‘Til Death Do Us Part…
One Woman’s Story of Facing the Reality After Clinging to the Dream
Daydreams drifted into deep sleep. Mark and I were walking through a field of tall brownish-yellow grass blowing in the breeze. Surrounded by the Swiss Alps, our hands clasped in each other’s, we were at peace. He stopped and looked into my eyes and, without a word, his facial expression said it all. He loved me. He would always be grateful that we had worked things out between us. At that moment, I felt gratitude for the pain we’d been through, elevating us to a new state of awareness about each of us, separately and together. Now we knew for certain that we would be together until the end.
Suddenly I was awakened by the telephone. I groped my way across the room and picked up the phone.
“All right. I give up. I’ve been all over this f—ing parking lot. I can’t find your car or anything. Where in the hell are you?” To describe Mark’s voice as agitated was putting it mildly.
“Where are you?” I asked unemotionally.
“I’m at the office, which is closed.”
“Wait there, and I’ll be right down to get you.” I walked down about a half a block and saw his black Mercedes. I jumped in the passenger side and guided him to our condo. We parked and walked in together. He was still muttering about how he almost turned around and went back home when he couldn’t find me. So much for fantasies. We began our rendezvous weekend in the most basic reality.
He didn’t embrace me. We walked out on the deck and listened to the water lapping on the shore. We moved into the living room, where we sat and talked about Amy’s play and other safe topics. When he had wound down, we agreed to get a good night’s sleep so we could get started talking early in the morning. While he was in the bathroom, I slipped off my clothes and climbed under the covers. One of my favorite things about being married to Mark had been lying near him and smelling his scent. After six weeks of separation, I felt awkward. I was certain that we would not make love, but I didn’t know what to expect. By the time Mark undressed and climbed into bed, my heart was racing. For weeks now, I had just wanted to be acknowledged by him. Now I was hoping for some little sign-maybe some sense that he had longed for me. Just a word or a silent touch would be enough.
Before I knew what was happening, we were having sex. It was just sex, no words of longing or love. I felt helpless to stop it. NO! Not like this, please. I need to know that you still have feelings for me. Tell me that you love me. I think I want to die! As I turned over and tried to fall asleep, I felt this was the single most degrading moment of my married life.
For Mark it all seemed normal. Afterward, he got the munchies and wanted to drive to Seven-Eleven for some bologna, mayonnaise, and chips. He had already taken a sleeping remedy, so I was afraid for him to drive. After we made a quick run to the store and had our midnight snack, we fell asleep. Mark managed to sleep a little but was up by 4:00. I slept in…until nearly 5:30. We made coffee and settled in comfortably on the deck.
Pre-dawn is a beautiful time at Lake Tahoe. The serenity of the blue water reflecting the snow-capped mountains is almost beyond description. Boats anchored close to shore were all lined up in the same direction. It was stunning.
Mark began the conversation. “I’ve done a lot of searching and reading these past few weeks. And I’m coming to some conclusions that I’m not sure you’re going to like. But before I go into my thing, why don’t you talk for a change, and I’ll listen. I really want to know what you’re thinking since you’ve been gone.”
It both surprised and pleased me that he would let me go first. Although I was curious about where he stood and somewhat uncertain about what it was I “wouldn’t like,” I felt he was making a concession by letting me begin. I talked for an hour and a half, telling him everything that I had gone through these past weeks. I let him know how committed I was to taking our marriage to a new level, once again putting our love first, even though I knew for him our marriage came only after everything else. I went into great detail about my awareness of my own shortcomings and what I was working towards to make myself a better person.
“After weighing everything, sweetheart, I still believe that you and I are soul mates. I’ve done a lot of reading and reflecting about relationships. What I’ve come to realize is that marriage today cannot be what it has been in the past. When couples’ lives were about raising crops, fighting plagues and famines, or moving west in wagons and staking their claims, married life was in survival mode. There was no time to think about whether they were meeting each other’s needs. And, besides, they only lived ’til their thirties. Today, couples have an entirely new set of challenges and, judging from the divorce rate, aren’t meeting them very well. The problem you and I are facing isn’t unique to us.”
“I can’t believe you are coming to these conclusions. This is exactly where my head is too. I’m encouraged.”
“Well, when life forces us to stop and look at ourselves, it becomes so obvious. You can’t possibly meet all of my needs, and I can’t meet all of yours. It’s unrealistic to think we can. But, because we’re caught up in a traditional marriage, we’ve been trying to fit into that mold. And it isn’t working.”
“That’s exactly where I’ve come in my thinking. I’m really happy to hear you say this.”