Too Short Love

There was a time, a time too short and held now only in my memories, when I know we loved each other. It was real. It wasn’t a Cupid strike of passion but a deep, adult, companionable love that grew from our shared interests in swimming and beaches and books and food and enjoying one another’s company.  Yes there was intimacy, too—sweet dessert, never the main meal.

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That was at the beginning, in early days. It lasted a year.

My wife says my need for togetherness, to please her, to be part of her life often at the expense of my own, was intrusive, and in time invasive, that I crossed her tightly defined boundaries, causing her to withdraw all affection and warmth. Was I too much? She says I would try to anticipate what she wanted and then give it to her before she asked, if she ever would have asked. She rarely did ask and that should have been a clue that pleasing her wasn’t a goal she sought.

She leaves me confused as to what is the right balance between togetherness and independence in a marriage? Clearly I got it wrong with her. Or my vision of marriage was so at odds with what my wife could conceivably give of herself that failure was the only outcome possible. I could never pass—or was never permitted to pass—her boundaries of self-protective privacy.

Her old wounds were never far from the surface. Nor were my desires.

She has warned me that in any future relationship I need to be more separate, more independent; to not try to please so overtly; to plan my own destiny not connected to my partner’s; to ground the relationship in its realities and not in my desires of what I want it to be; to be my own person and not one half of a couple; to trudge my own road, not one road together.

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I guess this is good advice, advice I ought to heed. It sounds a little lonely to me, distant and cold, and I wonder why I would want this kind of marriage at all.

I have warned her that she should advise any suitor that she comes with an expiration date. Don’t get too close.

I think again about what my friend—a mutual friend of both my wife’s and mine—wrote to me: “I’ve come to the realization that it is rare that most of us are cared for by those of our choosing, and if and when it happens there’s no guarantee it will last. My personal feeling is that one is better off in their own company than with someone who doesn’t respond to them.”

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I may be better off alone. Three strikes at the wrong ball is a losing game. Yet I like being married. Hope springs eternal.

Where do I go from here? Dissolving a marriage, and a life in a time and place I purposely sought, while still living together is tough, emotionally draining work. We go about the days pretending life is normal when it isn’t. I pack up my belongings, a box or so a day. She replaces my presence as soon as I remove it—erasing all evidence that I’ve ever lived in her house. When I go it will be exactly the same as it was before I arrived on the scene, plus or minus this piece of furniture or that rug.

I will have been simply the five year mistake.

Last night I attended a performance of Carmen at the San Francisco Opera. It’s always a crowd pleaser, eminently hummable and dramatic. I prefer darker German opera. I know however that Carmen is my wife’s favorite opera. Watching the final scene, when José begs Carmen to return to him and she refuses, it struck too close to home. I never begged, but I did try to find another way, and my wife, like Carmen, refused. Perhaps she identifies.

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Of late my soon not-to-be wife has been irritable and critical of the slightest infraction. “You left a clump of almond butter on a dirty spoon in the sink.” “You didn’t stack your weights in the right place.” Everything I say is challenged with a rebuttal designed to put me down, make me less than her. This has always been her way, but now it’s purposeful and I interpret it as cruel. The result is that our periods of silence grow longer and longer. Are we becoming strangers to one another—people we never knew? I never knew the person she’s become.

An unwanted end of a marriage is a difficult time. My wife says it’s difficult for her, too—but she’s getting what she wants and I am not, so I reject her feelings of alleged sadness.

This will have an end, and my life will take a turn and continue. I have learned many lessons—not the lessons my wife says she wants me to have learned, those lessons of too much togetherness.

I still want togetherness.

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