I sat alone at our dining table the other morning. Half of my breakfast sat heavy in my stomach as I glanced at my phone to see a text come through from my husband. My husband of 14 years. My husband who had cherished me almost to the point of worship. My husband who took my hand as we scoured several antique stores, searching for the perfect dining room table. We wanted one with the right amount of character, nothing too plain, something that would be enhanced with the scratches and dings it would endure with the many children we planned to have.
It was the same dining room table where we sat and shared our first meal in our first home together. That night, I made pasta and served it in fancy dishes. I poured wine. I couldn't wait for him to come home and see what I had made for us.
It was the same dining room table I later slammed said dishes down while trying to prepare the same pasta dinner six weeks after our third child was born. I was struggling to keep it together while he worked all the time. He was too busy to notice I did things like try to emulate our first meal in our first home with a newborn strapped to me and two toddlers who left my tank full of love but depleted of energy at the end of each day.
It was the same dining room table where I sat and ran my hands over the scratches again and again as he confessed his affair a few years ago.
And somewhere in between it all, he stopped taking my hand in antique shops. It seemed more of a chore than anything else for him. And I stopped trying to get him to notice all I did to make a cozy home. I stopped acknowledging his advances. If he was too busy to notice me, then he couldn't have me at all, especially not at the end of the day when I had nothing substantial to give him.
It was the same dining room table where I sat and ran my hands over the scratches again and again as he confessed his affair a few years ago. I was in shock, I suppose. Running my hands over the scratches allowed me to feel something, or maybe it kept me from feeling too much.
"You haven't touched me in six months," he said.
"You haven't noticed me in longer than that," was my defense.
We were both to blame. At the time, I wanted to get the old us back. I wanted to move forward and try to feel what we had in those early years.
"Let's both try really hard," he pleaded. And so we did. We both tried really hard.
We have had many family meals at this dining table since that night. I have tried. He has tried. But every day I feel it: the unbecoming of us. I am not sure if it's because we need to completely let go of who we were in order to start anew, or if we just need to let go of each other completely. I have been asking for an answer—not from him, from myself. I have been looking for some sort of signal that the universe will send me in a pretty little package complete with instructions on how to deal with this nightmare. I need somebody to tell me what to do. We are at a crossroads. I have never been here before and I am afraid of what it might mean if we can't make it. I am afraid of what my life will be like if we do.
I am not sure where my love for my husband has changed, but it has. I have lost bits and pieces of it here and there and it has been devastating to lose something you thought you would have forever. I have tried to hang on tighter, only to have it keep slipping.
He feels it, too. He has felt the unbecoming of us over time but waited until there was a big huge piece of us missing to say how he felt because he was afraid to say it. Then he did on that intoxicating fall morning, he said it in a text, and I was able to understand and hear it in a way I wasn't able to during our many conversations of trying to figure "us" out: "I feel like I just can't leave you, but I don't think I can stay either."
We know the marriage we had is over and we need to make a choice: We can stay and build a new marriage, or we can let go completely.
I stared at his message and realized we are in the same place. We are having such similar feelings and maybe, just maybe, that is something. Maybe it is enough to work through our knots, or maybe it will be the deciding factor that causes us to go our separate ways. Perhaps it will make it a bit smoother because we will both be met with a little more understanding and compassion and a little less hurt.
I don't know how to do this. Nothing feels right or comfortable. Nothing. While I know it's normal to feel this way in this situation it doesn't mean it's easy.
But I know this: My husband is right. He cannot stay if things are going to feel this way. We are done with the fighting. We are both numb and incredibly sad. We know the marriage we had is over and we need to make a choice: We can stay and build a new marriage, or we can let go completely and see what kind of a life we can have separately.
No matter what happens though, I think we need to get a new dining room table. I simply can't bear to sit in this space that holds so many hard and beautiful lifelong memories for another second—and so, I will start there.
*Editorial note: the writer name is a pseudonym. The mom who wrote this post wishes to remain anonymous.