Marrying Mr. Wrong: Did She Ignore The Red Flags?

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red flags
She thought he was "the one." Some obvious relationship red flags indicated otherwise.

JUNE 1998, THE WEDDING
I don't like my dress. It weighs 800 pounds and I can barely move in it. It feels symbolic of the life I am signing on to: the life of an indentured servant; the life of a banker’s wife. I cry during the ceremony.

Everyone thinks it's because I’m so moved by love but, I can tell you now, it was out of pure terror. I'm angry about the lighting. It's too dark and I don’t like the shadows being cast on the white carpet. The chuppah, too, is not what I had expected. I didn’t want to go over the top. It’s clear that I have.

JUNE 1998, LONDON
When my husband accepts an offer to move to London, I agree to go because I know that theoretically most people would love to live in London in a three-story townhouse with a garden in the back in posh Chelsea with a successful banker who runs marathons and climbs mountains. I agree because really I have no choice other than annulment, and I wouldn't dream of doing that. I had done it. I had gotten married. I pulled off a huge, successful party. It's behind me now. Two years of hiking and biking and running and skiing and watching 18 rounds of golf and arranging dinners with friends and going through all the talks—all those endless talks! Eight months of preparation for a 20-minute ceremony and a three-hour party. I got what I wanted. Didn't I?

I wonder if this is how it is with all newlyweds. I ask some of my friends. Many agree it's hard to keep passion alive. So I feel OK. I feel like I'm part of something larger than myself. I'm participating in a cultural ritual and I'm doing just fine.

DECEMBER 2000, PREGNANT
My husband and I have been married for two years and we've been together nearly six. Against all odds and a constant low-grade fever of anger running between us, we seem to be surviving. It seems like the time to start a family.

On the last Saturday of November, we head to the Hamptons for our first weekend alone together in close to two months. Two weeks later it's confirmed: I'm pregnant.

I’m not as elated as I thought I would be. Instead I become depressed because things are tense and miserable with my husband most of the time. I start to feel insane for bringing life into the world with someone I don't like most of the time. My husband and I see a marriage counselor. I cry hysterically and say I don't feel connected to him; we never really talk.

He says, "Let's go out to dinner, then, and talk." We go out to dinner and I say, "You start." He tells me about a nursing shortage in Ghana. He goes on for 20 minutes at least. After a while I interrupt and ask him what this has to do with the fact that I'm feeling anxious about the pregnancy and the state of our relationship. He says it has nothing to do with it: I told him we never talk, so he's talking.

I say, "What about the baby?" and he tells me, with exasperation that I mistake for passion, that he loves me and is thrilled at the thought of becoming a dad. Suddenly way too exhausted to fight for our marriage anymore, I decide to feel reassured by his excitement. I decide to calm down. I decide to be happy. It’s amazing all the things you can decide to do when you really want something to work.

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
It’s a magnificent morning. I tell my baby nurse I'd like to take my newborn daughter to the Baby Gap in the Winter Garden, which is attached to the World Trade Centers. Our conversation is interrupted when a plane flies by the window of my living room. A moment later it hits the North Tower. I think about the plane and my proximity to the buildings. My husband took an 8 A.M. flight to Washington, D.C., for a meeting near the Pentagon so I know he isn't reachable. I decide that if a piece of the plane hit something on the ground, the whole neighborhood could go up in flames. "Let’s go," I say to the nurse.

En route to the Upper East Side, I hear that an 8 A.M. commuter flight has flown into the Pentagon. Is my husband dead? I wonder. My husband isn't dead. He sends an email to my father from his Blackberry many hours later. There is cheering and general rejoicing at my parents’ apartment. Intellectually, I'm relieved but I'm too numb to feel actual relief. As usual, I feel nothing in the moment; I feel nothing at all.

I lie awake most of the night watching the news. One station keeps playing the frantic phone message of a 32-year-old woman to her fiancé. The bereaved fiancé is in his early thirties, wearing a light blue Oxford shirt that matches his eyes; that matches my husband’s eyes. "She’s my soul mate," he tells the newscaster between sobs. "I don’t want to be alive without her. I don’t want to be alive ..."

What is love? What on earth is it? After getting to know each other so deeply, after surviving fights and deluges in the Alps, sitting together through funerals of friends and celebrating at the brisses of my sisters' sons, I felt certain that what I felt was love.

And yet, when I examine the reality of my emotions, or lack thereof, I know that I don't feel the kind of love that the bereaved Romeo on the TV feels for his lost Juliet. I want to feel that way about my husband, but I don't.

I will give myself one year. If one year from today we haven't made deep, structural improvements, it will be time to move on.  Keep reading...

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