A BIG CUTIE PIE:
I have been married for about 8 years, and we dated for about a year before getting married. For the most part, it has been a smooth marriage. However, with the help of my therapist, I've come to realize that I've been in denial about my contentment with the marriage for years. From the beginning of the relationship, I have sacrificed so much that I wanted in life to be with partner. I left the city I wanted to live in, we bought a house I didn't want, and we never travel (due to my partner's health problems). Most critically, from the get-go, we agreed that we don't want children. I convinced myself that I didn't want kids, but over recent months, I've admitted to myself that that is a lie. I do want to have a children. My partner is adamantly opposed to having kids. When I told them about my revelation, they essentially acted like I hadn't said anything.
After nearly a decade of sacrificing so many things I wanted in life in order to be with my partner, I've started to feel resentful that I've given up so much for the relationship and, frankly, they haven't. My therapist and my sisters have all said that they think I'd be better off leaving the marriage. But I have no interest in hurting my partner, who would be completely side-swiped if I said I want a divorce. No matter what happens, I will be hurt me. How do decide between hurting my partner and divorcing them, or accepting a life of discontentment?
This could be you some day but probably not with this good of lighting. It’s professional lighting , you know.
I’m sorry. Like you said, there is no way out of this that isn’t painful. My mom likes to remind me, “if there were an easy choice, you would have already picked it.” So it’s not like you’re a massive dolt and we’re all shocked that you’re missing the obvious answer. A LIFE with someone—especially a life you’ve given up so much to have—must seem impossible to detach from. I have not had the experience, but I can imagine it feels somewhat similar to deciding whether or not you should cut off your own arm. With a grapefruit spoon.
However, the problem is, you’re stuck under a bolder (Yes, I’m using a rough version of the plot of 127 Hours as today’s wacky relationship metaphor. Get over it). This means: you have to cut your arm off. And it’s going to hurt and suck and feel like a death because that is what ending marriages feels like.
It won’t just suck in the normal break-up ways, either. That would be TOO EASY! It will suck because you will be forced to contend with what you believe you have missed out on (time, mostly). It is quite tempting to try to negate all that you’ve missed out on by simply sticking with your decision and staying the marriage. Economists have a whole term for it—sunk cost fallacy. But staying will not give you back even an ounce of joy. Your best bet for future happiness is not to try to avoid pain or assuage guilt. That’s like trying to get the water out of a sinking ship with a teaspoon. The best bet for happiness— or survival in the whole boat metaphor—is to jump ship and swim to shore like a motherfucker.
Because while I’m sure you love your partner to pieces, this is not the life for you. It was once, and that is lovely. Eight years of marriage is a success, and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. Despite all the other compromises you’ve managed to survive, you cannot compromise on children; there’s an entire bible story about that (Judgement of Solomon). You do not owe someone your one wild and precious life on the off chance that it makes theirs a tiny bit better. You really will not make it out of this life alive, so you must, when and if you have the opportunity to do so, live well. No one on their death bed says, “I wish I would have stuck out that shitty marriage longer and been less happy.”
Go travel. Get out of that city, if you can afford to. Live in a shitty apartment for a bit until you find a house you like. And for god’s sake make some moves towards having children, whatever that looks like for you. First you’ve got to do some real painful shit, but there’s so much good on the other side, and it’s yours. It will take a while for any of it to feel like the right choice, do not get me wrong. There will days that you will feel certain that what you did is horrific and mean and wrong. (It was not, it is not). But, within a year, you’ll have these large swaths of time—hours or days even—where you feel so free that you’ll know it was worth it. In time, that joy will become your primary feeling.
REMINDER FROM POETRY: “Satisfaction is a lowly thing, how pure a thing is joy.” — Marianne Moore
Please send me an email with photos of your kids in like five years so I can gloat about being right.