Monday, August 2, 2010


Yesterday was not a good day.

It took me longer than usual, after the "signing up" discussion, to digest and absorb the information brought to light therein. But, a week and a half into it, I thought I had built a pretty good foundation for a bridge, leading back to a tolerable status quo in my marriage. Turns out the bridge was made of tin foil instead of steel. It was easily brought down by the husband, with one unwarranted accusation.

As luck would have it, my sisters were in town and got to witness the…well, I won't call it a fight, because we actually didn't argue very much. It was basically a meltdown. MY meltdown. MY coming to terms with the fact that my marriage was probably irrevocably damaged, and I couldn't face living out the rest of my days in the context of this crumbled, non-functional relationship.

There has been this issue of "fault" haunting the husband and me for quite a few years. When things go tits up, and we are both miserable, we seem to invest a lot of energy into whose fault it is. And you know, I really hate that. I hate that fault-finding has become a standard of our society, and I particularly hate that it has invaded my marriage to the degree that it has. But there it is, nonetheless.

So Sunday afternoon, with my sisters in tow, I drove…anywhere. Away from the most recent demonstration of my being not much more than the primary irritant in my husband's life. One sister made a stab at trying to play marriage counselor. "I think," she said, "that you both need to stop trying to blame each other. It's clear that he thinks everything is YOUR fault…"

Now, the circumstances of our married life have found me taking the role of instigator most of the time. If I hadn't, I truly believe we would never have gone anywhere, achieved anything, or made any changes at all in our lives. I dragged us out to Oregon to be with my family. I yanked us away from our life in Eugene to follow a job opportunity. I took us back there when the job failed and my life fell apart. I needed a life, so we bought the restaurant. Our entire married life has consisted of me trying to make it work, and him coming along with me, sometimes willingly, sometimes not. So when things go badly for us, it IS more than likely my fault, to some degree. And I have to live with that.

So when my sister declared that we were each trying to blame the other for our problems, I couldn't entirely buy that. "Don't you think," I asked, "that I carry around a ton of guilt about everything that has gone wrong with our lives? I'll always have that. I'm not trying to say everything is his fault. I'm just trying to say it's NOT ALL MY FAULT. It can't be. I can't own the blame for every bad thing that has ever happened to us. If I did, it would kill me."

I don't know why, but this time, the hurt wouldn't go away. I tried hiding it under some "retail therapy," (shopping at the Goodwill with my sisters.) It just got worse. I dropped my bundle of possible purchases on a convenient rack, went out to sit in the van. And just…cried. And thought. And cried some more.

In fact, I spent most of the day in tears. I haven't cried so much in years. But I was thinking, and planning, and, saying goodbye, really. To my life. To my home. To my restaurant. To everything I believed had been poisoned by, or was poisoning, my dying marriage. Because I had decided that if my choice was going to be between continuing in a relationship where I was nothing more than the biggest pain in my husband's ass, or being alone, I would choose "alone."

Life is too short. The idea of spending my remaining days, however many or few they are, with someone to whom I am barely tolerable on a good day…just didn't appeal anymore. If my fate—my burden—was to fuck up everything I touched, then I needed not to be touching anyone else. I could take full responsibility for screwing up my own life. But I could no longer bear the burden of messing up another person's life along with my own.

We've had Serious Arguments in the past. With increasing frequency, in fact. As time has gone on, I've begun to think I've worn out my welcome as a partner… as I always suspected I would, from the very beginning. And I have said to him, "You know, if you would be happier doing something else or with someone else, you need to do that." I have given HIM permission to leave. But of course, husband being husband, he would never do it. This time, I understood that if the hurt was ever going to go away, if the changes that needed to be made to point us toward peace were ever going to be made, I had to make them. I would have to be the one to say, "I give up. This needs to end. I will leave." Things end. People change. Nothing is forever. No one stays. That is the way of life. I get it.

For the first time in my life, I thought about dissolving the union. I made lists of what would need to be done and in what order. I would find a place to live and move out. (Or should I ask him to move out, and pay for an apartment for him closer to work…since one of the things he has recently confessed is that he hates the house and doesn't really care if we live here anymore…) We would sell the restaurant. And as soon as that was done, I would take any money left over from that and find somewhere to live. Somewhere. Far away from here.

And then he could either have the house (since HE pays the mortgage) or not. Whatever he chose. And if he sold the house, I would ask for some small sum of money from the sale, and that would be that. He would probably move back to the Midwest to be with his family. And it would be over.

I planned and I thought and I said goodbye all day yesterday. And I cried. 

Pitchers and pails and flasks of tears. I couldn't stop.

Last night, after everyone went home, we talked.

Truthfully, I don't remember most of the details of the discussion. Maybe some things were ironed out. Maybe some hurts were apologized for. Maybe some promises to do better were made. All I know is, enough was said that it gave me hope that we might be able to live amicably together for a few more years. 

Or months. Or weeks. I don't have to leave. Now…

But I also know…that I can. Leave. If it comes to that.

And that is a powerful thing to know.

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