CRAIGSLIST CONFESSIONAL

I was desperate to save my marriage. And desperate to leave it

This story is part of a series called Craigslist Confessional. Writer Helena Bala has been meeting people via Craigslist and documenting their stories for nearly two years. Each story is written as it was told to her. Bala says that by listening to their stories, she hopes to bear witness to her subjects’ lives, providing them with an outlet, a judgment-free ear, and a sense of catharsis. By sharing them, she hopes to facilitate acceptance and understanding of issues that are seldom publicly discussed, at the risk of fear, stigma, and ostracism. Read more here. Names and locations have been changed to protect her subjects’ anonymity.

Taylor, 40s

I looked across the table at my wife and smiled faintly. This was the first time she’d seemed happy in months, and I felt relieved. Our kids were with their grandmother for the weekend, and I relaxed into my chair as our friends went around the table, refreshing our drinks of wine. I hoped to reconcile when we got home. We hadn’t been intimate in quite some time, and it was taking a toll on what little stability remained in our relationship.

She was beautiful, my wife — had been even before the plastic surgery.

There was no end to her vanity, though, to her need to be needed and wanted, to her obsession with being the center of every situation.

And even now as we all sat around, she gently nudged a piece of raven hair away from her eyes, and leaned her bosom on the table. It was something she did often — wield her sexuality to steer attention back to her — and it exhausted me. I found her increasingly insubstantial, and the feeling that she wasn’t enough anymore scared me.

“We had a good time, right?” I asked, as we got ready for bed later that night. She wasn’t likely to agree.

“Yeah…” she answered reluctantly. “But that doesn’t mean anything.”

And I knew in that instant that a storm was to follow. She would blame me for our lack of intimacy, I would tell her she is superficial and cold, she would tell me that I’m not a “real man,” and I would tell her she’s a bad mother.

After we’d unloaded our resentments, she abruptly went into the bathroom to change. I hadn’t regretted what I’d said, and my anger was still bubbling when I heard the clatter of plastic on the sink. Wondering what she was up to, I tiptoed across the hardwood floors and turned the corner, peeking into the bathroom.

There, in her pearly nightgown, stood my wife. Our bathroom cabinet was ajar, and the sink was filled with our toiletries and pill bottles. She dug into it, shoving things aside and reveling in her destruction as I stood at the entrance and watched our things glide across the pristine tile floor.

Finally, she picked up a pill bottle and emptied its contents into her hand. Then, she poured herself a glass of water and calmly turned to look at me.

She knew my weaknesses, and calculatedly played me when she sensed that she had lost a little of her power over me. And in spite of everything, I always succumbed. I’d walk her off the edge and agree to see our therapist first thing Monday morning. We’d settle into bed and put our problems aside momentarily — knowing of their return — but happily pretending, at least for the night, that there was nothing better waiting for us post-divorce.

But this time around was different. I walked towards her and unclenched her fist. The pills came cascading down on the floor. I knew then, when I felt nothing, that it was over. I’d suffered the past few months in limbo, wavering between desperation to save my marriage and desperation to leave it. But in that moment, I could not help but fully hate her.

“I want a divorce,” I said, handing her back the pill bottle as I turned to go to bed.

Read more Craigslist Confessionals here. To share your story with Helena, email her at craigslistconfessionalqz@gmail.com. Learn how to write for Quartz Ideas. We welcome your comments at ideas@qz.com.

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