I am supremely happy in my later-life marriage but sometimes I think of the people who came before him and mostly, when I do, I think of the man who was my first husband. I was with him for such a long period – 17 years is one third of my life – and our marriage helped to shape me into the person I am today.
My daughters don’t really ask much about our marriage any more. When we split up, I used that overworked phrase “we were the wrong people for each other” to simplify why it wasn’t working. They were much younger then and over the years I’ve given more detail about it but always working to that common theme – that we were wrong for each other.
But I don’t think it’s strictly true. Granted, I was totally the wrong wife for him and I married him because I was naïve enough to believe marriage would only strengthen our relationship, but he wasn’t the wrong man for me. He appealed to me in so many ways and had so many strengths and our marriage was the best thing in the world when he was a 50% contributor to it.
The times that he was content with me and his circumstances were truly very happy ones but they weren’t constant. There was something about being in a domestic routine that he didn’t like and almost resented; like he blamed me for putting him in that situation. I very seldom felt actively loved but I loved him enough to carry us through and I honestly thought my marriage would last.
I don’t know what was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Maybe it was my varied illnesses and their effect on him. Maybe it was being physically exhausted from working and doing 95% of the household stuff. Maybe the clear realisation that it was an effort for him to be the loving and supportive partner I needed him to be and that he didn’t think that much of me, based on my gender and my qualities.
People often talk about defining moments in their lives. I can’t really point an exact finger but hearing him tell a third party that emotional warmth was not what he did…well, that dropped a clue. Iron anvil shaped, out of the sky and onto my head.
When we meet these days it is as distant as if we were acquaintances and not very civil ones at that. I wonder if I ever really knew this shut off man as well as I thought I did. It is strange that I still miss him. I don’t want to be married to him any more but I miss the amazing guy that was so much fun to hang around with and who made me laugh so much. I know he’s still there but he will never be there again for me. I get the icy exterior.
He once apologised for the problems in our marriage and told me that it was mostly his fault. I don’t know what I said; I don’t know if he was seeking absolution as part of a moving on process. I know I didn’t say “I forgive you” or anything like that. And I wondered why at the time.
But I think I know now. I can’t forgive him for making me miserable enough to leave him.