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I didn’t know what to do, who to talk to, how to begin to even admit that this marriage was a bad idea. From the moment we crawled into our camper to snuggle in as a married couple and he asked, “So is our entire life going to be camp themed?” I knew that my husband was a different man than my boyfriend had been.  


I called my college-friend to ask her advice. We’d lost touch since college, but she’d gone on to become a divorce lawyer in Fairfax, VA. I thought that she was distant enough from my life and my loved ones to be objective, but close enough to offer some advice free of retainer. We met for happy hour at a wine bar close to where she lived after I reached out via Facebook Messenger. Under the guise of “let’s catch up” she let me know right away that I wasn’t the first person to suddenly want to “catch up” while having pretty significant marriage issues.  

 Image result for sad wife

She was amazingly helpful though. Her advice was to begin documenting, stay patient, and be mindful of my personal safety. “If he hurt you once, even on accident, and suffered no consequences” she asked, “what’s to stop him from hurting you again?” A question I never ever expected to ponder about him.  


And so I started keeping a note in my phone documenting every time he insulted, ignored, or threatened me. And I was amazed to see, in writing, how often it was happening. Had I been ignoring it the entire time we were dating? Was I blinded by the prospect of this lovely man as a husband? Or did he change when we wed? Or do I change when we wed?  


I had never felt so alone in my entire life as I did as a married woman.


First Anniversary

The night of our first wedding anniversary ended with me at the nearby Emergency Room with a dislocated shoulder. I so confidently told them that I had slipped getting out of the shower that I almost believed myself. Truthfully, it went a little something like this: 

 Me: Did you forget our anniversary? 

Him: Oh. When was that? 

Me: It’s now. Today.  

Him: Ok. Happy anniversary. 

Me: I’m going to take a bath. 

Him, twenty minutes later: Are you pouting? What’s wrong with you? Why are you pouting and giving me the silent treatment? 

Me: I’m just taking a bath, trying to relax. 

Him: Get out. 


When I refused to get out, he grabbed my right arm and tried to yank me out. I actually felt my shoulder pop out of its joint, when I screamed in pain he threw me to the floor and used the most stereotypical Lifetime movie battered woman terrible man line I’ve ever heard. 


Him: See what you make me do when you behave like this?!  


While dating we had always prided ourselves on being unique, special, we weren’t like other couples, we took each other seriously, we were respectful of one another’s privacy, what we lacked in passion we made up for in practical companionship. He had never once given me any indication that he would treat a wife this way – I’d not have married him if I’d expected this.  


While I was in the waiting room at the Emergency Room, alone, I couldn’t decide what to do next. My parents had spent so much money on our wedding one year prior, I couldn’t throw all of that money, hope, and joy away because of one unfortunate event – one miscalculation of strength – one moment of weakness. And I hadn’t told anybody in my life about how he’d been treating me all year because I didn’t want sad sympathy eyes. I didn’t want to admit a mistake. I wanted to work on it, fix it, force happiness.  


I learned that night and over the next year that it’s easier, and far less painful, to pop a shoulder back into place than it is to pop love back into a relationship.

The First Year

And the first year went much like that: he would abandon me to make plans for our present and future, and then scoff at the plans I’d made. I would gently suggest, “Maybe you can decide where we go/eat/travel so I can take a little break and not feel like a tour guide?” And he’d simply reassure me that he always likes what I plan, that I’m just better at it, and that he doesn’t want to be a disappointment. His potential disappointment clearly trumped my actual disappointment.  

 Image result for bad husband

I planned a honeymoon glamping. I wanted the vibe of camping without the work. It was beautiful, we stayed at a mid-range spot a few miles from Glacier National Park. I had assumed we would spend most mornings hiking and exploring, most afternoons taking advantage of the spa treatments, and most nights planning our future together. So I was surprised when he brought his computer along and spent most of every day “catching up on work that had gotten away from [him] during all the wedding planning.” Every time I would suggest a hike he’d tell me to go for it. Every time I’d suggest a spa treatment, he’d ask judgingly “can we afford that?” It was like, my boyfriend died at our wedding and replaced him with a husband who hated me.  


Every trip I could actually convince him to take was like this. And he turned down most of my ideas. Each time he wanted to go out for dinner, he’d “defer to me” to decide where to go and then gently deride my decision for the cost of the meal.  We had never had financial issues while we were dating, I made a fair wage, he did too, and I didn’t understand why the combining of our finances suddenly made us cash poor.  


I tried so many things and nothing worked. When I tried new date ideas, he called them too expensive. When I tried to rearrange our apartment for a fresh start, he called me a control freak. When I tried to change up our sex life, he accused me of cheating. There was nothing I could do that wasn’t met with derision.  


On our first anniversary, I hoped he had planned something. He never mentioned it, I assumed it was going to be a surprise. I woke up, went to work, came home, no word. I received a text from him at 6:30 asking me what I was planning to prepare for dinner so that he could decide if he wanted to eat on his own on his way home from the gym.  

I confronted him that night.

The Wedding

We had a perfectly adequate wedding. When he proposed, I was so excited to be marrying this man who had been so good to me for two years. He proposed at the campsite where we spent our first weekend away together and he had put so much thought into it.  

 Image result for campsite proposal

He had candles, new camp gear that he’d had set up while we were en route, flowers, and Sade playing. We pulled up and I knew, immediately, that my life was about to change. And it didn’t make me feel sick or scared. I was just entirely thoroughly happy.  

 Image result for romantic fire

He built the fire while I paced nervously. When he noticed my pacing he put my out of my misery, looked over, already on his knee with a hand full of kindling, and yelled across the site, “You’ll marry me?” and I said “Of course,” walked over, kneeled beside him, and helped with the fire.  


As I worked to plan the wedding, he worked to plan our life together. He was busy merging bank accounts, planning life insurance, getting the paperwork in order to merge two thirty-year old lives. I was busy picking floral arrangements, playlists, dining menus, and guest lodging. His disinterest in planning the wedding was excused by his taking the lead in the marriage logistics. He handled the marriage; I handled the wedding. It was perfect.  


I decided to go vaguely camp theme with the wedding. We had an outdoor venue, the tables were set with simple rustic floral arrangements and hemp runners. Twinkling string lights danced above us as dusk fell, we had three campfires burning, everywhere was a dance floor, and for the guests who wanted it, we had tents set up for their lodging. Instead of cake, we had smores. And for him and I, we slept in a camper parked on the lot surrounded by tents full of the people we loved most in the world.  

 Camp wedding canoe ceremony arch

I had told him my camp plans and he approved but mostly stayed out of the details. The first indication that our marriage wasn’t going to be as perfect as I’d hoped was during the wedding: he hated everything and barely tried to hide it. He thought the food we served was tacky. He thought the twinkly lights made it look like a dorm room. He was annoyed that his suit smelled of smoke. He didn’t want to sleep in the camper. And he called my dress “simple” and I knew he meant that in a bad way. In every picture of us, all I can see is his disappointment in our wedding and my fear of what that meant for our marriage. I can barely look at those photos without feeling a welling up for resentment for his abandonment.