Monday, April 23, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

After 25 years, she's disappointed in marriage, yet resigned to status quo

Disappointed in marriage, yet resigned to the status quo

Q: I married a man who didn't make me a priority, expecting he would change. Every time we would argue about his insensitivity, he would come back with "I'm changing," then I would think, "Okay, it shouldn't bother me, I'm just being too sensitive."

Then once again I would stuff my feelings down like they didn't matter. He would go places by himself often. His thing was fishing and hunting, and I would not say anything, not wanting to be a "nag."

Well, I have been waiting 25 years for that change, and some years ago came to realize that sometimes people don't want to change, and sometimes they can't. I've been left alone more times than I can count.

I'm a firm believer that wedding vows are a very serious thing, so after 25 years I decided I had to resign myself to "This is just the way it is." If I knew 25-plus years ago that it would be an ongoing battle, I would have run away fast.

Lonely at 59

A: You do realize you could live another 30 years — or, more usefully, the duration of your marriage again, plus five?

A conviction that marriage is for life can be a beautiful, grounding, guiding belief. It can also be a cop-out, a retreat into "principle" to avoid the — and I get it — sheer terror of walking away from the only life you know.

I'm guessing you'd rather be unhappy than scared, than to invite the financial and emotional risk of leaving. Maybe it's the right calculation: The expense of going to two households from one as you near retirement age can't be ignored, for one, and presumably you do have some good moments with your husband between abandonments, or else you'd be thrilled to see him go.

I just wonder whether you made the calculation at all, because you don't cite anything positive about your choice. You don't say, "We've built a comfortable life," or, "We get along otherwise." It's just, "I made this bed, guess I'll lie in it."

It's not uncommon, though, for someone to embrace a marriage with the same scheduling footprint as yours.

Your husband, for example. He has his home, plus regular chances to break away and give voice and body to another form of himself. He doesn't wait around for you to give him what he needs.

You have the same opportunities he does. Same nest, same room to fly.

And you, too, have used your alone time to give voice and body to a different side of yourself: the one that's abnegating, resentful, resigned.

Why not fly instead? Why not ask yourself: "If I felt as free as my husband to do my own thing, what would I do?" Why not take the answer and plug it in where you now have resignation?

Because you are exactly as free.

And you always have been. "Had to" resign yourself? No — chose to. Just as you chose to hold out for change. Maybe it was right for you and you owe yourself more credit — or maybe it was wrong for you and you owe yourself some new choices, be they temperate or drastic. Either way, it's in your power to replace marital disappointment as the guiding force in your life.

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