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On Marriage : Where It Went Wrong - kale & cigarettes
On Marriage : Where It Went Wrong

On Marriage : Where It Went Wrong

Present Day

I often have interesting thoughts before falling asleep. I’ll be lying in bed and it will hit me clearly and no matter what time it is I will feel a rush of energy. But I don’t always have my journal next to me and I don’t always get up to write it down. I try to repeat it in my head multiple times so I will remember to write about it in the morning. It never really works out. When a thought hits you, you only have that moment to record it before it leaves you forever. I’ve learned to come to terms with the fact that after a few weeks I will forget that I forgot something and it won’t matter because it seems the brain is skewed that way to protect us from realizing how truly limited we are. 

There are two versions to my story with A. One is that we met and were instantly connected and after two years of building trust through friendship we finally came together in a beautiful and fateful way. 

The other is that between the time of first meeting and the day she asked me to marry her I had finally gotten over her and was ready to move on with my life in a different direction. And I would carry that droplet of resentment all the way to the finish line.

Where did it really go wrong? That’s what I was thinking about last night before bed. And I wanted to rush to the back room to write it down but falling asleep is hard enough and the screen before bed ruins my dreams. I went over all the key moments in my mind hoping that they would still stick in the morning. I had the outline of the article perfectly in place. And then I fell asleep. 

I only remember one thing – the lowest common denominator. That’s what really pulled us apart. 

There were memorable fights – driving up the coast for vacation while simultaneously trying to plan a wedding with her evil mother. Me wanting to call the whole thing off because it, “felt like fake bullshit that I can’t be a part of.” 

Friday, 5.13.16

She slammed the door this morning around 9am. Presumably, she went out for a crying Portland city walk. I got out of bed and oil pulled, took my supplements, made breakfast, and went out for a walk of my own with my camera.

4 hours we didn’t speak to each other. 

It’s harder to be nice than it is to cling onto every little thing. Once the grumpiness starts it just builds on itself. I would have to do a full pause and acknowledge my behavior, apologize for ruining everything, come to terms with the fact that I have no excuse for feeling how I feel inside, and admit I was a jerk. It’s easier to shut down and allow her to feel like she did something wrong. Then she starts acting cold. Then I can attach to that as the reason for my behavior in the first place.

My lowest common denominator is discontentment. Or judgment. Or emptiness. Those are the pervasive feelings. No matter how good a new body feels or how intoxicating of a process it is to get to know another mind, it inevitably comes down to the worst inside me, because that’s what always comes out. 

We came out of that road trip alright. I hit my peak grumpiness and eventually swung to the other side. The golden hour meadows in Yosemite, back woods cabins in Mt. Shasta. And just the time on the road, away from reality. It softened me. We got home and had more sex. I was making jokes again. And just that little uptick in my behavior gave her enough hope to shrug off the few days before it turned. This would be our pattern.

The honeymoon was similar. Walking down the streets of Barcelona talking loudly at each other. Me telling her that I never signed up for a lifetime with one person. Her telling me that’s exactly what I did sign up for. 

Saturday, 12.17.16


I laid it all out for her and felt nothing. I am a human clone in a relationship. Either I have to hold out and push through for a truly deep lesson on love or I have to get out because my soul is screaming through my body.

Somedays it feels like I’m being dragged eyeballs first across jagged rocks. I don’t know who this man is. The marriage man. I never wanted to be him. Everything tensed up inside when she told me if I wanted to be with her I had to marry her. For a moment, I laid on my bed and cried because I had finally felt seen. But soon after that, a hardness formed in my heart and another voice got louder in saying I was lying to myself by walking down this path. This isn’t who you are. It’s not who your dad is. It’s not who your brother is. It’s not who men are. 

She never stood a chance. Nor has anyone I’ve ever been with. And that’s heartbreaking. 

My mind tallies mistakes and shortcomings like a computer program designed to comb through software and discover vulnerabilities. It is an attacking brain that can be ruthless. And I engage in it. I allow those thoughts to move down into my body and cause disconnect. I allow myself to believe my thoughts – that there is more bad about her than good. That she isn’t capable of making me happy. That her behavior will only cause me a lifetime of discomfort. That I need to run away to regain my “freedom”.

Mark used to say it wasn’t freedom at all. It felt like it because I was regaining control. By being alone I was in control of everything in my life. By being in love I wasn’t in control of anything and I couldn’t live with the fact that another person had so much influence and power over my feelings. 

A sense comes over me that I have to get out or I will likely die. I cannot see the end of the day or the beginning of the next. I am consumed by a tightness and a panic that will stop at nothing to swallow me whole and end my life indefinitely. Essentially, I panic. Which causes me to turn my feelings outward and point out to her (and all my past partners) what they are doing wrong, all the time. 

This, of course, is unlivable. Nobody could endure this. Nobody that was like me anyway. And yet, many of them did. They endured for unknown reasons. Possibly because women have the unfair position in life of being raised to believe they have to go along with the will of a man. In A’s case, I think it was more along the lines of her chaotic upbringing. She probably didn’t believe she deserved better. And since I was at least better than what she’d had in the past, and could be incredibly kind and generous at times, then I was the best she was going to get and she was going to make it work. 

It’s sad to think about now. Just a world filled with angry boys raised by their angry fathers not stopping to think about all the destruction we’re causing. She saw this and she went along with it anyway. And that only served to make me more angry towards her. 

It’s a broad stroke to argue that most women don’t have a chance in their relationships. That is, of course, a touch general and stereotypical and doesn’t mention the nuances of each relationship and the presence of non gender-normative couples. But I’m going to say that it’s mostly true. 

All that matters is winning. Being the last voice. Screaming over the voice of the person in front of you. Showing strength and being a man in order to keep the world in order. 

It was too late when I finally realized how disgusting my attitude had been. My obsession with picking apart flaws instead of being grateful for everything she was giving to me and to our life. The way she talked to Woody and took care to feed us thoughtful meals everyday. How she continued to work hard for the company despite the fact that I could be overbearing and tyrannical at times. 

It was me who suggested couples therapy. I became sick of myself. And I hated the distance between us. I wanted to be closer. I wanted to address the main issue – that I was entirely uncomfortable with intimacy and would do anything to fight against the possibility of opening up to someone else. 

But I think you only get one major lesson out of each relationship. Ours was to make plainly obvious my behavior and the consequences of it. A was tender to me. I could be awful but I always held her more softly than people in the past. She gave me reason to look at the way I was acting because I finally saw that it wasn’t someone else’s fault that I was the way I was. It was my responsibility and if I wanted to push through the other side I had to do something about it. 

Unfortunately, many of the learnings were wasted between us. We had reached the point of no return – contempt. Or at least I had been living there for too long to change direction. The bits of softness and connection we achieved through therapy were swallowed up by the rages of the past. A newspaper overhead during a thunderstorm. 

I’ve always had the belief that I will get it better the next time. If I could just start over, start fresh then I would get it right. If I moved to a new city I might finally have the mindset to write a novel. Be happier. Explore more. If my partner was upbeat then I could feed off of that. It was always about going someone else to be someone else. Waiting for those outside circumstances to finally make me whole. That was always my belief and that’s why we never stood a chance. 

The details are irrelevant. The arguments interchangeable. I never wanted it to work. The loss of control, the mess of it, it was all too much for me. And I reacted defensively. I didn’t sit down and say I was scared. Because I didn’t even know that at the time. I only noticed the anger, the irritation. I was constantly reacting to this fear that threatened my well-being and I made sure to pull apart the love until it couldn’t be revived. 

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