I had hung on to my third marriage for dear life. I hung on and hung on in the face of repeated evidence. I batted at the doubts gnawing at me with therapy and books and mind-control tricks. I made focusing on good traits a sport, swatting away at criticism like a tennis player on the receiving end of a ball-popping machine. Diligently. Yes, this is annoying but, yes, this doesn’t work but, yes, but!
In a last-ditch effort, we even attempted to “open” our marriage. I continued lying to myself. This can work! I can have my cake and eat it too! I can love this kind man, father of my children, we can live harmoniously, raise our kids together, share a household, so sweet. AND we can go visit our lovers once or twice a week.
Needless to say, that didn’t go well and delivered the last nail into our marriage coffin. Does it matter, at the end of the day, how we got to the conclusion that we were done for good? Why should it?
One Sunday evening in May, Venkat read me a long letter he’d written. In it, he portrayed himself as the stalwart of our marriage and projected an image that had never even entered the window—romantic togetherness, growing old together, etc. . . . He ended his reading with a question—or perhaps a statement: “For it to work, we have to step back into a conventional marriage.”
I stayed silent for a long while, listening for the right words to come up from the depths of me. Or rather the one word.
The silence was absolute and perfect. I had time to feel my breath. I had time to feel and savor, even, the strength of my resolution. I also had time to consider (and resent) the fact that I was once more being pushed into the corner where I would be the one saying it. It pissed me off mildly because having gone through this twice before, I was shocked by how far men (even a good one like this one) would go to avoid being the one saying it. They’d rather hang in a yucky status quo or practice sabotage than say it. They want me to say it because . . . what, then I’m the bad guy? And that makes it better for their ego? Shrug.
The word came eventually. It came simply and without any of the drama you might imagine. The drama had been before. Now was time for deep, unavoidable, unquestionable truth. So: no. No I cannot fit back into this marriage.
I’m sitting in my favorite orange felt swivel chair at the foot of the bed. Venkat is propped up in bed. I have been quiet for a good moment. I am painfully aware that this is serious grown-up shit and I have to dive into it.
Him: “We separate, then.”
A deep breath followed. I had the strangest sensation that a body inside my flesh body had been squeezed in and suddenly, whoosh, burst out of its artificial boundaries and expanded outward in all directions.
There was relief.
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