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Grief is Grief

Nine days ago my wife left me. I don't have the energy, the time, or even the inclination to relive every detail. What I've provided here is an honest account, though. No exaggeration. No details left out to cast my wife as a heartless villain or to posit myself as a victim. It is what it is, and part of my motivation for writing with such frankness is so I can get honest feedback from anyone who reads this.

I'm a grad student and I teach at a university. My wife was due to pick me up around 7pm. She texted me: "I'm so sorry. Something came up. A cab will meet you. There's money on the counter at home." You can imagine my confusion. I texted her to call me. She didn't. I texted again: "Baby, what's wrong?" No response. The cab driver was a caricature of cab drivers who don't shut up and who think their passengers give a damn about what they really do for a living. He was a nice guy, but you can imagine my mind was racing.

When we arrived, I ran upstairs to our apartment. I opened the door; the first thing in sight was my wife's bookshelf--something she built but used mostly to store random, everyday stuff. Her purse, books, mail, even shoes and coats (she was always messy). And her desk was completely empty. I remember gasping and shaking. I think I said aloud "Oh my god," though I can't be sure.

On the counter was the money for the cab, so I ran downstairs. I gave the guy $40. I have no idea what the ride actually cost. Presumably less because he drove away. I ran back upstairs, shaking. There were two letters, one with my name and in parenthesis, "Read this first." On the second letter, "Read when you're ready."

The first letter was 2 pages long. It served as her justification for leaving. She said she was unhappy, that she thought I had BPD (which, in all seriousness, is a grievance I feel is ridiculous), and she gave me what amounted to a list of anecdotal reasons for why she left: that I'm too moody; that she feels suffocated; that she feels we enable each other too much and that we can't grow as individuals if we're together. There were details and examples. Most of them were more than fair. And she also insisted there was no one else, that she never fell out of love with me, that she will always love me, and that she's "happy with our everyday life." She concluded with, "Goodbye, my love. Always and forever." The second letter included details about her attorney, whom she already hired, and the logistics of the lease we share--financial matters, essentially.

There was never any infidelity--certainly not on my part. Not in 13 years, and I've dated her since I was 20 years old. My entire adulthood thus far. We married almost five years ago. We've lived together for 12 years. We had our problems, but if someone asked me to sum up our marriage with one word, I'd have said two: "very loving." I've always been really comfortable sharing my feelings with her. I've trusted her completely with everything, and I still adore her, no matter how much she positively crushed me. And I think you can see for yourself that her letter was conflicted.

One of the details that troubles me most is something she wrote in the first letter: "I know if I tried to leave in any other way, you'd convince me to stay. And here's the worst part: we can't have any contact with one another. I'm not strong enough. No emails, no facebook; I've changed my phone number already."

She does love me, and in many ways that makes this experience worse. If she had cheated, or if I had, or if I was an abusive drunk, or whatever, then OK, there's a justification for leaving as she did. But I'm none of those things, and to my knowledge she never cheated on me. She's a good person and I can't fathom she would. And I'm a good man with a good heart who has flaws. We all do. And so does she. One of them is that she never had the courage to express to me that she was even considering leaving. I honestly had no idea. Why didn't she suggest marriage counseling? I'd have dropped everything if I had known it was this serious.

And I'm still reeling from shock. I feel shattered, confused, deeply and impossibly hurt; I feel betrayed and angry and terribly depressed. And I miss her so much. I'm grieving. It feels like she's died. That loss is burning inside my body at every breath.

And to be denied a voice in this decision was especially unfair because I know I've earned it. After 13 years, years I'd describe as lovely in so many ways, it's brutal to be denied a voice. Of course we had our problems. I've been suffering from depression. She has too. She was seeking counseling. I should have done so but was too fixated on trying to succeed in grad school. I have to accept my gross misjudgment in that respect. But again, she never mentioned marriage counseling. That isn't the same as trying to work on your own shit. It's similar, but very different also. And I'd have jumped at the chance if I had known. I still would. And it goes without saying, I guess, but now I certainly feel the pressing need for counseling for myself.

I wrote her a letter in response to hers. I sent it to her work via certified mail so someone had to sign it. I did the same to her attorney in the event she got the letter at work and tossed it in the trash.

It was a long, heartfelt letter. An honest account of myself, of the changes I'm already trying to make regardless of whether or not she returns, though of course that was the primary message: come home; let's go to counseling and work this out. But I also had to stand up for myself. The way she left was cruel. I used the word "heartbreaking" instead. Some of her grievances, I feel, were either unfair or at least amplified by emotion. There was a lot of truth in her letter, but she was also seeking justification--not to me--but to herself for leaving as she did. I told her that I love her unconditionally, that our marriage is worth saving.

I don't know what I expected in terms of a response. What I got arrived yesterday in the mail: a letter written by her attorney on her behalf: "Tina is not interested in marriage counseling. Please contact me regarding the lease and the Civic. Thank you."

That's it. She left on a Tuesday. By Friday I had been served divorce papers. The weekend passed--somehow. And yesterday I got that letter from her attorney. So cold. So formal. So dismissive of my feelings, which are more than reasonable and fair.

And here I am, grieving.

When I can sleep I have terrible nightmares. Vivid, awful shit. Mostly images of things shattering. It doesn't take a psychoanalyst to piece that together. Last night I dreamt that a Portuguese soccer player (I'm a big fan of the sport) was injured in a game. I was there in the crowd. The player's head was cracked open. Blood was everywhere. He was dead. Players on the field were shaking. Someone covered his body. Then I woke up. I couldn't get sleep after that. One of the weirdest details of that dream is the player--if you're a big fan of any sport, you grow to loathe certain players. I hate this guy, or at least my perception of him as a professional, and he was the one who died. I was stunned and felt so much grief. It's bizarre.

Food actually disgusts me. The smell of it alone. I eat to appease my family and friends when they're around. While I'm alone, the best I can manage is fruit or maybe oatmeal. I've lost 8lbs in nine days.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that on March 17, that was supposed to be our anniversary for the first time we dated. We were so young. I asked her out to see a ska band with me. We had a great time. It took me forever to kiss her because I was nervous. Just thinking about that now gives me chills, a sensation I don't quite understand.

I have school work I need to do, so I need to wrap this up. But let me add a few other details: the weekend before she left, she wanted to have sex, but it was late and I was tired, and I kissed her and asked if we could do it some other time. She said, "Yeah, no biggie." The day before she left, she emailed me. It was a sweet exchange. She said she loved me. We showered together the morning she left--nothing sexual, but still intimate. That's how we were, a happy married couple. For the past several months we've talked about starting a family, which is not easy for me. But I was ready. I am ready. And she played along, I guess. I don't know how to make sense of any of it--the contradictions in light of an obviously planned escape. She's built a wall around her now. I can't contact her, and if I did it would only make everything worse.

Keep this in  mind, too: I've been working so hard for the last two years. Teaching classes, doing my own academic work, studying for the GRE, applying to PhD programs, spending so much money to finally position myself in a career that I could both enjoy and rely upon to provide for a family. A week prior to the day she left, I was accepted to my first PhD program. They're very competitive and I was so proud, so excited. On that Sunday, just two days before she left, we were researching the city of the school and the destinations nearby, as it's on the opposite side of the country. I thought she was excited, though I did detect a certain vacancy about her response when I told her I was accepted. I found out two days after she left that I was accepted to another program to a school much closer.

Why did she lie to me, and for so long? Because she was afraid of the confrontation? I'd never hurt her! I love her! What I've settled on now, right or wrong, is that she didn't want to save our marriage even though she does love me. I honestly think she's really in a bad place emotionally and has attributed her lingering sadness to me. Some of that is fair, but certainly not all of it. And I can't know if something is bothering her so much if she doesn't tell me.

Ugh. I've written for far too long, but I guess it helps. I don't know, maybe it's indulgent. But I'm grieving. And grief is grief. It is an unfathomable experience that I'm going through. It hurts so much. So very much. And there's so much information I didn't include to provide a context for how blindsided I truly feel.

So I guess my marriage is over. I'll move to a new town, go to a new place, and try to reinvent myself. I need to invest in that idea because, well, the alternative is to let the despair consume me. I have my good moments, but they're fleeting. Mostly I just grieve.

Thanks for reading.














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