The sadness of my wife ending our marriage is mitigated, so slightly, by the apparent inevitability of its collapse.  So many of my wife’s long time friends, who have known her far longer than they have known me, have told me now that this is her history: she ends relationships.  Whether or not my own needs and behavior hastened this end may be a moot point.  I accept the blame she has placed on me, as it’s the reality she experienced.

One friend even told me I may have received the very best my wife had to give, for as long as she was able or willing to be committed.  I can’t know these things, and she, no doubt, would object to these observations.

Perhaps people tell me things they think I may want to hear. And other people’s married lives are always, truly, a mystery.  No one can see what goes on inside a marriage, regardless of its principal’s past histories.


In the face of this, I’ve been thinking of all the many reasons I have to be grateful to my wife. In the short time we’ve been together—less than six years—she has given me many gifts that will last a lifetime.

Don Draper in Mad Men famously pitched a new Kodak slide projector as the Carousel—technology playing on emotion and nostalgia.   He showed pictures of his wife and family that evoked happiness, joy, and connection, and he said that in ancient Greek nostalgia literally meant a pain from an old wound.  In the show he was losing this happiness in his personal life, and in his pitch the images and memories shared were his wounds, his pain. It’s the most poignant scene in the entire series.


As these are my wounds, twinges in my heart, more potent than mere memory.


My wife re-introduced me to the joys and challenges of open water swimming.  I remember so well that first time we swam together in Tomales Bay, at Heart’s Desire Beach. I’ve been back many times since that afternoon and every time it’s is a reliving of that first time we swam there, the water warm and encompassing.  It was indeed my heart’s desire.


After letting my membership lapse at the Dolphin Swimming and Boating Club, my wife introduced me to the next door neighbor South End Rowing Club. She had been a long time South Ender, and in fact, when we first arranged to meet after corresponding on a dating platform, it was at the front door of the South End. She told me later that her friends were watching from behind the door. Since then the South End has become an integral part of my life, a focus around which so much of my life in San Francisco revolves. I am in my second term as an elected Board Member, with many many friends. Leaving the South End will be perhaps the saddest part of leaving San Francisco.


At the South End Rowing Club my wife introduced me to a fellow swimmer who has become one of my very best friends, a friend for life. In fact he married my wife and me. His friendship has sustained me through this recent difficult period. Is the lifelong friendship of a true friend more valuable than the loss of love?  Romantic love is sure always to fade, but friendship deepens and grows stronger with years.

Version 4


Swimming at China Beach in Sea Cliff, and joining the group of China Beach swimmers on sunny days, has been a happy pleasure I wouldn’t have discovered–or had easy walking-distance access to–had I not married my wife.


My wife shared her love of Northern California by introducing me to many of the places that had been dear to her. Big Sur and Detjen’s Big Sur Inn. Yosemite and the legendary Ahwahnee. Both were trips she planned as birthday gifts.



She introduced me to the swim adventure company Swim Trek, and organized a trip with other South Enders to the Galàpagos Islands. This was an experience I never would have seized on my own–a gift of our marriage.

We traveled together to Ireland, too, again with South End friends. In hindsight, this was when she had already decided she no longer loved me. Perhaps on the Galàpagos trip, too. There was companionship, which I thought good enough. It didn’t occur to me that love was slipping away.  It looked so real.


Another time we explored the Oregon coast together, my first time.  Looking at my photos from this trip, early in our romance, brings me back to a time and place where I know I was loved. It was real, then.

Together we decided to get a dog–our little rescue doodle-dog Bebe. He has been a loyal companion and joy.  I will miss him deeply.

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My wife encouraged me to challenge myself to swim the eleven-mile width of Lake Tahoe. She helped plan the training and was one of my two kayak pilots on the swim. At her suggestion to improve my stroke and endurance, I joined the USF Master’s swim team, which has become an important part of my physical life here. I will miss my friends on the team when I move back East.


Yoga. Pilates. A plant-based diet (mostly.)  All introduced to me by my wife—lasting enhancements I will carry with me into the future. Thank you.

I know there are more reasons to be grateful–sentimental bonds.  Reasons not to regret. For me these were foundational blocks upon which our life together was built. They made all the other, disappointing, aspects of our marriage less important. My wife has said we lacked equity.  For me, not so. Equity is built on more than years.


I wish our marriage wasn’t ending.  I wish my wife could have seen the same foundation I saw, a solid rock on which to rebuild our relationship.  It’s not in her DNA.

These are places where I ache to go again.

My life has been enriched by her–and for that I am grateful.

I try not to tear up thinking about these things.


What Did I Miss?

What did I miss? What didn’t I see when I fell in love with my wife, and asked her to marry me, that would have been a forewarning of things to come? That a short four years later she would tell me she no longer loved me, had lost her love for me for three fourths of our marriage, didn’t trust me, and was ending it. Was I blind to signs I ought to have seen?

The four most anxiety provoking words in the English language: We Need to Talk. Nothing good ever comes after these words are spoken.

Word of our marriage ending has slowly filtered out. The reactions, to me, have been consistent.

When I asked my wife how she wanted to handle telling our friends that our marriage was ending, her twice-repeated response was, “Why do you care what people think?”

Many of our friends, some who have known my wife far longer than having known me, have now told me that this is her history. That she is a difficult person to please. That her strength is her weakness, a barrier to forming a lasting close relationship. That she’s a harsh judge of people, intolerant. That she doesn’t have a capacity for happiness. That there’s always been an expiration date to her relationships. That perhaps I received all she was capable of giving. One friend exclaimed, “has she gone back to being a communist?”

Two friends have told me that when seeking advice about their own relationship issues her uncompromising advice was exit the relationship—no rebuilding.

A longtime friend of hers wrote to me, “the psychologist is the role of power and this is the one she plays on me for years. Unfortunately she plays it mostly on herself.”

Other friends tell me they never saw her be kind to me.

Perhaps people tell me things they think I may want to hear. And other people’s married lives are always, truly, a mystery. No one can see what goes on inside a marriage. She was kind to me for a while, even if outward affection didn’t come naturally.

She has told me, now, that she warned me before we were married that her independence and need for self-sufficiency, her committed self-reliance, were paramount. That having taken her own destiny in hand as a young girl, no one would ever attempt to control her again. There was always the ghost of this troubled past that haunted our time together—unspoken fears and the thick protective armor that surrounded her, untouchable and inviolate. So damaging was her youth that she condemned all of New England, the entire North East, as hostile territory. She always refused to travel with me to Maine, and visit the places I love most on earth.


I didn’t listen, or I only heard what I wanted to hear. I wanted to be with her, and ignored her words that my attentions were unwanted. Was I too much? She’s told me I violated her boundaries. Her need for complete independence and my need for integration proved a fatal clash.

Because my life was not an experience she cared to share, I tried to share all aspects of her life. Our mutual friends were her friends. We went to the places she loved and enjoyed. She was kind and generous showing me these places, places I had never been. It filled me with warmth and happiness to experience California, and places further north, through her eyes. So complete was my happiness I didn’t think about her unwillingness to experience my world through my eyes. The only times we traveled east were times she had other commitments to fulfill.



Later she told me my need to share all aspects of her life was invasive. She had never asked me to please her, and objected that I had tried.

Trust, too, was an issue. She never gave me her trust. From the very beginning I was deemed an untrustworthy partner to make decisions about her dying in the event that became necessary. She made a point of telling me I would never be named in her advance directive, that my emotions would override her injunctions against resuscitation.   She trusted long time friends to make those decisions.

During the months when my household financial contribution fell short of the agreed amount, I was told she was not here to support me. Neither of us were comfortable talking about money, especially me. I fell out of integrity by not discussing finances, trying to make up for shortfalls in other ways. That’s on me. Is it a divorceable offence?

A sexless marriage is a divorceable offense. January 20, 2016 marked the last time we had sex—on my birthday at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite. Perhaps it was a parting birthday present. From that day on we never even held hands.


Now, three and a half years later, she tells me we lack “equity,” so no foundation on which to remodel our marriage into a workable partnership.

On our fourth anniversary this past October, just before going to dinner at Greens where we had been married—an anniversary tradition—my wife said to me “I’m sorry our marriage has been a disappointment.” I replied that I wasn’t disappointed, but that wasn’t entirely true. I had settled for good enough, hoping that affection, and yes even sex, might come back someday.


I did not understand the depth of my wife’s unhappiness with me—attributing much of her unhappiness to external factors: so many of her friends dying, her injuries and cardiac stent, the collapse of a career that had been deeply meaningful. She had fallen into a severe depression during that time at the beginning of our marriage when her role at the hospital was being whittled down, sidelined, and diminished. She had nightmares about the person instigating these changes.

Another friend of hers wrote to me, “Well, she is giving up a good man.  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.”

Will I be better off in my own company? I know that now, now that the divorce is impending, and my days remaining in the same house are numbered, I feel much better when we are not together, when I’m on my own. When together, even when going about the simple tasks of making dinner, the emotional tension is palpable. I know she feels it, too. She’s quick to take offense. She keeps telling me how sad she is, that she’s under stress, too. That she should try to elicit empathy when all is of her doing, that it is my life that’s upended, not hers, I regard a moral failure. It comes from the same narcissism and lack of compassion that refused to try to work things out, the intolerance of an intractable mind.

I will be happier. I will miss the companionship we once had—but no longer share.

I will forge a new story.

She says she hopes we can be friends. She’s friends with a former husband, and several old lovers. She says she’s a better friend than a partner. I think that’s true. She returned today from the most recent of many trips to San Diego to visit an ex-boyfriend from years ago who is dying of cancer. Presumably they have years of equity that sustain the relationship.

Will she visit me when I’m dying? Will I want her to? Or will I want this rupture to be an end.

I don’t know.