The “New” Me

Sheltering in place in my backyard, April 2020

Long time, no see! Welcome to my new website and blog. To the right, you can see me sheltering-in-place in my backyard in April 2020. The expression was a result of looking towards the sun, but it could’ve also easily be assumed a result of dealing with a challenging time in my life whilst also in the midst of the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

My old website and blog was removed from the Internet at the end of 2019, after I had made every effort I could to copy as much of it as possible across to this new domain. I haven’t published a blog post to my personal website since the very beginning of 2018, over two and a half years ago. I didn’t want to post anything new until everything fell into place so that I felt comfortable writing about why there’s been such a long gap.

The reason is long and convoluted, and involved a legal dispute. I didn’t want to say anything publicly about it until the dispute was resolved, because I know anything that is put out in the world (even when the court is not involved, and both publicly and privately) has the potential to be misunderstood, misrepresented, and/or used against the writer, especially if taken out of context. In my case, especially as an autistic person living in a neurotypical world (amazingly, the AWNN somehow manages to share something about exactly this just as I’m working on this post). That’s why I believe it’s important to try and act with that in mind. With the thought, “How might my saying this be seen by others, whether or not they’re directly impacted by my words?” Like, I’ve seen people attack others in defence of being attacked themselves, and they just look like bullies. There’s a very fine line there that you have to be very careful not to cross. How do you defend yourself without attacking your attacker? Is it even necessary to defend yourself? (Sometimes it’s not, because attacks on your character will have no impact on people who actually care about you, and anyone it does impact is probably not someone who is worth your time anyway).

Which is why, though I’m finally at a point where I’m ready to talk about why I’ve been absent from my blog, I am attempting to keep the content as diplomatic as possible. I’m not naming names either, because anyone else involved, whether or not you know the person or people I refer to, doesn’t need the attention and has every right to move on from the events themselves. I’m not playing offence; I’m not playing defence; I’m just a writer returning to her roots, choosing to share her story of change and growth. I have no desire to harm others, though I recognise I have no control over how others read, react, or respond to my words. I also have no control over who comes across my words or chooses to read them, but this is more about me than anything else. This is my story with diplomacy switched on, and my closure before moving onto the next stage of my life. Other people involved will have their own perspective and version of events. There are always at least two sides to every story, and I believe it’s impossible to ever know the full truth, because of the way our minds and memories function.

What Was

In early 2018, I had made a personal decision to try and take a break from certain activities in an effort to focus more on my marriage and making it work better. I stopped improvising as often as I had been, stopped spending so much money on classes and directors and reduced my focus to personally developed improv projects, which became part of a business I started, Improvative Productions.

Dominica kneels on the floor with a scar on her forehead and is clearly distressed, while Alissa sits on a backwards chair and tries to comfort her.
Performing the once-off show Salt ‘n Burn: We Fight Monsters (an improv show inspired by the TV series Supernatural) on the Leela stage in San Francisco, March 2018.

Up until that point, improv had, for all intents and purposes, pretty much taken over my life. As an autistic person, it was my primary “special interest.” The thing I zeroed in on and focused on to an extreme. There was a period where I was in San Francisco for classes and/or shows 3-5 times a week. It was the thing that pulled me from Depression after I moved from Malaysia to California in 2014. It gave me a community that helped me see value in myself that I’d been unable to find elsewhere. I needed it like it was my lifeblood, because I wanted to stop blaming other people for my unhappiness. I recognised that I had the power to create my own happiness if I couldn’t get it from the people I thought should provide it for me. In a way, the “Yes, and” philosophy behind improv can work well with radical acceptance of the things you cannot change, and makes it easier to focus on the things you can.

Michael Ashkar watches what a distressed Adrian Bosada is doing, while Dominica looks at something off camera with a smile.
Performing with YUM on the Leela stage, April 2017

Unfortunately, it turned out that by the time I decided to work harder at my marriage, the marriage was essentially beyond repair, though that didn’t stop me from trying for another 18 months.

Even before that time, my now-ex-husband often chose to take my choices as an affront to him. He’d assign intention behind those choices that didn’t exist. For example, he thought that all the time I spent pursuing improv meant I didn’t love him, rather than the reality that I wanted to stop blaming him for my unhappiness. Ironically, the more he feared I didn’t love him and that I’d reach the point of wanting to the leave him, the more he behaved in a way that actually made me want to leave, and he just couldn’t see how he was shaping that reality. (Side note: I understood where that came from and tried to forgive him for it, because I’ve pushed an ex-partner away in a similar fashion, by letting my fear of losing him from my life have a negative impact on my behaviour toward him. I didn’t want to abandon my ex-husband the way I’d felt abandoned by my ex-partner/friend. I would forgive mistakes because I know I’m not perfect and wished to be forgiven for mine). I tried to alleviate those fears to temper that behaviour, though it seemed like nothing I did was ever good enough, and the bar of “good enough” kept being raised.

I also recognised that I needed to make a choice to stop resenting my ex-husband because I wanted to both stay married to him and also be able to do the things I wanted to do. You can’t change how other people behave and it’s challenging to change how someone thinks, but you can choose how you respond to it, and what lens you use to view a person with. So I decided to choose to do the things I wanted to do instead of casting blame on him as the reason I wasn’t doing those things. Explaining that to him didn’t make a difference. And discovering I’m actually autistic in 2017, which I would’ve hoped would’ve given a greater understanding for why I am the way I am, seemed to make things worse. Proper communication between us became a significant challenge, and he was unwilling to let go of the resentment he felt towards me because of untrue things he believed about me.

Around the time I had made the decision to give up a significant chunk of time on the #1 activity that made me happy so that I could focus on reconnecting in my marriage, my ex-husband had been working on his own decisions about his future that did not include me in the process. When he finally decided to tell me about them, I did not agree with his choices, and he didn’t care. It sort of felt like payback for pursuing improv without his input. So when I thought about it like that, I thought I was being unfair, and thus needed to figure out how to support what he wanted to pursue, the way I wished he’d have supported me. However, when I tried that, and tried to offer advice on how best to gain support from others, he pretty much ignored me. He was only interested in listening to people who agreed with him 100% and deferred to his authority and intelligence. If he could find that from other romantic partners, then apparently that just made me wrong, and worthless in his eyes. (Though in my view, surrounding yourself only with people who agree with you makes it a lot harder for you to recognise the flaws in your working-theories — it’s tragically a major problem in the political landscape of the world today and why I at least try to listen to different opinions, and form new ideas about how the world works).

My ex’s decision to quit the job that financially supported us (and I was proud he had held — after all, I followed him to California for it because it had been his dream job, at an organisation he told me he desired to work for ever since I met him in 2005) led to a series of choices from both of us as individuals that made it a little easier for me to walk away from a marriage that wasn’t working for either of us. It meant I could finally look for work and discover I was capable of financially supporting myself in a way that I hadn’t done throughout the marriage.

In July 2018, I started working part time as a tour guide, which later turned into full time work. As terrified as I’d been at the time, since I hadn’t worked for someone else in a non-freelance paid position in more than a decade, I was guided by the improv tenet, “follow the fear,” as well as the belief from an improviser I frequently worked with that I could do this. All my years improvising to that point led to me flourishing as a tour guide, and developing my own unique tour. I loved researching San Francisco history (especially people like Alma De Bretteville and Tessie Wall — look them up) and watching movies set in San Francisco. I discovered the joy of working in that environment, and thrived amongst colleagues that felt like family.

Malaysian friends take my tour, 2019
Malaysian friends visit and take my tour, May 2019

Meanwhile, I was also finding some success as an improviser developing and co-developing my own improv shows, and having them selected to perform at improv festivals across the US, much to my ex-husband’s dismay (because it meant spending money on travel without him, and taking me away from what he preferred me to be doing—honestly, though, the fact he couldn’t just be happy for my success was disheartening). Between April 2018 and August 2019, I had 3 different improv shows perform at 6 different festivals in 4 different cities in 3 different states.

  • Casey Busher crouches on the floor while Dominica May and Shirley Chan spread their arms like wings above her
  • Dana Cory, Graham Downing, and Shirley Chan get interviewed by Dominica May
  • Diana Brown and Dominica May as Villains looking off stage

Just over a year after I started working as a tour guide, in August 2019, I recognised my marriage was over, and I no longer had the energy to stay in a relationship that didn’t seem to be serving either of us. We separated officially when I abruptly ended things in late September, and then in November of 2019, I filed for divorce. I’ll be honest, I didn’t handle the process with compassion, but I had finally hit my breaking point and did what I felt was the right and only honest choice at the time. Part of that came from advice I received from outside sources that didn’t really give me the whole perspective on the potential downsides and challenges I would face. That’s what happens when you let your emotions overtake your decision-making, and there was a lot of that from both of us back then. Real life endings aren’t often pretty, or wrapped up in a Hollywood bow.

As difficult as it was to follow the path I did, I still feel it was the right one, and possibly the only way I could’ve made it very clear that I would not allow myself to get sucked back in and stay with him longer, like the other times I had wanted to end things and didn’t even say so, and also put him in a position where he wouldn’t even want to try to stay with me. I also thought it was important for him to know what I experienced, so he had the opportunity to reflect on that and maybe make changes in his own life rather than constantly blaming others for the problems he faced (like how my life had improved immensely when I stopped blaming him for my unhappiness, and made the decision to focus on changing things I had control over). We don’t exist in a vacuum, and sometimes people will respond negatively to our actions. That’s a moment to self-reflect and look at how to minimise such reactions in the future. I imagine that it was a challenge to his ego to learn so much that I had been keeping to myself in an effort to keep the peace because I wanted to believe marriage was forever and we could overcome any challenge that presented itself. I wanted to believe he was capable of meeting me in the middle and understanding me better. And, tragically, part of my motivation for staying well past the relationship used-by date was because I didn’t want to turn into my parents, who separated when I was 9.

Through the early days of my deciding to end things (even before I said anything to him), as I imagine as is common with autistic people, I listened to the same song on repeat to give myself the strength and courage to carry on. That song was “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten, and I was fighting to regain my sense of self, just as I had tried throughout my marriage, but now it was more evident. I just couldn’t be the person he wanted me to be without giving up so much of myself. I didn’t understand how I could have so many friends and family accept me for who I was, but my own husband couldn’t. It didn’t make sense why he would even want to stay with me when he had so much contempt for me.

I came to believe that the only reason he didn’t leave me himself, despite how he clearly seemed to dislike me, was for saving face reasons. He didn’t want to lose the life he had, which from the outside reflected decent status in life (wife, home, children), and he didn’t want people to think he failed at a marriage with a woman people like and respect. Instead he had to behave in a way to make me be the one to bite the bullet so it would better fit the narrative he always told himself—that women will always abandon him—without needing to be self-reflective to understand what he might have done to make them want to. I believe this is also why he had to create a narrative in his mind about me being an awful person who kept intentionally hurting him, despite any evidence to the contrary, because it was so challenging for him to see any part he played in what went wrong.

I once read that the most common reason romantic relationships fail is because of unreasonable expectations in the relationship. That sort of led me to have zero expectations of my ex-husband (so I chose to stay and love him unconditionally no matter what he did that I didn’t like), but failed to account for his unreasonable expectations of me—the ways he wanted me to change to live up to said unreasonable expectations, instead of just accepting me for who I was and having any interest in the person I am. It’s exhausting and debilitating to constantly try to live up to those expectations when you can never meet them, and eventually you give up trying because you know you’ll never succeed without killing yourself trying. It’s hard to be involved with someone when they have a rigid idea of who they want you to be, especially when that idea is essentially the opposite of who you actually are. If they can only value you if or when you can adhere to those expectations, that is not a healthy relationship dynamic. It’s much healthier to end the relationship, go through a period of self-reflection, and then look for someone who actually meets what you’re looking for in a romantic partner. My ex wasn’t necessarily wrong to want the things he wanted, it’s just unfortunate that he married someone who couldn’t give him everything he wanted in a romantic partner. Hopefully my releasing him from the marriage will help him find that elsewhere.

Maybe eventually my ex will come to recognise that just because I brought up many (but not all) of my grievances in the end of our marriage does not mean things were as black and white as that. I hope he can develop better self-reflection and introspection to better understand the grey areas. Me being unable to support him 100% is not the same as me supporting him 0%. He has a strong will to stand up for what he believes is right, and though I don’t agree with everything he believes and does, there are still aspects that I do believe as worthwhile, and that’s why I haven’t engaged with any of his detractors, no matter how many times I’ve thought about it (yes, it can be very tempting to want to seek revenge on someone who you feel like has caused you pain, but at the end of the day, revenge generally doesn’t serve you and you wind up making yourself look like the bad guy. I find focusing on improving my own life as far more productive than trying to take someone else down, and it comes with healthier emotional energy. Given how my own friends didn’t always understand how I could follow this path, I know how challenging it is, but I am grateful they heeded my requests not to go after my ex-husband themselves. They respected my wishes and understood it would’ve just caused more unnecessary damage, so I am very grateful for the community I have surrounded myself with). Besides which, as far as I’ve seen, my ex’s vocal detractors often engage in tactics or hold beliefs I don’t often agree with. I’m grateful his detractors have mostly kept me out of their issues with him (and I stayed silent the couple of times I’ve noticed they mentioned me—so if you are one of his detractors who has somehow found this because you want to stir up trouble… get a life. He’s not worth it, so leave him alone and he’ll leave you alone. Do what I do and ignore his social media).

My ex has the right to live his life the way he wants to, as long as it doesn’t bring harm to others, just as anyone else does. And as long as he is able to financially contribute to our children’s lives, I don’t care how he chooses to earn an income. Since we’re no longer married (the divorce became official as of August 31, 2020), I feel like his career has no bearing or reflection on me. So, although I doubt he’s capable of financially supporting himself (let alone his children) following the path he has for the past two and a half years, if he manages to make it work, good for him. I’d love it if he can prove me wrong on that. If not, he’ll have to find another path on his own. He’s got the mind and career history to be doing so much better than he has been in the last couple of years, and I still don’t fully understand why giving that up to pursue something so challenging was more important to him than being financially responsible to his children. I want to see him succeed, because I’ve seen and know what he’s capable of achieving. And, weirdly enough, though I imagine he likely somehow sees it in a negative light, when I’ve been job searching and come across job postings that I think would suit his interests and career history, I’ve sent him links. I get the impression that’s not really common for exes to do when neither of them wants to communicate with the other more than necessary.

What Will Be

The divorce was a long and arduous process, made more complicated by throwing a pandemic in the middle of it. It led me to rethink a lot of things about my history and how I identify myself. I believe that how I stood my ground and stood up for what I deserved in the divorce surprised my ex-husband, though nothing he said or did really surprised me. I’d been prepared for the worst and decided divorce was still the only path forward, even if it meant getting my name dragged through the mud and/or going to trial. Prior to our separation, he must have been so used to me giving in to his requests. But throughout the last few years, and with poor communication between us, I’d changed so much that he had no idea that the things he tried to scare me with in the divorce process in order to get what he wanted, weren’t things that actually scared me very much. They may have, had we attempted divorce a couple of years prior, but I was in a stronger place emotionally, and valued myself more, by the time I filed for divorce. I knew I had the truth on my side. Plus, I mean, we were getting divorced. I no longer had a reason to acquiesce to him like I did in our marriage. I also stopped caring about what he thought of me, developed a sense of self-respect, and better coping strategies, which made it a lot harder for him to hurt me.

Additionally, I read a lot of books just during the divorce process to help me understand what I was dealing with both then and during the marriage. I began to really see everything he threw at me as a projection of what he was scared of and his accusations of what I did wrong were really things that he couldn’t admit to doing himself. That, in turn, allowed me to forgive myself and taught me strategies to separate my emotions from the process of legal separation to understand what was fair and what was irrelevant. I learned what not to respond to, and how to respond to what was necessary to respond to, to reduce conflict. Then I learned firsthand that when you stop reacting and responding to messages you don’t have to respond to, eventually people understand they’re not going to get the reaction they want out of you, so they stop sending those messages. So when I said earlier that you have control over the lens you view things with, and how you react to people and situations, this is a great example of what I meant.

This strength and growth on my part, as well as placing trust in my lawyer, helped us get to a point where we were able to reach a settlement without having to go to court and have a judge decide anything for us, with only support issues reserved. I am grateful that we were both able to put aside our differences enough to reach an agreement that was in the best interest of our children, no matter how much it hurt us both financially in the middle of a pandemic.

I feel like the whole process bodes well for my ability to negotiate and assert my boundaries in a respectful manner in the future, with whomever I encounter difficulty.

Listen, I’m not saying that what I went through was easy. I felt trapped by circumstance for years, and powerless to change things that were beyond my control. I continually boomeranged between liking my life and desperately wanting to escape it before eventually discovering what exactly I did have the power to control in my life, and what I wanted it to look like. Only then was I able to focus on making those changes. Without even necessarily realising what I was doing, I worked on letting go of a victim mindset that had me focusing on and complaining about the things that bothered me, and then worked harder to improve my circumstances in the areas I struggled with. I truly learned I was not as powerless as I once believed.

What Will Be, Creatively

My old website URL included my “married” name, and it took some time for me to process what I wanted to do about my name. Though that name had never officially become my legal name, it is the name I went by professionally and creatively. I published books under that name. It’s the name I performed under as an improviser. Did I really want to disassociate with the name entirely?

The website URL change was a no brainer. My ex-husband owned the main domain name and he’d already been working to remove our content from the Internet, and regardless I wanted to have control over my own content.

I won’t be making changes to my name on existing content that wouldn’t be cost effective, but going forward, I will be using the name “Dominica May” for any creative content I publish. That goes for improv, writing, videos, and any other kind of art. Though at this time, it’s hard to say when I will have new creative content to release. I haven’t made the switch to pandemic-safe Zoom-improv like many of my fellow improvisers have, and though I have watched some online improv shows, at this time I am unsure if/when I will make that performance transition myself.

Having said that, there are some creative projects in the works at the moment. I have been working on a new book—a collection of short writings I’ve written over the last 11+ years, and I have an improv-inspired art project that I’m working on occasionally. I also have a strong desire to start writing more content for my blog here, both fiction and non-fiction. I have also had a brief conversation about transitioning The Secret Lives of Villains improv show to an online format, so it is possible I will make that move.

What Will Be, Professionally

The pandemic put a real spanner in the works for my goals and dreams for the future. COVID-19 seriously tanked the tourism industry. No longer could I work as a tour guide, but we kept hoping everyone would follow the guidelines of the public health officials, and eventually the virus would become manageable, and we’d be able to return to work. By the beginning of July, it was becoming very clear that it was highly unlikely tourism would return to San Francisco in any meaningful capacity before 2021.

The virus also tanked live theatre, which meant I couldn’t make any extra cash videoing improv shows for people any more either. The best I could do to try and keep some cash flow for Improvative Productions was to design some graphics and try to sell some t-shirts and accessories, although I knew realistically I wouldn’t be able to sell enough to live off those sales, and my youngest son has sold a lot more products with his designs on the store I created for him after showing him my own. To be fair, he has made more designs and personally promoted his products to more people than I have.

Tour guide inspired San Francisco IMPROV design

These factors made it much harder for me to see how I’d be able to be financially self-sufficient, which had been a key role in why I thought I could end my marriage.

Meanwhile, I was dealing with that pesky divorce, from a man who also did not have any significant income. Even if he had, he desperately denied to agree to negotiate terms by which I could receive my right by California divorce law, any long-term spousal support, for being in a marriage that lasted over ten years and in which I gave up my career to be a stay-at-home parent. All a result, he claims, because of the way I ended the relationship. I suspect he would’ve argued against paying spousal support even if we’d ended things amicably. In any case, I knew that even if I could get the court to order him to pay support, I needed to be realistic about where things were going in the world, and I needed to find a new career living in a pandemic reality. That meant considering factors like long-term distance learning for my kids, and therefore needing a career in which I was capable of working remotely from home.

Part of my challenge for why I never returned to the workforce until my ex-husband quit his job in 2018 was that (and this is without necessarily assigning blame or intent to my ex-husband) I experienced learned helplessness in my marriage. I had come to be financially dependent upon him and believed I wasn’t capable of doing things I actually had the education and background to achieve. Even my therapist would attest to my learned helplessness experience. The longer I went without using the skills I learned in university, the stronger this belief became, so that by the time I was actually legally allowed to work in the country I lived in (as my visa for living in Malaysia did not allow me to work there), returning to work in that field just didn’t seem like a viable option.

This is an area where I have in the past blamed my ex-husband for holding me back. It’s so easy to read stories about how women give up their careers for childcare while their husbands think their jobs are more important, how it’s becoming an even worse problem now because of the pandemic, and think, “That’s me. That’s my experience. My husband doesn’t support me pursuing my dreams.” That’s certainly where I was at when we moved to California and I was depressed, in part because I wanted my life to be more than wife/stay-at-home-mother. It’s challenging when your spouse wants that to be the most important thing in your life, and discourages you from pursuing creative goals because you won’t make money doing it anyway, and thinks you don’t actually want to have a “real job.” I heard that message enough, that I came to believe it. Though I did desire my own income, to help prevent me from feeling guilty for spending money on activities I wanted to do, and still believe words of encouragement from my ex-husband would’ve gone a long way to help me achieve greater things, was I being fair to blame my ex-husband as the reason I didn’t have a job or income? Could I have been doing more? Whilst his comments and thoughts may have been a contributing factor, they certainly weren’t the only part of the equation. He did, at least, take time off work to care for our children when I travelled to improv festivals, even as he complained about it. Meanwhile, I also had to deal with negative self-talk and impostor syndrome, thinking I wasn’t good enough or that I wouldn’t succeed, or that it would be too hard to schedule employment around my children’s school schedules, so what was the point of trying?

I’ve since learned that I don’t have to balk at challenges, and I am capable of a lot more than I believe I am if I just take that first step and try. Accepting a job as a tour guide showed me that. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you have no other choice, because it’s a matter of survival. I have a Bachelor of Science in Internet Computing (Computer Science but specifically with Internet technologies), so it seemed like the best bet for me would be to try and get back into IT. I didn’t quite know how. It had been so long since I worked in IT, and technology has changed so much since 2007, that I knew I’d have to refresh some of my skills in the field. So I ended up enrolling in a UC Berkeley Extension Boot Camp in Data Analytics for six months, and that’s where I’m at now. Working towards rebuilding the career I gave up when my first child was born.

In just a few short weeks, I re-discovered my passion to code, and the joy that comes from writing code that works. My skills didn’t disappear, they had just laid latent until they were needed once again. I am finding that, just like when I got a High Distinction in my first year of university for re-doing the Calculus I learned in high school and received a C grade for, it’s much easier to grasp the concepts the second time around. I’ve received A+ grades for my first few assignments, and I’m not even re-learning the same programming languages and content that I used in the past. I guess I just have a knack for coding, and the motivation to pursue a career that allows me to use both my logical and creative sides of my brain. If you’re curious to see my data analytics homework for yourself, feel free to check out my profile on GitHub.

This is probably not something I would have had the courage to pursue had it not been for the perfect cocktail of the pandemic, enhanced unemployment benefits, and divorce. This is a wholly positive experience for me, and I’d much rather be able to move toward financial independence myself than feel financially dependent on my ex-husband, regardless of whether or not the law suggests he owes me. This doesn’t mean I’m ruling out filing for long-term spousal support in the future, as that issue has been reserved. It’s just challenging and expensive to pursue as long as his income does not meet his earning potential. Sometimes I wonder where my career would be today, had I not gotten married and then had a child before I had much of a work history. It’s hard to say, because not knowing I was autistic had also presented some challenges for me in the workplace. Things that I’ve overcome, thanks to improv training. But certainly, I’d be in a much better position than I am now, relying on unemployment benefits and food stamps for survival, until I finish refreshing my skills.

What Will Be, Romantically

As you may know, I have a history of writing and publishing a decent amount of pro-polyamorous content. Some of my writing in that area came from a place of trying to accept the kind of relationship structure I was a part of for the majority of my marriage. I was absolutely very adamant about wanting to be publicly polyamorous, because there was a part of me that thought, “Well, maybe more people would show interest in me if they knew I was available?” I was a little envious of the attention my ex-husband seemed to attract, that I couldn’t. Not feeling attractive to other people was a longtime reflection of poor self-esteem, that I thought could only be resolved by external validation. If I hadn’t been so vocal about polyamory on my blog in the past, I might’ve decided to leave this section out.

My feelings on polyamory have evolved, however. For too long in my marriage, I lied to myself about my feelings and what I wanted, in an effort to appease my ex’s desires, and my desire to not quit my marriage. I often put his needs above my own, and as a result had poor boundaries and developed a difficulty with saying “No,” because he always found ways to eventually convince me to change my “No” to a “Yes.” When I publicly came out as polyamorous in 2016, I mentioned that our marriage began monogamously. What I didn’t say was that was actually my desire and expectation when we said our vows in 2006. I’d actually forgotten this until I re-read some of our writings from our period of engagement while I was processing the divorce. Roughly three years after marriage, and partly as a result of my poor history of relationships with men prior to my ex-husband, and poor self-esteem, I’d been convinced that I would much rather choose polyamory as a relationship structure. We’d reached a point in our marriage where I felt like my choices were either a) stay married and let my ex-husband date other women or b) get divorced. I didn’t want to get divorced—I had, after all, vowed to love him through difficult times, no matter what—so I talked myself into choosing to let my ex see other women. It didn’t seem like he could be happy without that. Staying married and choosing monogamy felt like an option that would’ve left us both miserable.

But if you’ve heard me talk about how important it is to not choose polyamory because you think it’s a path to save your marriage, this is why. I chose it to save my marriage. I knew this deep down but couldn’t vocalise this detail with people, because I didn’t want to admit the truth. I buried it to protect myself, him, and the marriage. This would’ve been the point where I probably should’ve initiated divorce instead. I just believed I loved my ex and it was more important to give him what he said he needed, and I didn’t want to lose my marriage and deal with the complications that come with divorce.

I could tell you a whole host of reasons as to why polyamory suited me for myself at the time as well, which I also likely believed at the time. I mean, that’s what happens when you lie to and gaslight yourself. But my last year of reflection has shown me that although I still believe there are some great things to learn from polyamory in terms of communication, and I still believe it’s possible to love more than one person at the same time, and that polyamory is a perfectly acceptable relationship structure for those who enthusiastically choose it, it’s not currently a relationship structure I am interested in pursuing, unless extenuating circumstances arise. I can only think of one specific and highly unlikely example where that is possible.

That’s not to say that there weren’t benefits for me to being polyamorous, and as mentioned above, I don’t think my marriage could have survived as long as it did without polyamory. Unfortunately the kind of communication required in a healthy polyamorous relationship devolved in mine. Throughout our marriage, we both came to find other partners whom we trusted and respected more than we trusted and respected each other. Frankly I’m just not interested in being with someone who would rather seek out a shiny new relationship than focus on improving the one they’re already in. For myself, I always felt it was more important to work on myself and my marriage when I thought there were problems, and that’s one of the main reasons I didn’t often date other people despite being allowed to. There were always other issues that I thought were important to work on.

I’m not saying any of this with the intention of being an affront to my ex-husband. We probably weren’t right for each other in the first place, and we both made mistakes, but we tried to make things work for as long as we were able to. In the end we were too different, and the resentment, and lack of trust and respect, was too powerful. We had different goals that clashed with each other. I hope that he is able to find the life he wants that he couldn’t find with me, and will be happier for it. I also hope he will be able to move past the animosity he feels towards me for how I chose to end our marriage, because living with resentment makes it harder to find happiness.

Through the long divorce process, I worked hard to let go of the pain and resentment I felt in my marriage in order to find a healthier path for myself, and move on. Personal reflection is a necessary part of growth, and I wanted to learn how to be able to respect both myself and any potential future relationship partner. I don’t want to have to keep making the same mistakes over and over before I learn what I’m supposed to. I’ve seen too much harm that comes to other people when that happens, because like the saying goes, hurt people hurt people. The hurt doesn’t have to be intentional, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take personal responsibility to do better next time.

So now I live with more intention in my life. I’m enjoying being officially single for the first time since I was 21, and this time I am quite happy to be celibate and not looking for love. I haven’t even sought out validation through sex for years. This doesn’t mean I’m closed off to the idea of a relationship in the future, just that I now understand that I don’t need to be in a (sexual) relationship to be happy or valued. And sometimes, being single gives you a whole lot more freedom to do the things you want to do with your life.

One Final Note

It is with some trepidation that I share this post. If I could uncouple this next stage of my life, the “new me,” from my divorce and my ex-husband, I would gladly do so. I’ve opted to share as diplomatically as possible because I’ve seen and experienced how he reacts when he feels attacked, and it’s the same no matter who is speaking up, no matter how true or false the claims. No matter the intent. I acknowledge that risk now, in sharing this, but I felt silenced for too long as a result of fear of that retaliation. I sometimes found it ironic, given his vocal stance on censorship and self-censorship, how often I’d have to self-censor when talking about him (and how I’m still doing it now, to be diplomatic), because I often struggled to understand what might set him off. It’s why I waited to share this after finalising the divorce, and making sure names were changed where they needed to be.

I don’t want to poke the bear. I’ve blocked my ex on social media and changed my usernames so I don’t know if he’s managed to find my new website, and I can’t block him here, but I wouldn’t put it past him to come looking to see what I have to say. He has a habit of seeking out content where he thinks people are being mean to him just so he can defend himself and try to make them look bad back. I believe he’s mostly behaved himself towards me these past few months because I’ve set boundaries up and haven’t bothered him. It seems like the only way I could stop unintentionally hurting him was to cut him out of my life as much as possible. It didn’t have to be that way, but unlike me, he didn’t seem to want to work on his issues, like being oversensitive to criticism and taking things too personally. He just expected me to put in all the work to make sure he didn’t feel bad. It was literally exhausting to the point where I couldn’t do anything sometimes, I was just so tired from the mental exertion of trying to make sure I didn’t say or do the wrong thing. It’s nice to have that energy back.

This isn’t about him though, nor is it for him. If it was, I’d have shared a very different perspective as to how I have been shaped by my experience. In the end, however, I choose to follow a path that allows for some compassion, and a desire to move on and move forward. If he decides to retaliate despite that, then maybe my gloves will come off, and only he knows what I’ve chosen to keep to myself for now.

At the end of the day, I care more about sharing some of my story than I care about what he might say about me. It was laughable that he ever thought I would want a confidentiality agreement with him (yes, that was something he offered me; meanwhile my lawyer assumed he would want one given everything I told her about him, but he didn’t either). If he really wanted to say something egregious about me, that I couldn’t predict he might want to say (as I’ve said, I know I’m not perfect, so I know what “dirt” he thinks he has on me) then it’s going to be either a lie or a delusion he’s made up in his head to make himself feel better about me ending our marriage (he and I lived in very different realities where cognitive dissonance abounded, because we drew very different conclusions as to what the heart of our problems were). And I’ve since realised if he says anything along any of those lines (including the pathetic truthful “dirt” he has on me), it’s not going to hurt me the way he thinks it will. I’m not afraid of discussing anything about my life that is true, because I’m not ashamed of what I’ve been through, even if others might think I should be ashamed. Though I’m not ashamed, there are things I’m not proud of, which isn’t the same thing, and would be a closer reason to why I might be reluctant to talk about certain things. But if confronted, I don’t lie. My history just makes up a part of who I am.

Though I no longer have (or want) a romantic relationship or even a friendship with my ex-husband, we do share custody of our children, which means we still have to communicate about them. I do believe that, no matter my feelings toward my ex, our children have the right to have a positive relationship with their father. As far as I can tell, our kids value and enjoy the time they spend with their father. It’s also been nice to see him supporting our son’s online store by buying something from it.

It is unfortunate that our relationship reached a point where it was healthier for both of us to minimise contact between us. It certainly would have been more positive for our children if we had been able to maintain a friendship at least, to celebrate some special occasions together, like their birthdays or Christmas. I doubt that will ever be possible, but there is no way to know what the future holds.

My marriage irrevocably changed me, and shaped many opinions I have about the world. Like, I know I hold some biases as a result, because I believe I was wrong for getting married so young, thinking I was so much more mature than I actually was at the time, and desperately did not want to be wrong about that. So I don’t think it’s a good idea for anyone that young to make the decision I did. I got married at 22, emotionally vulnerable after my mother passed away less than a year prior, when I still had so much to learn about life, and grew up to be a person unlike the one my ex-husband believed he was marrying because he viewed me through rose-coloured glasses back then. But I also don’t regret it, because without me following that path, I wouldn’t have learned what I have about myself, and grown stronger and more mentally healthy for it. I also wouldn’t have the two most incredible children I’ve ever met. My sons are awesome, and I can’t imagine my life without them in it. I’d much rather focus on the positive experiences I’ve had and the people who lighten up my life, than worry about my mistakes and regrets.

Besides, I’m still an improviser at heart. And as an improviser, I’ve learned that mistakes are gifts. Mistakes are what you make of them. Mistakes are how we learn, if we let them teach us.

Dominica spreads her legs while sitting on stage at a [ ] show with her mouth wide open, facing left
Sometimes I do idiotic things. But regardless, mistakes are gifts. And if you’re feeling silenced, just improvise without words.

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