Data Point

The latest statistics from the American Psychological Association, and other similar sources, indicate that approximately 45-50% of first marriages in America end in divorce; 65-68% of second marriages end in divorce; and about 75% of third marriages. Women initiate over 60 % of all divorces.

These are sorry data points. The chances aren’t good.

I am my wife’s third husband; she is my second wife. She unilaterally initiated the dissolution of our marriage. Was I a statistic waiting to happen, an exponential inevitability that only keen and mutual self-awareness, deep listening and communication, and a commitment to something bigger than ourselves could have forestalled?

I have fought my entire life never to be swept up in a trend, and here I am decidedly “on trend,” like gray rooms with darker shades of gray trim. Gray indeed.

Being a likelihood doesn’t mitigate the sadness. Or my abiding conviction that it didn’t need to be this way.

I was out for dinner with my son Adam last night at a new local reasonably fashionable restaurant called Pearl. Among the tables of thirty-something hipsters were several tables of attractive couples in their sixties or older. They were talking and laughing, sharing plates, enjoying each other’s company. I had seen one couple walk in holding hands. I wanted to be them. This is how I saw my life proceeding. Life isn’t all a joyous meal, but growing comfortably and lovingly old together—trudging the happy road of destiny hand in hand—is a vision I long for…and apparently can’t achieve. It makes me very sad.

Sadness can be an opportunity to express one’s humanity. It can over time heal loss. Experiencing loss with authentic sadness, poignant sadness, begins the healing process.

When it triggers the reactivation of earlier losses it doesn’t heal anything. It’s a life sentence of heartache.

A few days ago an online photo service I’ve used sent me a promotional email titled Your Memories From 2010. Among the dozens of favorite pictures taken of all my boys, Bowdoin, the Maine coast, and Midwood were photos of EL—photos whose originals I had destroyed, burnt in my Russian Hill fireplace, never wanting to see them again. The pain they had formerly produced was gone. I was glad to see them, to see her, and to remember the times when they were taken. They made me smile.

Put the past in the past.

Free to Be

I’ve come to realize that the opposite of being a good man isn’t being a bad man. That’s always been my equation in life. The opposite of a “good” man is being an authentic man, a man of integrity. There’s no good or bad in it. Integrity and authenticity are never ending endeavors—mountains without a top.

I know I often stumble at both. These falls have been a failing in my marriage. It’s often a steep climb up these mountains. The only way to access authenticity and integrity is being authentic about your inauthenticities, and to recognize when out of integrity.

I’d like to talk about this with my wife but there’s been a quiet yet distinct shift in the house since I returned from Los Angeles and the course at UCLA. The clearing for authentic conversation has been covered. I had hoped, now that the die has been cast–legal papers filed, moving plans made, both of us looking ahead to new, separate lives—that we could talk to each other like people who once loved one another.

Our conversation is the smallest of small talk. Nothing remotely personal is mentioned. Brenda didn’t ask one question about the course I took, or what its impact was, despite aspects that were directly shared. Thank god we have the dog to focus our attention; otherwise the silence would be deadly.

I am afraid to say anything. I have been cordoned off into a Quiet Zone.

One key goal of the course was to experience what it would be like to be free—free to be and free to act; to leave behind the way we wound up being; free to choose beyond the way we wound up being. This means facing squarely all the ways we’ve been inauthentic, out of integrity. Only out of that fearful recognition can freedom be forged. Only then can we ever be out here with life.

Right now it’s hard to know what this looks like. I have to risk giving up everything I get about myself in order to deal with life. I have to give up all the judgments I make about myself. Quit deciding things, and ask Who am I really?

We don’t see, and we don’t see what we don’t see. Too often we walk around in tranquilized obviousness. We go through the motions, at life’s petty pace. I went through the motions in my marriage, and took for granted that the way we were living, even when unsatisfactory, was just the way it was. It was good enough even when it wasn’t. I should be grateful that she had her clarity of vision to say it wasn’t working.

I can’t speculate about all the reasons she felt so sure that our marriage couldn’t be saved—with work, and talking, with authenticity and integrity regained.

I would have given all to try.

Yet….now, on my own, a chance to figure out Who I Really Am.

Free to be, free to act.

Put the Past in the Past

Once upon a time I asked a woman to marry me because I loved her, and she loved me and said yes. It didn’t turn out as we hoped.

In some other lifetime I would like to be married to her. I haven’t stopped loving her. But not in the marriage we had. The marriage we had was bounded by my many constraints, and by my lack of integrity and imagination of what was possible. It never touched, moved, inspired, or fulfilled me. Maybe the former behaviors were the cause in the matter of the lack of fulfillment, or the lack of fulfillment was the cause in the matter of the behaviors. It’s hard to separate. She had cause in the matter, too, but that’s her story. To ever succeed a new future would need to be created together–mutually, authentically. We would need to live everyday into that new created future with purpose and intention.

I am not planning this will happen; or hoping this will happen.

This is a thought experiment in imaging what would need to occur in order for the possibility of such a future to be possible. This is about my way of being, and my acts, that would be required to create a future possibility of a new way to be married to one another that might be available to my wife and me.

It begins with putting the past into the past.

No new future can be created if we bring the past into our futures. Since there is no certain future other than the default future our brains conceive based on all our past experience, to create a new future that never would have happened we must remove the past from the future and put back in the past. And leave it there.

One life sentence I’ve lived with since a teenager is my need to be the good boy, the good man. Good boys don’t swear; they don’t smoke; they don’t take drugs; they don’t drink; they get good grades; they excel at a sport in which none of their friends compete; they aren’t fat; they are cultured; they read great books; they are polite and sophisticated; they aren’t tarnished by money; they always please and always say yes.

I know exactly when and where I formulated this life sentence. I was in 10th grade. I asked the prettiest, most socially prominent girl in my very small class of forty-eight students at my elite private school in Pittsburgh to the prom. We had never been on a date. I don’t think I even especially liked her. Her answer was, “Nonnie, you’re trying too hard.” (Yes, Nonnie was my nickname—long buried and forgotten.)

What she meant by that was I wasn’t in her league socially. Her family’s name fronted a large steel company. One of the main streets in downtown Pittsburgh bore her family’s name.

Old Pittsburgh steel money.  Old Pittsburgh steel status.

My father was in the steel business, too–a senior executive. But he earned his way in; it wasn’t granted; and it was new.

Maybe I was trying too hard and what she said to me was meant with good intentions. She wasn’t a mean girl, or even an especially snobby girl. But my default emotions triggered a dozen insecurities. No, I could never compete socially with these classmates whose names were brand names, known throughout the country. But I could be better.

I scored the highest SAT’s in the class. I won the English Prize (civilized people excel in literature and major in English.) My school didn’t have a swimming team so I swam outside of school on an AAU team and set national records. I went off to an elite liberal arts college. I got a master’s degree in Anglo-Irish literature at Trinity College, Dublin. I got an M.B.A. I worked internationally.  I did all the right things.

So fuck her and her social status.

But I’ve been carrying this with me for fifty-three years. I can even recreate in my mind exactly when and where she said those words to me. I see it clearly.

Being the good boy is the racket I play in life. It hasn’t served me well. I get a payoff of being “good,” being right, occupying the moral high ground in any and every situation.

But this comes at great, heartbreaking cost. It has cost me my wife’s love, and my marriage.

I have declared to her that this racket has been disappeared. I have acknowledged it and have put it in my past.  It no longer holds any significance in my present, and will never be carried into my future.

It leaves me free to be.

Who I am, who I really am, unburdened by this life sentence, is now a journey of discovery.  I get to create a future I would not have had, to get beyond who I wound up being.

I am thrilled with my decision to move to Boston. I’m thrilled that nothing is certain—to see what freedom that allows. Yes, it’s scary and risky.

Where does my wife fit in this future I’m creating? I don’t know. I’m open to all the possibilities that didn’t and never existed before, which include no possibilities at all.

But I know that a more authentic and effective way to conduct my life is available to me.

I promise to live it.


What I need to do now:

Get unstuck in my idea/concept/model of marriage.

Get unstuck in my idea of love.

Get unstuck in my idea of myself.

Get unstuck in any answers I have. I can’t figure these things out by figuring them out.

I need to dwell in these questions.



First step: start living life today as life itself.

My life today is that my marriage has ended. Yes, the legal end won’t come for five more months if the system works on schedule. But my marriage as a situation in my life is over.

So I took my wedding band off today.


I know my wife hasn’t worn hers for months. I notice these things. Even when more “officially” married she rarely wore her engagement ring. As with her dislike of my introducing her as “my wife”—that “wife” connoted property not a social identification—perhaps the ring connoted something similar. I don’t know.

I had planned on wearing my wedding ring until the day our divorce is legally final. Goddammit I’m married until under the law I’m not! I realized this morning that this gold ring symbolized my entire conception of what marriage ought to be, …and it was my prison. It represented my idea of marriage, and as such my failure to secure that future or create a new future.

Taking off my wedding ring was deeply sad. It was hard to hold back tears. A wedding ring is not just a wedding ring. Yet it was also a release, a freedom to be, a freedom to dwell in the possibility that there could be a new created future.

It signaled to me that I do not need to be defined by my marriage. Maybe my wife is right: we’re not two people trudging the happy road of destiny together. Maybe if I could separate myself from the hurt of her divorcing me I could actually listen to what she’s saying and understand her reality.

It’s not my reality and it’s neither right nor wrong. But it’s the reality she has acted on.

There’s a universal law of performance that states that how people perform correlates to how situations occur to them. Occurring exists as something beyond immediate perception and subjective experience. How situations occur includes our views of the past and the future.

Maybe if she actually listened to me—really deeply listened—she would understand what I’m feeling. She says I’m a broken record. Maybe I repeat so often because I haven’t experienced being gotten. There’s no completeness to the communication.

Maybe neither of us is listening to the other.

Our brains are wired to forecast the future based on what’s happened in the past: hence, the truth of the old French saying, the more things change, the more they stay the same. 

I won’t indulge in imaging how our marriage has occurred to her. The reality is that how it occurred gave her the “clarity of vision” to know that it could never work and could only be dissolved. No other possible outcome occurred to her.

And her decision to end our marriage occurred to me as a catastrophe. I had been going through our married life in the petty pace of tranquilized obviousness so that its end was a shock, a head-on collision with a monster truck. How had I failed to understand what was happening, what was occurring for my wife?

How could I ever know how life occurs to my wife?

My response was that this was a situation that could be fixed. I could change in the ways she  identified as invasive to her.

Her default already-always interpretation was that she had lost trust that I could be other than the way I was, coupled with a stated belief that people do not change.

Neither of us conceived of creating a new possibility for a future that hadn’t existed before. We both dwelled respectively in the paradigm of problem/solution versus problem/no solution.

I cannot change the reality of where we are today. I cannot change my wife’s reality.

Maybe that reality is THE reality of the situation.

I can only create a new reality, a new future, for myself.

Removing my wedding ring is the first step.

Stranger in a Strange Land

My time in San Francisco has been spent essentially living in other people’s worlds. With both of my two relationships, I lived in their worlds. I was the new kid in town. I never had a world of my own here. I’m not sure how it could have been otherwise.

Now that my plan is to move back east, I’m giving up the opportunity to create my own west coast world.

I moved to San Francisco in the summer of 2008 as a kind of expat. I’ve been an expat before, in Ireland, Spain, Singapore, Australia, Japan, and France. I know what it feels like. San Francisco felt like this—perhaps less foreign but equally unfamiliar. This was not my city, not my State, not my geographic identity. I don’t look at the golden hills and feel at home.

My idea of San Francisco was some mixture of hippie Haight-Ashbury crossed with patrician Pacific Heights. I had never heard of the Mission much less any of the other neighborhoods. I fell into a corporate type apartment in Golden Gateway which had no local identify of any discernible kind.

I won’t write about the world I lived in with EL. I’ve erased that world from my life, and never want to revisit it. It was a beautiful world for a while and when it was over it died for me.

With my wife it’s different. I happily entered her world. I joined the South End Rowing Club—a true center of her world, and now mine. Her friends became my friends. We went only to the restaurants she liked. She showed me a Northern California I had never seen: Big Sur, Mendocino, Yosemite, West Marin, Lake Tahoe. At her inspiration we drove the southern Oregon coast; we went to Ireland; we went to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. These were her trips that I became part of. This was her life I became part of.

I liked this life I adopted. For the most part—with one glaring exception—I liked her friends. (The exception should have given me pause.) They became my friends, too. I never realized she didn’t like that I had fit so smoothly into her world; and that later I would be faulted for not having lived in my own world, rather than hers.

An irony is that the one world that was exclusively mine was a men’s group that by definition didn’t include her.

One reason I’m leaving San Francisco is to return to my world. I cannot linger in the ruins of these worlds I’ve lived in here. I cannot live in a world haunted by memories of lost love.

I pretty sure she doesn’t understand this. It’s not the way she’s lived her life. She seems not to attach emotions to places or things. She’s lucky.

In an interview talking about finding meaning in life, Jordan Peterson said, “Happiness is a shallow boat in a very rough ocean.”

He continued:

Happiness is something that descends upon you; it comes upon you suddenly. And then you should be grateful for it because there’s plenty of suffering, and if you happen to be happy, well wonderful. Enjoy it. Be grateful for and maybe try to meditate on the reasons that it manifested itself. It can come as a mystery. You don’t necessary know when you’re going to be happy. Something surprising happens, and delights you. And you can analyze that. You can think I’m doing something right, I’m in the right place right now, Maybe I can hang on to that. Maybe I can learn from that.

My boat has been too shallow, and the ocean way too rough.

I’ve looked for happiness in the wrong places. I have believed that the women I’ve loved can make me happy. They have and then they didn’t. I should never have counted on that kind of happiness. My happiness needs to come from within, not delivered externally.

I have only been let down by women. Maybe I’m the cause in the matter; maybe that’s the way life is. Maybe it’s San Francisco.

I know that once back in the north-east, I will be in my world. I won’t be an expat. I know both the map and the territory. Maybe I’ll have a chance to show some new person in my life my world.

I  welcome that change. That possibility.

Re-imagined Life

What would it look like to imagine an entirely new way of being with my soon not-to-be-wife?

Is this something I would want to have?

One way would be to erase her from my life. No photos, no social media, no email history, no gifts—nothing left of any physical or digital evidence that she had ever existed in my life… nothing that would trigger any memory, except memory. I’ve done this before with someone else.

Yet, I married her because I wanted to be with her. I admired the woman she is; I admired her values; I felt comfortable being with her; I liked sharing my life with her. I came to love her. I love her still in some complicated way. So why would I want to throw all this away?

One reason might be that she’s hurt me by ending our marriage. No one wants, much less likes, to be told they’re no longer loved or trusted. It’s wounding. When the decision to divorce isn’t mutual, it’s resented.

But let’s examine that: why do I want to be married to this woman? Why do I want to be married at all, to anyone? What’s so important to me about marriage, about being married?

On one level it’s just a piece of paper. It allows certain rights, such as my being able to be included on my wife’s health insurance. All of our finances and property are separated by legal agreement. We file our taxes separately. Having and raising children is not a concern.

I have believed that being married bestows a commitment to a relationship, a deep inviolate commitment that should never be broken, unlike any commitment to simply live together. But this is just in my head, as readily demonstrated by my wife unilaterally dissolving our marriage. So marriage does not convey any commitment to remain married.

My wife and I have not had sex for over three and a half years, so I can’t be regretting the loss of any intimacy.

I have, as in turns out, only been provisionally living in my wife’s house, so divorce brings no loss of property. Yes, I’m downsizing my life in order to move out into a smaller place, that while logistically a nuisance, and in some cases emotionally sad—I didn’t really want to sell eighteen boxes of my books collected over many years—isn’t in truth any kind of tragedy. Truth be told, I have too much stuff.

So what’s the big deal not be married to her, but continuing to have her in my life in some manner?  I’m not losing very much other than a roof over my head and daily companionship.

She’s told me she’s a better friend than a partner, so maybe that’s better for me, too.

Can we be friends, and if so, how? She is friends with her first husband, at least one former boyfriend, and more casually so with another former boyfriend at the South End. It appears to work for her, and for them.

I need space and time to decompress from the emotional states in which I’ve been dwelling. I’ve been living in my emotions and need to get out of them. I need to show up in a new world in which I can make a difference, separate from any bond with another person. I can’t do this living with her. Maybe if the clock were dialed back to October 2014, knowing what I know now, our lives could be constructed differently. It’s a possibility, but not an available possibility.

But after I become whole again, what then? My plan is to move to Boston, only in part not to be confronted daily with her world. There are other compelling reasons. That geographic separation may however open up a new opportunity for a different kind of friendship. She has said she would like to remain my friend. I take her word on that.

I’m away right now at a course at UCLA, and at the end of every day my first impulse is to call her and tell her how my day has gone. I can’t do that now. She’s the wife who is divorcing me. Will I be able to do it someday? Will be even be welcomed?

I have unfollowed my wife on Instagram-a small silly thing. She has taken of late to posting pictures of herself and when I see these in my photo stream they stab me in the heart. There’s the woman I love who no longer loves me, who no longer wants to be married to me. Maybe someday I can see her lovely face and smile with fondness rather than regret. I look forward to that day.

[It’s odd that she’s comfortable posting images of herself on such a broad Facebook owned social platform given that she’s asked me not to post photos of her that might be searchable. Instagram is searchable.]

I want to explore these possibilities for friendship. I don’t want to erase Brenda from my life. Nor do I want to be mooning after her in some pathetic sorrowful way. I want to have a comfortable friendship, tinged undoubtedly with bittersweet nostalgia.

The word nostalgia itself is a learned formation of a Greek compound, consisting of νόστος (nóstos), meaning “homecoming”, a Homeric word, and ἄλγος (álgos), meaning “pain” or “ache”, and was coined by a 17th-century medical student to describe the anxieties displayed by Swiss mercenaries fighting away from home.

I will be away from the home I’ve shared with my wife for the past four and a half years, far away, never to return. There will be some time, diminishing over time, when I will experience that pain of separation, that ache that lingers inside like heartburn. It is heart-burn.

I will grow and the pain will become smaller and smaller until, I hope, it goes away or is transformed into a new way of being.

A Letter

To my wife:

I am sorry and deeply sad our marriage is ending. I wish we could turn the calendar back to October 2014 and begin again.  I know we can’t.

The sadness for me is compounded by failure. Not only am I losing the woman I love, but I must accept the responsibility and consequences of my way of being.

I am not asking for sympathy, or forgiveness, or for you to change your decision.  That die has been cast and our separate plans are moving ahead. I only want you to know that I acknowledge that I operated without integrity.

I also want you to know that I do believe you did once love me; and that over time my way of being led you to fall out of love with me; and that this makes you sad, too.

We have invested five precious years of our lives that can never be recovered.  We are not young people with years to squander.

I am also sorry that our relatively short time together lacks the equity, the foundation, on which we could have reconstructed what had been damaged.  I would have been committed to trying, to cleaning up having not honored my word.  I messed things up.

Now, I need to be on my own to become a whole person, and to live outside my emotions.

I own my own heartbreak.

I will love you always.





The dissolution of my marriage is occurring for me as life up-ending, life threatening, life diminishing, life altering, and the tragic end of a way of life for which I had so much hope for success. This is the way the world is occurring for me at this moment– distorted by the context in which I’m experiencing it, the way in which the situation is occurring for me right now.

Where does this default context of despair come from? What past experiences frame this present situation? Why does this divorce spell only doom and gloom? Is there no alternative way for it to occur for me?

My first marriage, of twenty-five painful years, ended in a deathly, injurious three-year divorce, during which time I suffered PTSD, diagnosed by three psychiatrists. It took a long time to recover (if I have.) I vowed that if I ever had another relationship again, it would only be with a woman who loved me as much as I loved her, that we would trudge the happy road of destiny together, to death due us part.

I failed to achieve this.

Maybe trying to figure it out is the wrong answer. Life isn’t lived by trying to figure things out. Knowing why isn’t experiencing a new way of being. If you’re Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal’s serve is coming at you at 95 miles per hour, you’re not figuring out how to return the ball. You’re in the game and acting intuitively, spontaneously, in that instant. Maybe later you might analyze what you did, but not in that moment on the court.

I need to be in this moment–not figuring out this moment.

Let’s suppose for another moment I am not my internal state. That I am not the context of how this situation is occurring for me.

That I am not what my wife said.  That I am not the man to whom I refer as “I” or “me.” That I am not the subject and the rest of the world is the object?

If I suppose all those things, what’s left? What possibility opens up for me? How could I own myself?

I don’t have an answer…yet. But I know this is the territory I need to mine.

In the leadership course I’m taking this week at UCLA, we were asked to “choose” to commit to the obligations we must address in order to fulfill the promise of the course instructors: “to choose” as an action, an enrolling verb, a spoken commitment.  As an assignment we were further asked to think of other obligations in our life that if we actively “chose” to do them, the commitment would look and feel different.

I am obligated by agreement to move out of my wife’s house on September 1st. It’s an unwanted, and darkly emotional obligation. It’s nothing I chose to do; it’s something I must do.

But if I reframe this obligation as “I choose to move out of my wife’s house on September 1st,” what new freedom does this open up for me?

The answer has yet to be discovered. I’m working on it.


Everything we apprehend—other people, objects, events in the world—is filtered through our own, very individual interpretation filter. This filter is always on, and has been operating since our earliest years. The problem with this interpretive filter is that it distorts; it causes us not to listen deeply, or to see intensely.

It filters how we think about ourselves, too. We wind up being who we are largely as a result of believing we are a certain way, being a certain kind of person we imagine ourselves to be. We say, “I am this way or that way,” and it becomes so.   Or we say of another person, “she is this way or that way,” and all her words and actions are interpreted through that belief filter.

So, my already-always interpretation of my wife is that she is intolerant, uncompromising, inflexible, rigid, and totalitarian in her worldview.

And, my already-always interpretation of myself is that I am agreeable, compromising, flexible, pleasing, and accepting.

It doesn’t take rocket science to see the dangers inherent in this equation. There may be some grain of truth in these interpretations, but applying them to the reality of what’s happening now—the dissolution of our marriage—isn’t helpful.

I cannot define the subjective experience of what is like to be my wife without relying on imagination. When I say to her, “you think this, or believe this,” she is quick to respond, “don’t interpret what I think or believe.”  I, too, object to her interpretations of my words and behavior. The language we use tends to get us nowhere.

I know that my filters funnel what my wife says into what I want to hear. Sometimes it’s hopeful; sometimes it’s hurtful.

I believe, for example, that after she told me on February 9th that she no longer loved me and wanted to end our marriage, she reluctantly agreed to try to work things out as I requested. I believed this for nearly two months, during which no further discussion of divorce was mentioned, and it appeared, to me, that we were moving towards resolution. This included my making financial arrangements to eliminate her concerns about my monthly contributions. Then one day in late April, apropos of no apparent negative catalyst, my wife suddenly announced again she planned to initiate a divorce and had engaged an attorney. When I objected, she told me she had never agreed to try to find another solution.

Where was the misapprehension? We both believe our versions of reality. Did I hear what I wanted to hear when I believed she agreed to try to work things out? Did she hear what she wanted to hear herself say, that she could not work things out? What’s obvious in hindsight is that there was no clarity, no objectively clear decision to proceed in one manner or another. My wife may have never said yes, I agree; but I am certain she never said no, I do not agree.

This is water under the bridge. That I was left in a state of false hope is my interpretation of these events.

What have I learned from this—at this juncture the only useful exercise? I could forever go on feeling resentful and miserable, but that isn’t a healthy path forward.

I have learned that honoring my word means being clear about my words, not filtering what I hear, and asking for clarity when I’m in doubt (and not fearing I’ll hear an answer I don’t want to hear.) I’ve learned to accept what, in this case, my soon not-to-be wife says without judgment, however it emotionally wounds me. This is hard but necessary for survival.

I have also learned to think about how I am in the context of thinking about how I wound up being the way I am, and not accepting it as the unchangeable way I am. My wife has told me that people don’t change—and I believe this is one of her foundational beliefs that caused her not to try to work things out in our marriage. I regret the absolutism of her decision.

I believe change is possible. People do learn from experience.

My future can only be better as a result of thinking about these things: the way I am, the way I wound up being, the situation I wound up in.

Never again.

Private: Love’s Dimensions

Love has so many dimensions, far more than the three that bound our usual vision. Given the rupture now to our marriage, I’ve been thinking of all the reasons why I fell in love with my wife, loved her through her own diminishing love for me, and love her still. That I still do love her comes with all the complex emotional acceptance of her flaws and failure to remain committed to our marriage, to the vows we made to one another. It’s a wounded kind of love.

I fell in love with my wife over time. There was no Cupid’s arrow when we first met outside the South End Rowing Club. There was easy rapport, and quick familiarity. I think we felt natural with one another from the start. I know that I felt comfortable telling her highly personal details of my life.

I wonder if my wife remembers our second date, a walk on Ocean Beach. I held her hand and it felt lovely, Later we walked Ocean Beach at a minus tide to collect sand dollars to scatter on the dinner tables at our wedding.


These early days are always the best, when romance is at its fullest. Bright early romance inevitably fades. The hope is that what replaces romance is warmth, affection, intimacy, and lasting love. This wasn’t to be.

Our happiest times were on the road: staying in the lighthouse keeper’s cottage at Point Arena in Mendocino and later at Heceta Head on the Oregon coast. In Oregon we stopped at Bandon Beach dunes where I striped off my clothes and went swimming naked in the cold surf. Happy days.



Twice for my birthday my wife took me to her favorite places: Deetjen’s in Big Sur and the Ahwahnee in Yosemite.

Niland at Ahwahnee

In Big Sur we hiked steeply in the Ventana Wilderness, with stunning views up and down the coast. We ate fine birthday dinners in the hotel dining rooms. We made love in the cool darkness of our rooms…in Yosemite it was for the last time.


I love my wife’s athleticism. She’s a fine climber, cyclist, swimmer, rower. She once led a group of organ transplant patients to the top of Kilamanjaro. She has a black belt in jiu-jitsu–though her commitment to peak performance often borders on the self-punishing, tinged with judgment.,of herself and others. I once asked her if she ever rowed in the Bay for pleasure, and her response was, “why would you want to do that?” I have always felt my own commitment to swimming—my only sport—has been found wanting by my wife, not up to par with what I might be capable of achieving. She has never, however, expected more from me, or anyone, than she is willing to give of herself. She gives her all.

Risking sounding sexist, I want to say how much I love my wife’s body, how she looks, her natural beauty, her poise. She is a beautiful woman—never fussy or adorned or made-up in the latest look.

[My wife has asked that I not include pictures of her.  So one must imagine….]

In truth, our love was never too much about sex. Sex played a lusty role, at the beginning, for sure. But as so much else in our lives, there wasn’t much reciprocity in our lovemaking. There was her pleasure, and my pleasure. Rarely our pleasure.

My wife, too, is a natural cook, a master of the wok, of making mouth-watering dishes from seemingly nothing at hand.  So many times I’ve looked in our refrigerator and declared there’s nothing to eat, only to have my wife take a second look and create a delicious meal. Indian spices, ground by her, are a specialty.  I will miss these dinners.

Though we both love books and reading—one of the things that captured our mutual attention on OKCupid—we soon discovered our tastes were different. I think we were both disappointed that books we loved were often not loved by the other. Only once did my wife ask me to read a favorite book of hers, and I did though not with enthusiasm. She never asked again. Her own taste in books about serial killers I found charming if a little odd.


I loved that my wife is a mother. In fact, I had made it a stipulation on OKCupid that I would only date a woman who was a parent. My own sons are the most important people in my life, and only another parent would understand this bond without jealousy. My wife never interfered with these relationships, nor I with her relationship with her daughter.

Sometimes at night, in the first year of our marriage, my wife would hold me in bed at night. Or I would hold her. Outside the fog horns at Mile Rock would be sounding their muffled blasts. Almost regardless of the season it’s cool, or cold, at night in the Outer Richmond. The warmth of our bodies so close was a comfort deeper than temperature. It was the love I always wanted. We had it for such a brief time.

It makes me incredibly sad to think about these things tonight.