I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my marriage.
It’s true that there were two different eras of my marriage. The first one lasted the longest, about 22 years. Then, we entered the “Mr Wonderful” stage of my marriage, which lasted for about the last 6 years of it.
But I have been thinking more and more about those first 22 years, realizing that I would have to finally bring them up in therapy.
So I called Amy last night to talk to her because I knew she would remember more and wouldn’t try to sugarcoat things to say what I wanted to hear. I got that right but she didn’t tell me at all what I expected.
She and I have a different relationship than most mothers and daughters, for better or worse. (I’m still not sure.) But basically I could talk to her about the fact that J and I didn’t have sex very often in those first 22 years and it didn’t make her uncomfortable because she sees me as a peer rather than as “mom.”
I told her that the reason J gave for not wanting to have sex with me was because I wasn’t “nice enough” to him. And I wanted to get her perception of whether or not I was nice to him, because in my opinion, I was.
She really surprised me by confirming that for the most part, I was nice to him and she thought that was a bullshit excuse he gave me because he couldn’t face being truly intimate with me (or with anyone.)
She even commented on the fact that when he would hug her, it used to feel like he was doing something that felt very unnatural to him and that he was only seemingly doing it because he thought it’s what he should be doing.
I told her the infamous story of how we came to get engaged (which I thought I had incessantly harped on but apparently not because she hadn’t remembered it.) We had decided to move to Texas and I brought up the question of whether or not we should get married before we went, while we were still around our friends and families.
His response: “convince me it wouldn’t be a mistake.”
I never really got over that entirely but he did tell me that it was a reaction to the fact that he had never seen a good marriage.
Now I know that he was waving the biggest of red flags possible. I probably should not have married him at all under those circumstances.
Amy also said that until he became Mr Wonderful 6 years ago, it always seemed like I was much more in love with him and infatuated with him than he was with me. When she asked him as a young teen why he didn’t just divorce me if he was so unhappy, I completely misunderstood her intent.
She was actually asking both because she hoped at the time that she’d get to live with him (because she was so angry with me at the time)—but also because she thought he was being unfair to me because I obviously loved him so much and he didn’t return the feelings.
I know that he worked through enough of his trauma that he did indeed become Mr Wonderful and even Amy noticed that the quality of his hugs felt more genuine, too.
But honestly, I don’t really know what to do about all this. He didn’t really love me as much as I loved him for most of the first 22 years. But to use Amy’s metaphor, we were both acting out of as much love as we had to give at the time. It’s just that (as she put it), J’s container was like one of those little 6-ounce water bottles you get from the doctor and mine was a 2-liter.
I know that so much of what held J back was the depth of the trauma he grew up with and never processed. But I also wasn’t imagining things, either. I really did have a much greater capacity for love than he did.
I would always write him these deeply heartfelt cards on birthdays and anniversaries and such, telling him all the things I loved about him, and most of his ones to me were some variation of making it through another year or ups and downs.
I don’t know if we ever saw our relationship the same way, to be honest.
On the one hand, I feel so incredibly dumb for misleading myself for so long. But on the other hand, I really did love him absolutely.
I hope that in the end that was enough for him.