It’s been almost three years. Three years of being his wife, and celebrating how “successful” we were showing up in the world. Three years of commendation for our union, which is an example of “what was possible” for many people in our small Apostolic Christian community in the Midwest.
We met in our second year of university. Within weeks he told me I was the woman God said would be his wife. I enjoyed the idea of being chosen by a man who I found so cute and beautiful. To this day, I’m not sure if there’s anyone I’ve laughed more with.
But as my marital dreams unfolded, a feeling of unease began to creep in. Even before things got serious, my gut—that deep, unsettling voice inside of me—told me he was a good guy, but that didn’t mean he was. Good man for me.
The feeling persisted. I wrestled with him all days and nights, and I feel angry towards him, and I try to pray to God to take him away from me. I even shared it with him in hopes that he would say something that might melt the rock of shame and frustration in the pit of my stomach. He said he felt confident enough for both of us. I counted on that. But that feeling stayed with me on that joyful night after Sunday supper when he proposed to me in his father’s drawing-room. And it remained as we looked each other in the eye and said “I do” in the county court. She has stayed with me during family vacations and holiday meals Sweet evenings Together by the fireplace in our new home, daydreaming we shared about our future children.
This feeling remained with me until that moment, nearly three years later marriage– when I looked him in the eye again and told him I had to leave. The fact that I didn’t feel connected to him, passionate about him, or deeply committed to him was a sign that he wasn’t getting what he needed either. Somewhere in the world there was a woman who felt completely confident in him. Not only was staying in the marriage dissolving me, it was holding him back, the person I cared about, from finding the things he deserved.
I was terrified. I found it difficult to calculate my identity outside of my marriage. I was also reeling from the adrenaline rush of self-affirmation that filled my body the moment I left our shared home for the last time. As I drove down the highway at 80 miles an hour toward the house where my grandmother would hold me in my grief, I felt an unrecognizable relief fill me. It was explosive and all-consuming, and there wasn’t much joy, but rather a recalibration.
As women, we’ve learned not to trust ourselves, to believe any voice other than the one that knows us best – our own. We are destined to become an amalgamation of what others think we should be: a the mom, lawyer, “beautiful daughter,” maybe even a mistake. This archaic societal framework leaves us little room to dig into our self-identification.
This reminds me of the adage I’ve been told often: Women were “more loyal back in the day.” I cringe at the suggestion. “In the past,” women had fewer opportunities to assert their power than we have now. They couldn’t simply decide that marriage wasn’t right for them, they had to think about what life as a divorcee meant for their livelihood. While this is still true for many, resisting these expectations was previously unimaginable – I certainly don’t think all women were just passionate wives.
The truth is, it was my divorce that gave me courage. I made a conscious decision that doing the hard thing was worth it for the sake of my well-being: for the sake of kindness, for the sake of possibility, for the sake of self.
It’s been 10 years since you left. Ten years have passed since we signed our separation papers in the same courthouse where we were married. We had a meal together afterwards, a light sign of our commitment to being kind through the pain. Over these 10 years, the seeds of courage I planted have blossomed. I nurtured it with acts of self-knowledge and confidence, such as my move to the big city, my five-month solo trip around the world, and my immersion in the world of A meaningful career, my decision to enjoy my choice to be child-free. I founded a nonprofit organization Dedicated to mental health, books by A Diaryand continued to monitor my well-being day after day.
I often think of the surviving version of myself. I consider what you might do in this parallel universe of choices not made: the version of me that bowed to pressure is what so many others desire but have not looked so good at. I imagine a wife still living in Ohio, raising beautiful black children, and celebrating a decade of marriage. I think about what that gut feeling might do to her when she shares her life with a good man – even though she knows he’s no good for her.
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