A writer that has contributed somewhat regularly to APW over the years is in the process of getting a divorce. She offered to write for APW as she works her way through this process, to try to demystify something often treated as shameful. As always with difficult topics, the editorial team is working with the writer to edit her work in a way that allows her to share her experiences and that feels safe. But to add another layer of protection for everyone involved, she’s decided to write under the pen name Prudence. We’re calling her series Resigning Wife. I know you all will treat her with the same care and kindness that you show to all writers who discuss difficult issues here. With gratitude for her bravery…
In January, it will hit you that you are married. Really married. You will be in therapy, for what you initially thought was a sleep problem that would need just a few weeks of behavior changes. It will suddenly feel safe enough to start to realize some things about your situation. You don’t feel loved, for example. You know that he loves you, but that isn’t enough. You are white knuckling it and you are so, so tired. Wish you hadn’t realized these things. Not that they aren’t true; wish that you hadn’t realized them.
He will say that you not feeling loved is your own failing. Try your hardest to swallow that, to be better. Wish you could just be happy with what you have. Don’t wish things bigger; wish yourself smaller. Say that in therapy and see how it goes over. (Heads up: It will not go over well.)
Under no circumstances are you to tell anyone any of this. Things are great. We are so happy. You aren’t going to carry on your family legacy of divorce. You aren’t going to be the first person in your graduating class to end a marriage. If you decide this, maybe you can hold it together a little longer.
You will hold it together for five months. You won’t make it to your third anniversary. When you cry about this to your best friend, about how this makes your failure come into much sharper focus, she will tell you that you have been in love with this man for seven years and you have done everything you could to stretch yourself, to make yourself fit, and there is no way to push the car up the hill by yourself if he won’t help.
Go to your old college for the weekend and see all of your old friends. Let a few shots of marshmallow-flavored vodka soften your tongue, and then confess to a couple of people that things are kind of not great, exactly, maybe. In the morning, be amazed that you couldn’t even be honest under the influence of marshmallow-flavored vodka. (I mean, really.)
Tape the bottom of a moving box together. Sit on the kitchen floor and cry for a few minutes. Wish for the luxury of having an apartment big enough where there would be a place he couldn’t hear your sobs. Stand up. Wrap three coffee mugs. Leave the rest. Leave the hand mixer he bought you for your birthday, the one he surprised you with after you made him a cheesecake with a wooden spoon. Leave almost everything. Remember the cross-country trip you made with him when you moved, taking only what would fit in your car. Appreciate the symmetry.
Tell yourself that you really shouldn’t be crying anyway, because this is your idea. You were the first one to say it, gave it as one of two options the same day you woke up, saw your wedding ring on the nightstand and it was suddenly to heavy to pick up.
Make a list of reasons to stay. He’s letting you keep all the money. He wants to help you out until you get on your feet. When you try to backtrack when things get scary, he won’t let you. He says not to diminish what you want, because you aren’t happy. Weigh these things against the fact that you don’t feel loved. Double-check the math.
Your friends will come forward, friends you haven’t talked to in a long time because it made it harder to delude yourself about things. Your phone will start making more noise than it has in a long time. Several people will call you after you casually text them that you’re pretty sure your marriage is over. You feel like this is text-able news. You are still delusional.
You will get offers to stay with people all over the country. You will divide up your cats. You will take all of the family photos off the wall. Your husband will come pick you up off the floor while you cry, will hold you upright because you’re so far gone you can’t stand. It will be the hardest he’s hugged you in a long, long time. You will need to finish packing. Quickly.
Photo Gabriel Harber