(Image by Nora Whalen.)
You talk about the bottom being pulled out from under you a lot and how to move forward – I’m wondering if you think ur ex felt the same way? Like she tried and tried to get through to you and eventually made the decision to leave. I am the one who initiated the divorce from my husband, and I felt like you describe, but was still in the relationship trying to save it when I felt that way… Just wondering if you thought about that? I felt depressed, alone, experienced the deafening quiet, etc. that you discuss, but my husband was still in the house. Think both partners feel that devastation just at different times? I read your posts and I feel bad for my soon to be ex, and then I remember that I felt that way too, just years ago… When he’s probably feeling it now… Not trying to criticize, just wondering if u think she felt how you felt as well? I started reading ur blog from the beginning, and am up to Sept 2014, so forgive me if u discussed this already. I’ve been finding your writing really helpful in this horrible process. Especially the shitty husband posts – at least now my family somewhat understands why I made this decision, because they are hugely unsupportive of me…
I don’t think. I know. Long before I bothered trying to save my marriage, my wife was trying. Her only crime was not knowing how to effectively communicate with me. But, make no mistake, she was the better spouse for many years.
Maybe I was the worst kind of husband. Because I didn’t do that one big thing that totally ruins everything. And I’m nice enough and smart enough where one might have believed I was close to figuring it out.
But I never did.
Not really bad enough to leave. Not really good enough to love. Maybe she felt that way for a long time. I can’t be sure. But I can imagine it must have been hard being that half of the marriage. The one where you feel like you’re the only one giving a shit.
Because, yeah. It flip-flopped at the end. It’s so much harder being the one who cares the most.
The Me-First Only Child
I was an only child.
I have a couple stepsisters I only saw part of the year starting around age 7, and a “half” sister (I don’t like calling her that) who was born when I was 14.
For the purposes of personality and birth-order traits, I’m an only.
And I think that’s fine. Being an only child has its perks, but the older I get, the more I’m realizing how much my only child upbringing may have contributed to my marriage ending.
Here’s the thing: I spent my life having people tell me what to do all the time. My parents. My teachers. My coaches. And I had my bosses at work.
Once I became an adult, it became very important to me to feel liberated. To feel like I didn’t have someone telling me what to do anymore.
So, if I felt like playing online poker, or watching a football game, that’s what I did.
Sometimes, wives want husbands to participate in an activity, or to help with a project that we don’t feel like doing.
Sometimes, I’d fight. Because I don’t want to! AND. You’re not telling me what to do!
I made it a fight. She was going to learn, dammit! No one tells me what to do.
There’s not a lot of room for “I” and “me” in marriage.
There’s you. And there’s the other person. Two distinct identities. Two independent units. And when you’re single, that’s totally fine. Individualism is a nice thing.
Marriage is a union. Like a business merger. When XM and Sirius combined their satellite radio businesses, it was a lot like a marriage. It wasn’t an acquisition, where two companies continued to operate independent of one another. The two combined. Joined forces. Shared resources. And ceased to be just XM or just Sirius. They became something entirely new.
I thought marriage was two individuals agreeing to live together and share resources.
It took me a long time and a separation to realize how mistaken I was.
In marriage, X + Y ≠ XY. Not if you want it to work. If you want it to work, then: X + Y = Z. Something entirely new and different. (Let the record show that the second algebra equation here is incorrect math, but an effective visual aid. I beg your forgiveness.)
It’s We. It’s Us.
Sometimes young people don’t know that. They just think getting married is something you do in the relative near future after high school because that’s what they see everyone else doing.
We’re selfish, by nature. And it’s hard making that adjustment. And a marriage won’t survive without making the adjustment.
My wife spent about a year asking me to help her repaint the concrete floor that makes up half of our basement—the unfinished utility room with laundry and storage and a deep freezer.
No one but us ever went in there. I could not have cared less that the floor needed painted. So every time my wife asked me to make time on a weekend to help her get it done, I’d always find something better to do.
After many months of letting her frustration build, she just did it herself. The room looked so much nicer when she was finished.
And she did it all herself. Didn’t need me at all.
There were too many moments like that throughout our marriage. It’s an apt metaphor considering how the story ended.
I felt depressed, alone, experienced the deafening quiet, etc. that you discuss, but my husband was still in the house. Think both partners feel that devastation just at different times?
Your husband left you alone in your marriage. Aside from the obvious like infidelity or violence, it’s the most-often cited reason women say they leave a marriage, and a husband’s most-often committed crime.
I left my wife alone in my marriage.
Because I let her paint the basement floor alone.
Because I’d go watch what I wanted in a separate room of the house without trying to engage her to do something together.
Because I’d sometimes decline invitations to go to bed because I was too busy doing something for myself.
Because I was a selfish, me-first only child who took more than 30 years to grow up. And I still have plenty more to do.
Yes, Ali. We both feel the same thing. You just feel it first. When you’re abandoned during the marriage. To the outside world, everything’s fine. He doesn’t cheat or hit you or drink too much or gamble all your money away. He’s nice, so your friends and family don’t understand.
But you can’t take it. And you know you’re not crazy, but no one is validating all of these things that are crushing you.
The marriage train runs out of steam and stops dead on the tracks because one person can only shovel coal into the furnace for so long. If he’d been helping the entire time or started shoveling as you were winding down to keep the pace, the train would have kept moving. But he’d abandoned the job a long time ago. So when you did, too? It was over.
Because a marriage isn’t two separate things. It’s one thing made up of two things mixed together.
I didn’t get it. I was selfish. And I poisoned the one thing I was supposed to be an integral part of.
You see, Ali, we didn’t know what abandonment felt like until you chose to leave.
We never understood that you were feeling that way. It’s excruciating, and now we get it.
Selfish. Dense. Stubborn. Oblivious. Lazy. We are.
And then everything breaks.
And then everyone dies just a little on the inside.