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.

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