Woman to Women
How one woman made the choice to just say no to (re)marriage
My husband waited until after we were married to share his philosophy on marriage. Since we’d been together for three years before the deed, you’d think he would have found time to mention that he even had a philosophy, but no. He informed me that getting married meant he didn’t have to try anymore. That all the effort of a relationship was in the wooing, and once he was married, he could just sit back and not try – because he had earned it.
Which is funny, because he didn’t put a terrible lot of effort into wooing, but never mind. He simply abdicated all of that upon our return home from Vegas. Everything from absolutely refusing to pick up after himself to not listening to me or helping me if it put him at all out of his way.
He wasn’t a bad guy. He was funny and very kind to his friends and family. It was just that, in our marriage, he felt very strongly about his right to coast. I could never ask him to pick up my dry-cleaning or anything from the grocery store. “Chores!” he would exclaim. That was work. Our house quickly became such a dump that we couldn’t have friends over. It was all his mess – he said he didn’t care, and that if it bothered me, I should clean it.
His philosophy also had financial ramifications. I had encouraged him to follow a dream and switch careers, so I was supporting us while he went back to school. Money was seriously tight. I found out later that his parents were secretly sending him thousands of dollars as “fun money,” which was just for him and not for bills. So while I begged the phone company not to turn off our service, he was out at the track. I was such a chump.
His parents were massive enablers of his righteous inertia. They actually convinced him that I was a terrible wife because I tried to force him into an actual partnership. Why couldn’t he just be left alone to eat candy and watch The Simpsons? Because I was a bitch, that’s why.
A very grim turning point came one night when I picked up a major award for my work. I had to give a speech in front of 700 people, and I was scared witless. But I was also incredibly proud and happy. My husband refused to go with me. So I went alone, and sat at the head table with an empty spot next to me, being asked all night where my husband was. He was home, with a bag of gummy bears and the remote, sitting in a nest of filth.
I should have just dumped him then and there. I had tried arguing, cajoling, urging couples therapy. But he was sure he that the key to a happy marriage was just to let him be.
I started fooling around, as you might have already guessed. It’s easy to look back and say I just should have left him. But we had been married for fewer than three years, and it’s hard to describe how family and social pressures connive to keep you in a crap marriage by bolstering the idea that you’ve somehow failed if it falls apart. I cheated with cute, funny, smart guys who found me fascinating
I eventually told him I was leaving. He was furious. His parents had a long and seemingly happy marriage based on the same philosophy. Why hadn’t that worked for him?
I am gun-shy about marriage now, to the point of emotional hypochondria. On a basic level, I know the same thing would never happen again. But what I fear is that trapped, duped feeling. My marriage was lonely and frustrating. Everything about it bothered me, including my own complicity and later, my slimy duplicity. It was all a massive mistake.
One I will never make again.