Zoey came dressed in what might as well have been lingerie, and I felt we were the only two in the bar. When we moved to another bar, she reached for my hand and told me she would not make the first move because I was married.
I ignored texts and a call from my wife, and we fooled around under the table for the rest of the evening. At our next meeting, we made love twice.
I began going to Zoey’s home when her kids were with their father. I took days off work in secret from my wife and spent them with Zoey. This went on for months, and we both wondered why Nora never seemed to notice how much more distant I had become.
Then one day Zoey called and said it was over. She told me I needed to figure out my marriage, if not for me, then for my daughter, to try to save it for her, because she wished she could have saved hers for her kids.
So I asked Nora to go to couples counseling. She refused and said everything had been perfect for her, that this was the best her life had ever been, and she did not understand why I was saying these things. All I could say was almost the entire truth, that I had fallen out of love with her and was depressed. This went over horribly and started many fights, but a month later Nora agreed to counseling.
Counseling was difficult as I wanted to say, “I cheated, and I am in love with someone else.” But when asked if I wanted to make things work, I agreed that I did. I wished I had the courage to say the truth, but I didn’t because I didn’t want cheating held over my head for the rest of my life.
November passed into January. Zoey’s new partner called during work and texted all the time. It killed me to see the smile and laugh he got from her. I loved being the one to get that. Meanwhile, Nora and I were in almost daily fights, to the point Nora said, “If you want a divorce, just do it.” Then she changed her mind.
Counseling continued and turned to fluff, not real topics.
To patch things up, Nora and I tried a weekend trip, and the best four hours were our drunkest. We discussed what we would do if we divorced, killed each other, or something happened to either of us. This was the most talking we had done in years. It was a relief to both of us, but it ended the night and made for an awkward morning and quiet trip back.
I’m pretty sure I don’t have a chance with Zoey anymore, as things are going well with her new boyfriend. I dream about her every couple of nights. They’re dreams of laughing together, hanging out in public places, and eating dinner. I wake up in such a great mood, then remember it was only a dream. Still, I do my best to hang on to the memory.
I don’t think I have a chance at happiness with my wife either. I know she feels horrible every day, knowing she is with someone who is not in love with her or attracted to her. She is a good person and does not deserve this.
I’m at a point where I think being alone may be best for my daughter and I, giving her mother a chance to find happiness with someone else sooner.
I apologize for the length of this. Thank you for reading through it, though I know it’s as clear as mud.
Martin, in the movie The Godfather, a singer comes to the Godfather and whines about not getting a part in a war movie. When he cries, “Godfather, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do…” the Godfather leaps from his chair and says, “You can act like a man.” Then he slaps him.
The line applies not just to you, but to everyone. Each of us. It’s our life. We need to act like it and own it! You married, but not out of love. It may be small consolation, but your life followed a pattern followed by millions.
You thought, “I guess this is how relationships are for everyone.” But your inner self spoke to you. It gave you the breakup-or-marry question. Your inner person knew her friends getting married should have nothing to do with you getting married. Your inner self knew a 70/30 split between what she wanted and what you wanted meant only one thing.
You had lost yourself.
The eventual demise was already there when you went away to grad school. You said that you and Nora had time-limited your conversations because you both ran out of things to say. Why didn’t you realize the obvious: this woman and I have nothing to say to each other?
But you went ahead and married, and you still won’t listen to yourself. You still play second fiddle to yourself. Your Self. The answer to the break-up-or-get-married question is always, break up. You caved on yourself and caved to Nora’s desire, a thing weak people often due to their own disadvantage.
Nora may have loved cleaning, but she swept reality under the rug until she thought you might leave. Then she finally consented to the fluff that couples counseling often becomes.
The closest the two of you came to facing the inevitable was when you and your wife had your drunken conversation. You aren’t violent people. When you talked about killing each other, you danced around divorce, which is symbolic death, without bringing the conversation to its logical conclusion.
As we read your letter, from the first paragraph on, we kept wondering when another woman would show up. We were sure she would because you never waited for love, and we can’t just love anyone.
We have no way of knowing if Zoey is the one for you, but she awakened something within you. When you thought you had fallen in love with her, you realized you had fallen under the influence of your wife, a woman who had romantic plans for you while you had none for yourself. When that happens, life compounds our mistake until the pain becomes too great to bear.
Tell your wife you screwed up. You didn’t know what love is and you just went along with it. Tell her until now you lacked the courage to end the marriage. Stay away from Zoey. You need time to reflect on yourself and what your life can be.
When we don’t make decisions for ourselves, we are to blame for what happens. You got pushed into marriage? Don’t blame your wife. You should have said no at least a dozen different times.
Talk about being blind to yourself. You and Nora laughed and giggled about getting divorced or killing one another, and you both pretended not to understand the meaning of the words.
You said your story is as clear as mud. We disagree. You drove through Stop sign after Stop sign until a pileup occurred. That is as clear as the light of day.
Column for the week of March 23, 2020
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