not one for ultimatums, I told him not to make me choose. He didn’t and we carried on for another year and a half. Joe worked a full-time career at Boeing. He did the shopping, housework, did the MWC finances, and the only time I ate, was when he put a plate of food in front of me. I never saw it. And I certainly never gave him credit for any of it. In my selfish mind, I was working 12 hours a day building my dream. I was doing all this for Laura. To donate money in her name. To bring voice to the raw emotions we as women feel, and put them on a candle. I would cry and ask “Why can’t you be more supportive?”
I was missing the whole point and he withdraw completely.
Then 2020 came in like a storm.
The year started with surgery. I have breast implants (due to breast reconstruction after a double mastectomy in 2014). In January, I found out my implants were recalled by the FDA and shortly thereafter, I popped Lefty when I took a 50 lb box of wax to my chest. This time, my surgeon was going to remove excess fat from my stomach to help fill-in my breasts. My surgery date was immediately moved up, cancelling our Valentine’s Day weekend Joe had planned. We knew we were heading towards divorce and this was his last-ditch effort to save our marriage. To be honest, I was relieved. Joe had outlawed candle talk outside of working hours, and I had nothing else to talk about. We literally had nothing in common anymore. He spent his nights reading and I spent mine working. When our 20-year anniversary hit, I waited all day for roses, candy, or even a card. I gave him his gift, but still, nothing from Joe. This gave me all the fuel I needed to initiate the divorce.
The decision was made and I began looking for a place to live. I had to get out of that house. You could just feel the tension, the anger, the fighting. I went to stay with my daughter to finish recovering (I was only one -week post-op at this point) and finally got the all-clear from my surgeon to shower. Kacie was away for the weekend and I had her house to myself. I stepped in the shower, woozy from pain meds and fell hard. I fell so hard I split my abdomen incisions open and needed help. I made my way to my phone and called Joe. Of course, he rushed right over to scoop me up and take me back home. He put me on the couch and left me there. The hostility between us was felt in every ounce of our being.
Enter Global Pandemic.
Joe’s employer made him virtual before the lock-down was even issued. FUCK! We were both trapped there together, just being hateful and ignoring each other. I had three more surgeries to try and close my stomach wound. I had wound care 3x per week (which I had to find a ride to) because Joe was too busy with work to take me. (The irony wasn’t lost on me) The wound care center installed a wound vacuum to close the almost 12” x 3” gaping hole across my abdomen. I was still working against every piece of medical advice that was given to me.
When the Stay-At-Home order was issued, we were both stuck in the house together, which was full of candles because our manufacturing facility had been shut down. I was trying to coordinate the crew and decide what work could be done from their homes. We used our house as a drop off/pick up station to avoid laying anyone off, and we turned our garage into a shipping station. It was absolute chaos. There was no resting or healing, the hole in my stomach kept getting bigger and bigger. Everyone was yelling at me to sit the fuck down, but I was hellbent on proving I could work and still heal.
As soon as we hit Phase 2, Joe was out! He packed a bag and high-tailed it out of town for 5 days and I found a Tiny Townhome and moved out. We didn’t speak except for formal MWC discussions. I started therapy again. This time learning about boundaries and blame and avoidance. I was discovering so much about myself. How selfish and obsessed I had become. How I was alienating everyone, even my own children, to avoid being hurt. I worked obsessively to avoid feeling anything at all. I began reading books about leadership, delegation and healthy relationships.
The 'Tiny Townhome' where I began to heal. I read a LOT of books and cried even more on the Tiny Sofa. I finally stopped working. And where I started cooking again.
What I didn’t know was that Joe was in therapy too. Learning about the same damn thing. How his withdrawal and escapism was a form of blame and his way of avoiding hurt. We slowly started to text, which turned in to flirting, which of course led to a date.
I was so nervous when he asked me out to dinner. I spent forever picking out an outfit and when I opened the door, he said “Wow! You are beautiful!” He was dressed to kill, or at least do serious harm, and I was swooning. He brought me flowers! Flowers people! His truck was clean and he smelled so damn good. We ate and we laughed like we hadn’t laughed in years. Over the next few months, we began talking. We told each other the stories we were never interested in sharing before. We caught up on the last 5 years of our lives that we missed because we were both too self-involved to care.
When Joe asked me to re-marry him, I said yes without a single hesitation. Wait…that’s not true, I was scared AF. The ‘What If’ monster came roaring to life and anxiety took over. However, I did something I hadn’t done before. I talked to Joe about it. Like an actual grown-up conversation. Turned out, he was nervous too. We discussed it all and we decided how we wanted to live our life, what we wanted this marriage to look like and made a commitment to be open and honest and to talk without fear, every day.
We didn’t have a big first wedding. We had a ceremony, a homemade cake and held the reception at two tables in the back of the bar where we met. We have one polaroid picture from that day. It was beautiful and perfect and the best we could afford on a Navy E-3 salary.
This wedding felt like a fairy tale. It was so beautiful, and we even have pictures! I got to remarry my best friend and I am blissfully happy.
I don’t work at night anymore, except for the occasional website crash. I’m cooking again and we have officially binged 5 shows together (Hello Netflix & Chill!). I stopped watching TV years ago and forgot how relaxing it is to just sit there, holding hands and watching TV. We have been married for 20 years, but this feels like a completely different relationship. I'm so in love with this man! He is so kind and loving and treats me like an absolute Queen. ❤️
I wanted to share our story because I believe Joe and I could not have been alone in this. Marriage is really difficult. It takes love, sacrifice, compromise and most importantly, time. We do everything together now. After working a full day at Boeing, he comes to the shop and brings me a coffee. He jumps in wherever he is needed and brings so much joy when he walks in the building. We leave together and eat dinner together every night. He is not only my partner, but my best friend. We’ve missed each other so much, it’s like we are making up for the last 5 years, everyday.
We get so busy focussing on what people are NOT doing, we forget to acknowledge what they ARE doing.
I am someone that loves to learn every lesson in the most difficult and tragic way possible. This lesson is now firmly planted in my heart. Don’t worry, I’m not about to go all Live, Laugh, Love on you…well…maybe a little.
PS. I am completely closed (healed) but did so much damage, I need another surgery in a couple months. This time, I promise to rest and not work.