M and I have been married for more than 10 years. M is kind, shy, loving and gets along with my family. But I don't love her. For some reason, I can't. One Sunday morning in February of last year, I was frustrated and blurted out that I thought we should end the marriage. That took us into counseling. Then it took us into individual counseling. I learned that she was well adjusted and that I needed work. Breaking up was the easy thing to do. Just a week before Christmas, I was lying in bed beside her and she read my face. "What's wrong?" I said I was back to where I was in February. She cried. I cried. What was the spark? There were many but I explain a few that are vivid: I work with a woman whom I consider a sister. I'll call her Z. She's engaged to be married in 2008 and we worked closely together. I have a tendency to pull a few practical jokes on my friends and she certainly received more than her fair share. One day, my boss called me in to his office. He told me that Z was REALLY pissed at me. I couldn't believe it. I went white and my stomach twisted into a knot. I thought I was going to vomit into his recycle bin. Turns out she had colluded with my boss to get me back for my pranks. Ha ha. Very funny. But I also l learned that I couldn't fathom certain people in my life to be upset with me. My mom, dad, sister, brother. I'd be equally upset. But even more distressing, I couldn't imagine feeling torn up if M was mad at me. The "something was wrong" siren was suddenly very close by. A second event brought the siren right next to my ear. A guy at the office invited me to friendly sport event (curling) for his office group. I wasn't keen on going because I wasn't that close to him and wouldn't know a soul. But I played along and he was desperate. Since I curl a couple of times a week, I was the ringer he needed. M was also invited but her priorities included avoiding sports (even though we curl every Friday night). The event would last about 3 hours in the afternoon, so it wasn't all that big of time commitment. We curled, we ate. Lots of new people. My pal, his girlfriend and her girlfriends were packing up to leave. They decided it was time to go next door to a local pub. Not all that late, I thought I could handle a few minutes extra away from M. Now I don't drink much and that night I didn't have a sip. But it was one of those nights I'll remember for the rest of my life. The band was great, the crowd was energetic and I danced until midnight in my winter boots. I left with the biggest smile on my face. When I pulled into my lane that February evening, I had confirmed that it was time. I never kissed, snuggled, groped or even held another woman's hand. But I also knew I didn't really want to do that with my wife. Something was very wrong. When M and I met, I was at the bottom of a well. My business was booming but my life was on hold. I was a very lonely 24 yr old virgin with just 3 girlfriends ever. A friend introduced me to M and we seemed to hit it off from our first conversation. She called me for our first date but I was glad she did. If she hadn't, I was going to call her. So we started dating. Eventually, I ended up waking up in the early morning next to her. I knew something wasn't right. Her shyness was painful and she rarely let me see her emotions. I knew that going in but I kept up my pursuit -- I was terrified to fall back into the well. I reasoned that M had many of the checks that were on my list: * She was pretty * She and I shared the same politics * She was kind and sane * She didn't want kids * She married for life
How could I throw this away? I estimated that this must be the type of situation where a person uses their head and expect their heart to follow. Arranged marriages work all the time so maybe I just need to follow my head this time. Today I look at our relationship and realize that, if we were not married, I wouldn't even ask her out on date. My original checklist was flawed. My wife doesn't feel like my best friend because we don't cherish the same things to the same degree: * She goes to church and I read Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. * She can't travel without a hair dryer and I want to hike Patagonia, Peru and the Appalachian trail * She loves to stay in 7 nights a week and I want to be out 6 nights a week (not partying, but exploring our city, sports events and personal sports, movies and music, and over at a friend's house) Ten years in, my heart still hasn't caught on that this nice, decent person should be loved. But I had forgotten what love felt like because it has never materialized in this marriage. I finally woke up I felt the pain from Z and the joy from life I could never have with M. I was ready. Carpe diem.
UPDATE: I did it. I am legally separated from M.
She was very sad, I was stoic. For a month and a half we lived under the same roof as we finalized the finances and she shopped for a new home. We worked out the division of our assets and I made sure that she was not short of cash and received a decent buyout for the house and investments. My lawyer thought I was too generous but I was interested in getting the issue behind me and not about wringing nickels and dimes out of M. This put her in position to buy a brand new condo. A very nice two bedroom located a short, one bus ride to her office. She picked it out. A very modest mortgage gives her the opportunity to save and travel. I kept the house and continue to live there.
Three weeks after she moved out, I put an ad in the local on-line meet and greet site. I was regularly chatting with M about her furniture and electronics and she had occasions when she couldn't reach me. When she asked me where I was, I stumbled around for an answer and said -- "I don't think you want to know where I was." She figured I was dating and hit the roof. That was the end of her forced smiles. She drilled me for details and I made the mistake of providing just one crumb of info.
After a few crazy conversations, she finally decided to avoid contact with me. A month passed and she called after I emailed her about a story on her favorite TV personality. She was still sad but had lost a lot of her anger.
Occasionally I chat with M on the phone. She wants me to stay in touch and periodically calls my mom to chat. I'm dating a really fantastic woman and I struggle to imagine the me of old. How did I live like that for so long? What an adventure I am on now! Other than the occasional co-worker that gets me wrangled, I've never felt so close to the clouds.
p.s., thanks for all the comments and the encouragement. I hope my adventure brings some positive thoughts to your life.