I married too young. I didn’t have a chance to know who I was before I allowed myself to be subsumed by another. Insecurities, fears, neuroses – these create the outlines of our relationships. I was just seventeen and insecure about everything. He seemed like a mature man of the world at 23, with a good job in his uncle’s company. But underneath, he was as insecure as I was. He just hid it better. Or rather, it manifested itself in different ways: he the bully and me, the whipped dog, cringing in fear of his wrath which could be set off by seemingly nothing.
Our insecurities made us mistrustful of each other’s affections. To compensate, he became a petty tyrant, making more exacting demands of me as the years went on. Nothing was good enough. He found fault with everything. He humiliated me in front of the children. (Humiliated the children, as well.) For the first decade or so, I only wanted to please him, to be worthy of his love. Eventually, I only wanted to avoid the line of fire.
I did not understand it at the time, nor did he, but his anger at everyone else was simply the manifestation of his anger at himself for he would never be as successful or talented or admired as he wanted to be.
I might have stood up to him, maybe even left him, except for the children. I never could have provided for us as well as he did, having no education beyond high school. Or perhaps that was just my excuse. If I’d been honest with myself, I’d have been able to acknowledge that my deeper fear was being alone, living with the stigma of a failed marriage, of being seen as unworthy of love. What would that say about me?
For years, I berated myself for not being brave enough to strike out on my own despite knowing that we’d all be emotionally better off without him.
And then one day, he announced he was leaving me. HE! Leaving ME! I didn’t know what to feel. Indignant. Angry. Hurt. Insulted. And so insecure. How dare he! I was the one who should have left him! I was the better person. I was the one who did all the work in our marriage.
He left me for a young widow with a sick child. To her, he was a hero, instead of the villain he’d become in our home. Her child wasn’t his disappointment, so he was more tolerant of the boy’s failures and weaknesses. Perhaps sometimes he could even be loving.
In the end, things were so acrimonious, we never spoke again, and he rarely saw our children after that. . He died fairly young while I lived to a ripe old age.
I never remarried. In the years without him, I learned to accept myself; perhaps even love myself. I had some boyfriends but there was never anybody serious. I was happier alone, making my own rules and having nobody but myself to please.