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April 9, 2000

Why Can't We Stay Married, If We Love Each Other?

We love each other. We have two beautiful daughters. Why couldn't we stay married?

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He calls it his bachelor apartment. He sleeps well there. Jerks off a lot.I am upstairs. In our bedroom. In the bed we shared for seven years. I do not sleep. I do not jerk off. I do what all women do. I think. I blame myself. I marinate in my failure. I hate myself for my feelings. Sometimes I cry. More often, I stare at the ceiling and wonder what the fuck is wrong with me.

It is August 2005. By September, my husband and I spend a lot of time walking around our farm talking about ending our marriage.

"Maybe we should spend some time apart," I generally begin, weakly. I do not say "divorce." I tell myself this makes a difference. That until I say the words out loud they won't exist. That there is still a chance we will find each other again.

"Breaks never work," he snaps back. He is right, of course."What do you expect will happen? That without me around you will discover some forgotten attribute that will change your mind?"

Yes, I think."I just want some clarity," I say.

"You just want to sleep with someone else."

"That isn't what this is about."

"Isn't it?"

"Not for me. I am still in love with you." That I can say. That feels hopelessly, urgently true. I say it again."I love you."

"That is such bullshit," he answers.

"No it isn't."

"It doesn't mean anything when you say that."

"Yes," I say. "It does." I take his hand. He lets me."I love you," I say again.

In my mind, I imagine that if I can convince him I love him, he will forgive me for wanting to leave. He will understand the roil inside me and know it isn't about him, and we will go on to be wonderful, dear friends. All of this mess will fade with time, and in the mutual love of our children we will rise above it, because we are good people and that's what good people do. But my husband doesn't want me to love him. That is too complicated. Better that I hate him. Or love another. He wants math, not poetry.

"I love you," I say, starting to cry.

"Just shut the hell up," he says, dropping my hand.

Five months later, my husband moves out of the basement and into his own apartment, three hours away. He leaves on New Year's Day, his belongings tossed into a half-dozen Hefty bags.

I was a good wife. That I can say. I did all the wifely things one should. The old-fashioned duties, like keeping up with the socks and the pediatrician appointments and the amount of Windex in the house. I also provided the modern wifely contributions of an independent income and a body maintained within a few inches of its premarital form. I cooked and cleaned and packed the kids' lunches. I laughed often, kept my rambling needs in check, and made love to my husband with vigor, making him feel brilliant and beautiful, which he was.

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