Tuesday, August 10, 2010
The Stuff that Did Happen
He was a nice guy, a bit arrogant but who isn't when they are getting top grades at MIT? He had a crazy, sometimes mean, family, but again don't we all? The second year were were married I stopped visiting his horrible relatives and dropped out of school, but still became clinically depressed. I stopped being attracted to him and didn't exactly have an affair, but we did dip our toes into an open marriage, I can't even remember why - either it was fun (more and varied sex!) or we were trying to save our marriage. I did some pretty awful things, probably subconsciously hoping that would make it easier to break up. I was miserable, stopped eating, drank a lot and cried all the time. Even after he kicked me out of bed he let me stay on the couch until I found a place to live. Like I said, he was a very nice guy. It's what is now termed a "starter marriage" - no house, no kids, no regrets. As a middle-aged (yuck) married mom, I now know every marriage goes through tough times and it's hard to know if things could have worked out.
There are a lot of things I wish I had done differently, both for that marriage and my current. If you get married in a church I believe you need to have pre-marital counseling - a grand idea as far as I know, although I can't say from first hand experience. I probably would have lived together longer, had serious talks about goals and philosophy of child-rearing, career, etc. Looking back gets you nowhere, though, or does it?
We recently finished our next "From Left to Write" book club book, "The Stuff That Never Happened" by Maddie Dawson, a novel about a woman married to the same man for 28 years but also in love with another man. We hear about Annabelle's current life, where her husband, Grant, is busy writing a book, her kids are out of the house and she feels neglected. The chapters alternate between the present and past, which covers meeting her husband in college then dropping out to move across the country to join him, where they live with his academic adviser's family, and he works all the time. She alludes to infidelities and confesses she fantasize about a past love and, to add to the mix, Annabelle's daughter is convinced her own absent husband is having an affair.
Judging (no pun intended) from the comments on some of the other blog posts inspired by the book, she's selfish, does not have enough to do, and screwing over her sweet husband with a jerk. I have to confess I sympathize with her. We are told we are responsible for our own happiness, but aren't the loves of our loves somewhat responsible for keeping us happy? How long do we continue to be miserable, and when an opportunity for happiness is thrown in our face are we supposed to ignore it? My own uncle told my parents I should have stuck with my vows, but he himself was married to my divorced aunt. Annabelle took the opportunity she thought would make her happy. I moved into my own place, which is where Annabelle eventually ended up as well.
People are always surprised when I tell them that I kept the sex of our first child so a secret from my husband (there's a point here, I swear). I believe I was able to keep it a secret since he really didn't want to know - I thought I gave it away so many times. In the book there were two other people affected by the affair, who were so wrapped up with their own lives they were literally clueless as to the happenings around them. They were the "wronged parties" but my take is they had a part here too.
I certainly don't long for my ex-husband, any leftover dreams about him (which usually ended up with me waking in relief we were no longer married) ended about 18 years ago, but I do know I want to be happier in my marriage than I am today. I think by going back to her past, and talking it out, Annabelle saved her marriage. I'm still working on my solution. Then again, I'm living in the real world, Annabelle gets to have a happy ending written for her.
I received a free copy of the book as part of the From Left To Write book club blog.