A letter to a young newlywed considering divorce

You and I haven’t talked about what’s going on, so everything I know is, like, thirdhand. Which is to say that I really don’t know what’s going on at all. BUT. I thought I’d reach out with some unasked-for advice about stuff that I wish someone had told me when I was young and going through a divorce.

1. Marriage–and adulthood, for that matter–doesn’t have to look a certain way. When I was 23 and working and married I thought that meant I couldn’t have any fun and the rest of my life was going to be boring and budgeted from then on out. Which sucked, because I hadn’t had any fun before then, so I was looking at a life of just no fun at all. It took me YEARS to realize that my life can look however I want it to. I know you and he have been saving money and living with your parents and going to bed early and basically having zero fun, but that doesn’t have to be the case. You don’t have to buy a house right now or have kids anytime soon; you don’t have to work jobs that are a drag just because they pay decently. You can go back to drinking every day and seeing a different band every night and eating out at restaurants and traveling the world and buying each other lavish gifts and spending every cent you make and just generally having a blast. The important thing, if you love each other, is that you do it together.

2. It’s not your husband’s job–or anyone else’s–to make you happy; it’s your job alone. If you’re not happy with yourself first, you will never be happy with anyone else. It seems simple, but it’s actually super fucking hard. You have to spend a lot of time thinking about what YOU want and how you’re going to get it. And the really awesome thing about having someone who loves you by your side is that they also want you to become who you want to be, and they’re there to offer support and encouragement when you doubt yourself. I’ve been single for a couple years now, and, man, it sure was nice to have that built-in support, because it’s really hard to find it in yourself sometimes. Impossible, even. We have friends who can help, but unfortunately friends are unreliable. Life is just plain too hard to do alone, and that is the best argument in favor of marriage that I know of.

I don’t consider myself an expert at love or marriage by any means, but those are some things that I had to learn the super duper hard way, at the cost of some of the things (and people) that were most important to me, and I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t at least share them with you in hopes that they might help. Mostly, I just can’t stand to see good love go to waste, because I know now how hard it is to find. If you love him, none of these things matter, and you can work through it. Or even if you don’t feel like you love him right now, working on these things might help you feel that way again.

If what you truly want is out, I can certainly understand, and you won’t get any judgment from me. You need to do what’s ultimately best for you–you’re the only person living your life, and no one else is going to live it for you.

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I can’t keep you right behind me all my days in the sun.

We sat on the same side of the picnic bench, our legs flung around the wrong way so we could lean our elbows against the wooden table. A casual posture, but I was so dizzy from being near you that I had a difficult time looking at you straight, my eyes whirling in their sockets like pinwheels. That Beatles lyric “the girl with kaleidoscope eyes” spun through my brain. I wondered if you could see the whirling if you looked hard enough.

You removed your sunglasses and instead squinted into the November sun. I watched your eyes. The insides of your irises are such a dark grey that it appeared to me that your black pupil had stained the light blue as it contracted from the bright light. In fact, I subconsciously thought this to be true for the last four years, the way we accept the small lies our parents tell us when we’re children without ever questioning them. Then, the other day as I found myself squinting into the January sun, I realized that what I had imagined was impossible. Your eyes weren’t stained. It’s just that they’re colored that way.

When we were in love I used to feel as though I was wearing your colors, waving your flag, as we battled our separate days, alone. What a thing to imagine if we’d somehow found a way to battle them together. That was always impossible, of course, would never be possible, a blackness overtaking your colors gradually, constricting every once in a while to reveal a grey so dark I can’t tell if it’s a stain or maybe it was always that way.

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And It’s Still Enough

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We Flew Like Saints

I wonder a lot about the role I play(ed) in your life. If I’ve brought you more happiness than sadness, more joy than torment. And not just me, myself, but the whole ME, our love and lies, everything that’s happened in your life as a result of merely knowing my name.

Have I told you before that women have affairs to leave a marriage, but men have affairs to stay married? I read that somewhere, maybe Shirley Glass’s Not “Just Friends,” which had all kinds of terrible, debasing things to say about our relationship. Maybe some of them were true, and maybe some weren’t. But I know that that particular sweeping generalization about men and women did turn out to be true in our case. I wanted out, and you wanted to stay.

I’m not sure what this truth means for us. I always knew that you were better at compartmentalizing, and by extension maybe even better at polyamory, than me. I saw the words you exchanged with your wife on Facebook the day you last wrote to me. Sixteen minutes before your email arrived in my inbox, in fact. Written in the same sitting at the same computer. Maybe you even had both windows open in your browser at the same time. Words of gratitude to her, words of apology to me. Breathing in, and then breathing out. Typed with the same fingers, conceived in the same thought.

I’ve always wondered how the hell you do that, but maybe it’s in your blood. Maybe it’s even your birthright. Maybe I made it easier for you to stay married, as you were able to have your cake and eat it too for a while. If your marriage were lacking passion and passion were something you needed, I gave that to you. The list goes on and on. Thrill, excitement, secrecy, youth, control, recklessness, illicitness, rebellion, destruction. Sex.

In my lower moments, I wonder if it really was just sex shrouded in a nobler veil. We both have morals, however questionable. We needed a better reason than that, so we created one. We elevated it to love, compared it to the purest love possible. We felt closer to God. We flew like saints. We said our “hallelujah”s. And then we came tumbling down and down.

Did we both get what we wanted? I’m happier now than I’ve ever been as an adult. It feels hard won, but I’ll take it.

Are you?

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it’s the last catastrophe

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on a Saturday morning in June

Reading this:

“I’m trying to focus on all the ways I am blessed.  But I keep wondering why I didn’t live my life with enough faith that you were in the world somewhere and that if I were just patient enough, I would find you, and we would be together.”

while listening to this:

made me cry.

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it might as well be a pinhole from where we stand

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