Why do we leave our spouses alone in a marriage built for two?
Dear Shitty Husband,
I know what you’re thinking. It’s one of, or some combination of, the following:
- I’m not a shitty husband! I work 50-hour-plus weeks to pay for our house, and our cars, and our vacations, and her jewelry, and the kids’ activities. I love my wife and family!
- I’m not a shitty husband! I would do ANYTHING for my wife.
- I’m not a shitty husband! I fix things around the house that need fixed. I mow the lawn, and walk the dog, and take out the trash, and help change diapers, and run the kids to their little league games.
- I’m not a shitty husband! I always make sure she has an orgasm when we have sex once a week!
- I’m not a shitty husband! I don’t drink excessively, I’m drug-free, I work out, I don’t hit her, I don’t call her names and I don’t cheat!
And listen. I get it. You really truly don’t believe you’re a shitty husband. And I commend you for all of the good things you do, and applaud you for all the sacrifices you make on behalf of your wife and/or family.
But guess what?
Shut up. You’re an asshole and a shitty husband.
I don’t know everything there is to know about marriage. I might not even know a lot. But I know one VERY important thing: I’m an asshole. And I was a shitty husband.
On Easter Sunday of this year, my wife took her ring off after nine years of marriage and informed me she was leaving.
It hurt. It took my breath away. It frightened me.
But I wasn’t shocked.
Because we (husbands) have an awful lot more control than we think we do.
And all of us—male and female—need to accept more responsibility than we do for our circumstances.
And that’s what I’m going to do now. Accept some responsibility.
The question on the table today is:
Had I been the husband I was supposed to be during the beginning and middle years of our marriage, would we ever have gotten to the point where my wife was looking elsewhere for inner peace and happiness?
She most definitely sucks for ending our relationship the way she did. She doesn’t get a free pass for that.
But this is where I have to take responsibility—at least part of it—for the position in which I find myself.
I was NOT a perfect husband.
I’m not even sure I was a good husband.
I loved her. I was kind to her. I wanted to make her happy and win her approval. I wanted to take care of her and provide for her. I went to work every day for her. She gave me purpose. I wanted to be with her forever.
But I was an asshole. A selfish one. And while I truly believe I redeemed myself during the final two years of our marriage, when I was growing and she was withdrawing, I was a shitty husband for the seven years prior.
Watching the Masters
I didn’t know it at the time, but four years ago, a defining moment in my life happened during the Sunday final round of The Masters golf tournament—generally considered to be the most-popular golf tournament of the year by American golf fans.
Living in Ohio, that general time period around Easter and The Masters is when you can count on the weather to break and really give you some beautiful days.
My ex-wife absolutely loves being outside. She grew up in the country, and sitting inside on a beautiful day is not her idea of a good time.
So, inevitably, it was gorgeous outside during the final round of The Masters. Our son was not quite a year old. And my wife wanted us, as a family, to go enjoy the weather together.
Go hike in the nearby national park.
Go to the zoo.
Go to a metro park trail.
Sounds pretty reasonable, right?
I think so.
But on that particular Sunday, without the benefit of failed-marriage hindsight? It sounded perfectly unreasonable.
It went something like this:
Me: “Babe. I’d really just like to watch my favorite golf tournament. This only happens once a year.”
Wife: “I can’t believe you want to sit inside on a such a beautiful day. You don’t want to go do something nice as a family?”
Me: “I don’t want to sit inside on a beautiful day—I kind of wish it was raining—and of course I want to do fun things together, but again, this golf tournament happens just one weekend a year. And that happens to be today. I’d like to watch it. I’m sorry.”
This all hit me a few months ago during the Masters. It was on TV at my house. But nobody was home. She’d already left. My son was gone. I was there. I was awake. But I wasn’t home.
I’m tempted to look up who even won the damn golf tournament this year. Because I truly can’t remember. Maybe Justin Rose or Adam Scott. But honestly, who cares?
I chose The Masters over a perfect Sunday afternoon with my wife and son.
And guess what, Guy Who Thinks That Sounds Perfectly Acceptable?
You’re an asshole. And a shitty husband. Just like me.
I committed marriage’s worst crime, after all the obvious stuff like cheating, and abuse, and the like.
I left my wife alone in our marriage.
It looks a lot like that Masters Sunday four years ago.
It’s what it looks like when she stays home on a Friday night to take care of the kids and do chores and watch Desperate Housewives alone on the couch while you’re out with the boys.
It’s what it looks like when she invites you to bed during Monday Night Football, but you’re too busy monitoring your fantasy football team to join her.
It’s what it looks like when she asks you to join her for a family function at the in-laws, and you decline so you can watch a movie at home alone, or sit around playing video games, or playing golf, or playing poker.
It’s what it looks like when you go to a party and you spend all of your time drinking and laughing with your friends, and never once squeezing her hand, or whispering in her ear how gorgeous she looks, or making eye contact from across the room and mouthing the words “I love you.”
It’s what it looks like when you leave the hospital to get a good night’s sleep the day your son was born even though your wife is begging you to stay.
It’s what it looks like when you don’t acknowledge all of the many things she carries every day so that you don’t have to—managing schedules, and the household, and buying gifts for birthdays and weddings and graduations, and keeping the house clean, and a million other things I’m STILL too fucking dense to recognize even though I’m still picking up the pieces in my now-empty home.
The hardest lesson I’ve ever learned is that you can have all of the good intentions in the world. You can be kind. And charming. And willing to sacrifice.
And it can STILL break.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
I’ve heard that proverb my entire life and I never really knew what it meant until now.
You know, it’s funny. I could have just DVR’d the fucking Masters.
And you can too.
We’re broken people. We’re shitty husbands.
But gentlemen—we don’t have to be.
Photo: Brady Hsu/Flickr
This originally appeared on Must Be This Tall To Ride.