Our story begins HERE.
Quick fact: Did you know that legal experts all over the world have dubbed January ‘Divorce Month’? The coming of the New Year often means resolving to shed bad habits and dead weight. Sometimes, that includes your spouse. Anyway.
“What kind of therapist do you want to get? Who would you feel most comfortable talking to?”
I thought about my friend, T, who had walked into the office of a therapist on her base in the middle of a crisis. The only professional available was an older, Jewish man. She was repelled immediately and scoffed inwardly, “What could a man like that know about her struggle in America as a BLACK WOMAN?” Turns out plenty. Her testimony opened a world of possibilities.
“I’d be okay with a man of any race. My first preference is a Black woman, but I absolutely refuse to be seen by a white woman. No. Nope.”
So a week later we’re sitting in front of this heavyset white woman shod in Grasshoppers discussing the most intimate parts of our lives in surface detail. I approached the first meeting with my guard up, and by the end of it my pessimism had been justified. Becky had indeed pulled some Karen shit.
While my husband was at ease and clearly happy with the results, I stormed out of the therapy session infuriated, betrayed, belittled and more determined than before to put a stake into the heart of my unhappiness. I cursed, shouted and all but threw my wedding ring at the man who’d given it to me. He cursed and shouted back.
No, this is not the part where I tell you that the episode led to bed and ended with us wrapped in a sweaty embrace, mutually ravished by the best coitus we’d shared in years. That shit only happens in the movies. We were led to something much better: an understanding.
Without giving the entire backstory, here are a few facts. My husband has spent the lion’s share of our relationship policing my behavior, language and choices. He introduced me to a brand of conservative Christianity that was very convincing (and exciting) in the beginning, but one that demanded that I bury all of the things that gave me fire. Movies, music, pretty cocktails and the lazy tossing about of my favorite noun/adjective/adverb, ‘fuck’, in appropriate situations. You certainly can’t speed an evening smoking weed with your kin. Any woman who’s living under the yoke of charismatic Christian circles knows what I’m talking about. This was uncomfortable but bearable in the early years, but in my 30s it began to take it’s toll on me. (I’ll be 42 this week.)
My husband is not a bad man. He doesn’t cheat, steal or do any of the things associated with bad people of his sex. But, on his own admission,(after therapy) he is/was very controlling. Being told what to do and have your major choices questioned at every turn does work for some women, but it did not work for me. I told the therapist as much.
“I do not want to change him. He has changed me and I have never been unhappier in my life. I wouldn’t want to force him to become someone he’s not just to keep a marriage.”
So as I’m letting ‘motherfuckers’ fly all over my screaming match, a strange thing happened. His cussed back. And we kept cursing and screaming until everything that needed to be said was said without the burden of civility and politeness.
And then we felt better and went back to couple’s therapy a few days later (where I put Becky in her place and told her to drop the Karen shit…tactfully, of course).
As many of you longtime Adventurers know, it’s never my aim to expose the man I married to ridicule or criticism. I’ll attempt to do this by talking about how I felt about some of the things he did, rather than what he did.
I felt infantilized. Whenever there was a disagreement or a consensus on a matter couldn’t be reached, it was made clear early on that his authority would be the final word on the issue. This was a ‘biblical’ model of marriage, but not always a practical one. The possession of a penis is not the gateway to the universe’s vast reserves of knowledge. Nevertheless, I allowed my choices and observations to be received with benevolent consideration for longer than it should have. I wasn’t even allowed to put art on the wall without consulting him first and till this day my/our bedroom walls lack décor. It’s why I like to creep up to the girls’ room, just to see the world as they sense it through the art they’ve chosen.
In one therapy session, we discussed Families of Origin. Each of us – unconsciously – recreates our nuclear family when we go out into the wider world. We do this at school, work and in our marriages. We were both asked who we married from our family of origin. He married his mother. I thought I was marrying my grandmother (with whom I shared a special, egalitarian relationship built on mutual admiration), but it turned out I’d married my mother…who belittled and bullied me. My mother and I have been estranged for 12 years. I did not want to go on living with her replacement.
This led to masking, wherein an individual changes or “masks” their natural personality to conform to social pressures. Masking made me want to wake up dead every other day. Now that I think about it, it’s most certainly may explain my consistent depression.
It’s no secret that I grew up underprivileged, though I ran in privileged circles. My family’s precarious financial situation was a constant source of worry for me. I’ve always worked in some capacity, but when we had our second child it made more financial sense for me to stay home. After a while a few years I was ready to go back to work and explore jobs that required travel and paid a lot more. Ultimately, that choice was taken off the table and I was pressed into seeking lower paying local jobs, triggering my fear of poverty response. I’m constantly afraid that we’re not going to have enough money to live, and I spent many years resentful that restrictions were set on my earning potential.
I felt isolated for much of my marriage.
But worst of all was that I was clearly unhappy…and that the man who claimed to know me SO well couldn’t tell. I stopped making witty observations. I stopped making suggestions of any kind. My default response to most queries was “whatever you want.” But the worst part was the sex. Have you ever had sex with someone who makes you sad every time you look at them? At one point I couldn’t struggle through it any longer and put a two-month hiatus on that activity. Was I that good of an actress, was he that oblivious or was it a combination of those factors or more?
We can continue this dramedy if you guys are still around tomorrow.
I’m curious: Who are you in a relationship/situationship with now? Who from your family of origin did you fall in love with…or at least consider suitable enough to sleep with? Extra points if it’s an ancestor.