“What did I say to you that made you think, yes, I want to marry this person?”
“I don’t know.”
“I know what you said.”
“You’d asked me what I wanted and I said I wanted to be loved as though there were nothing wrong with me, and you said, ‘Nothing is wrong with you.'”
“I don’t remember one thing you said. I just remember feeling like I was going to barf all the time. That’s how I knew. You made me want to barf all the time.”
“Should I read to you?” he asks, lifting his book to reflect in the mirror. “We’ll be waiting for her a long time.”
“Sure,” I say. “Go ahead and read.”
“Do you know what it would take for Mary to leave this family?”
“What?” I say.
I wonder how often he thinks of it, the time at dinner when she told him, “In this family we don’t do divorce.”
It’s a mean lie: this attitude that punishes people for dating. As though they should marry the first person they’re interested in. As though they should be pathologically faithful virgins in search of the nearest volcano. As though they lacked wherewithal and had failed somehow because any relationship ends. Dating is how we find compatibility. How we learn that shared interests are not nearly as important as shared values.
I could tolerate my first marriage until I had a child. And then I realized how poorly I’d married. It’s a lesson I’m grateful to have learned in my twenties. Afterward you date looking for compatible values. For the ability to partner and parent. For the indescribable sonic zoom of that person who sets you alight. That person who makes the world glow harder.
This shit doesn’t fall into our laps. We have to search for it. We have to work for it. Love is work.
The ego on these fucking people who tell you that you must get it right the first time. That you have a duty to stick out the horrible, the demeaning, the controlling dickbaggery of lousy boundaries and selfishness. In this family we don’t do divorce because we no longer need it. We married our values. We learned by getting it wrong the first time. We learned by dating. Being available and/or interested just isn’t enough, people. It just isn’t. No is a word you can use whenever you want to use it. No. Fucking no. We no longer countenance selfish pricks here. Not even for dinner and a movie.