Sunday, November 20, 2011

Committed: the ranting preface

So, the reason why I own Committed: A Love Story in the first place, given that I got three pages into Eat Pray Love before deciding that Elizabeth Gilbert was the most obnoxiously self-satisfied human being alive and I was not going to spend one more second in her company...

My husband left to start a new life with his mistress in October 2010. By early November he was back. Yes, his parents had found out where he'd gone and why, and confronted him about it, but to this day I do not understand why he came back. He never made any bones about the fact that he was madly in love with her and had no interest in rebuilding a life with me. He was just sort of around, for no reason, and miserable about it, and on the phone to her constantly though he'd told me that all communication with her was over. It took my cancer to give us a time frame: I told him I wanted him here during my treatment to take care of the dogs when I couldn't, and a week after I finished radiation I told him to move out.

So, anyway, a couple weeks after his return my mother-in-law gave me this book. She told me that it was very wise about marriage and that I needed to read it. Not that he did; that I did. And there was some, erm, implying that I bore equal responsibility for the marriage's demise.

In her defense, none of us except him and the Mistress knew anything close to the real story at that point. The rest of us believed that the affair was over; we also believed it had started very shortly before he ran away, as opposed to thirteen months before. None of us really realized what he was capable of until Christmas, when I was at my parents', and he told his parents that he was flying out to surprise me, then dumped the dogs at a kennel we'd never used and flew to be with her. His story completely blew up because I talk to his parents frequently, and then when the weather started messing with everyone's flights I had to pay for a rental car he could drive back from the midwest. (You may ask why on earth I wanted to bring him back. Someone needed to rescue the dogs from the kennel, and I was stuck in the southwest for another three days.)

So I don't entirely blame my mother-in-law for giving her son as much of the benefit of the doubt as one could, at the time. And it is true I am not at all physically demonstrative in public, though her assumption that I am therefore the same way in private with a loved one is flawed. I do come across as cold and reserved a good deal of the time. And it is undeniably true that I did not make any effort to be the kind of woman he wanted.

The kind of woman he wanted, for eight years, was me. I did not have to make any effort to be that person. And then he decided that he wanted a drunk exhibitionist with whom to make out at dive bars. Call me selfish, but I did not feel that my husband's development of a very specific fetish was worth throwing away six years of sobriety.

I know a lot of armchair psychology. I understand the turning-around-of-blame: you never want to believe that someone you love could have done such a thing unless provoked to it beyond endurance. But presenting the cheated-upon party with a list of things you don't enjoy but that you do to please your spouse, because Marriage Is About Compromise Didn't You Know, is not helpful. It is especially unhelpful if the things you do are watching the football game on Sunday, or not cooking red meat at home, and you think those are comparable to an alcoholic going to bars several nights a week. “I have to watch the Steelers all the time! If she won't go hang out with drunk people listening to a horrible noise band now and then, she doesn't really love him.”

And maybe I didn't. Maybe it's simply not possible for someone in recovery to love someone who, at thirty-four, is still solidly invested in getting good and drunk at least twice a week. Maybe the priorities are just too different for those two people to continue respecting each other. I don't know.

But I know that sobriety is my trump card. That nothing gets to be more important than that. That the issue is not my inability to be a loud drunk exhibitionist, but my refusal to be. I will never regret not being that person for him.

I also know that he said he fell in love with her because she is exactly like he was at twenty-four.* And that if I met someone who was exactly like I was at twenty-four, I would move to another hemisphere if necessary to get away from that person.

Different priorities.

So, that's why I own this book. We shall see if reading it makes me as irritable as recalling the circumstances around receiving it did.

*Bear in mind she met him when she was twenty-seven, which means she was displaying the maturity of a male three years younger. Maybe the reason for all the pictures of her in her underwear on the internet is simply that she has not yet mastered zippers.

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