It dawned on me this morning that my wife would be teaching a student at home this afternoon. I had a hankering for some croissants, so I headed out around 9:30 or so for our favorite artisanal bakery. Best croissants in town, hand down. They also have the best quiche you can find this side of the Atlantic (or Pacific, for that matter). Plus, they make unusual things, like kouign amann. I bought a couple of croissants, and an apple tart for my wife. I brought the dog along, as she needed to get out of the house, and they have dog cookies there, so she always gets a couple.
When I got home, I heard the piano through the door. I was kind of surprised. My hereto incommunicado wife had returned home. I told her that I’d brought her breakfast, and she could come out to join me. She came into the living room, and asked me what I had done with the extra boxes she had bought. I told her that I had put them out in the garage, which is detached from our house. I asked her why she was asking, and she said that she still needed to pack her things. I took the opportunity to remind her that this was her house, and she could just leave things here as long as she liked.
With this, she got a bit miffed. She asked me if I had read and understood her note that she left me last week. I told her I had read it several times, actually. She asked me if I had understood the message she was trying to give her, and to this I said that I actually didn’t really get what she was trying to get across. She wanted to know what I thought she was saying, and I told her, quite truthfully that it seemed to me that she was trying to do two things: a) express gratitude, and b) apologize. Beyond that, I couldn’t really get much else. Seriously, it seemed a bit waffling and confusing to me, so I couldn’t really get that much else out of it — I even needed to discuss this with my counselor. I didn’t tell her any of this latter stuff, though.
So then she started to unload. Not in a hostile way, but rather in a quite defensive one. She said that she was a bit upset that it had been two months since she moved out and I hadn’t “moved on.” I just listened. She was trying to tell me in that letter that she regretted her decisions, but felt they were absolutely necessary, irreversible, and that there was no hope for our relationship. She would not be coming back. And so on. I took the opportunity to remind her that I have not given up on our relationship at all. I told her that, no matter what had happened in the past, I still believed in us, and felt that hope was not lost at all.
This caused her to dig her heels in even more. Her body language hardened. She was sitting across the table from me, but she turned her body 45 degrees away. Then she crossed her arms. She was visibly tense. She maintained that she saw no future with me. Then she gave away her entire game plan. She said that she needed to send me a harsh message and pack up all her stuff and move out, because I just wasn’t getting it: she was done, and to her mind there was no hope.
Okay, okay, okay. Now, if you’ve never read this blog before and you’re a typical American, you might say, “What don’t you get, you dolt? She says she’s done, so why don’t you just move on, like she wants you to?” Well, because I believe in marriage, I believe that when we promise our lives to our spouses we don’t just do it until things get difficult. We promise that we will persevere even when and especially when things get difficult. Difficulties always arise, and sometimes they can persist for quite a time, as they did in our case. But difficulties are opportunities, they’re not game enders. Most married couples just don’t know how to handle them. They become divisive, rather than uniting. Plus, I’m dealing with infidelity, which is probably the most impermanent of marital crises. In most times, even if you do all the wrong things, if you just give it time to run its course, the affair will just die its own natural death. Then the wayward spouse comes back, is terribly remorseful, and wants another chance. That is, if you have done at least some of the right things.
Back to the conversation: Things turned logistical. She wanted to know how we’d manage the dog if she moved out. It’s a quasi-custody thing. I said that I didn’t know, I’d just want to see her as much as I could. She asked about our joint possessions, what she could or should take, and what she might leave behind. I said I hadn’t given that any thought. She said she’d leave the bed, some bookshelves, and some other things, but would pack up her clothes, books, and other things like that. She had already packed up a bunch of plates and silverware back in January. This struck me as quite petty back then, but I’ve gotten used to it in the interim. I brought the bulk of the practical stuff into the marriage anyway. At some point, I ended up standing up while she was asking me all this. The tension that had marked the beginning of the conversation had faded, and I just had the sense that I could just give her a hug, so I did. I went up and held her, I held her head to my chest, and she started to cry. I did too a little bit. I sang a silly little song that she had made up some years ago. She kept crying. It was clear to me that she was in tremendous pain. I told her that I knew she felt an enormous amount of pain. I also told her that I understood that this was her process, and that she felt like she had to do this. I told her that I really didn’t care what she took, and in a way I wouldn’t even care if she took all my money. None of that mattered to me. That was the expression of my heart: love is too precious to allow possessions or money to stand in the way. Yes, that is reckless, but then I know that she is not vindictive and could not take me to the cleaners. Her conscience, even though it has withstood a tremendous amount of immorality, deceit, and perfidy, simply could not withstand that.
So, by the end of our conversation things had turned from surly and defensive to open and tender. I don’t feel the need to protect my heart, so I have no problems opening up. We ended up having lunch together, then I went to work. I reminded her that she could count on me to give her a ride home from her rehearsal should she need one. She assured me that would not be necessary. She asked me to drive safely as I left, and there was a look of kindness and tenderness about her. This simply was not the expression of a person hell-bent on destroying her marriage.
I came home with a tinge of dread in my heart, half expecting to find half-packed boxes everywhere. I entered the house and found nothing of the sort. There was no evidence of any packing whatsoever. There was evidence of two things: first, that she had taken a nap on the couch, and second, that she had used some rubber stamps that I’d bought her last week. I then went into the kitchen and saw that she had eaten some of the fish soup I had made over the weekend. She had also made some rice, since she had eaten the last of it. I had my dinner pretty late, and watched the news. Then she texted me to ask me if I could pick her up from her rehearsal, as her friends were out tonight and couldn’t pick her up. My response was, “Of course. You can always count on me.” I was there to pick her up. She thanked me, and said I “saved her life.”
I’m in this for the long haul, folks. She is obstinate. But unlike a lot of obstinate spouses out there, she seems to be only half-heartedly obstinate. Even with everything she has said, it’s still like there is one foot in the door while the other one is out. She does not seem to truly have the courage to do all of the things she professes to be wanting to do. Her parents do not support this journey. This came out in the things she told me. She hasn’t encountered any critical friends, or perhaps is avoiding them. When these surface, things will get more difficult. But there will likely be some other wake-up call. I have no idea what that will be or where it will come from, but as sure as I’m sitting here, some wake-up call will eventually arise.