My husband and I have been married for three years and I still don’t love him.
Our marriage story isn’t extraordinary. I met him through a friend, who insisted that we would make a good match. “He’s just like you,” I remember her gushing to me one day over tea. “You like the same things.” At first, I was completely taken aback by her determination to get me hitched. Both of us had been adamant about waiting on the right men to come along, even if it that meant waiting until we were in our thirties. We looked on judgmentally as some of our friends fell for the first guy that came along and swept them off their feet (or, more accurately, convinced the fathers of their future brides they were good enough for them). I didn’t want to be “that girl” — the girl who finished college and immediately became fresh bait. I didn’t want to be the one whose aunties and estranged family members decided they knew what was best for her and transformed themselves into FBI agents on the lookout for suspects (i.e. potential grooms). But isn’t that how the universe works? It goes out of its way to give you exactly what you didn’t ask for.
So I graduated college. For a year and a half, I sat at home trying to decide what to do with my life now that I didn’t have classes to go to and I was at a loss. I didn’t want to go to graduate school right away because my brain was fried and deserved a break. But I wanted something to happen, some glamorous event that would bring me out of this rut that had become my life. I’d wake up at 9:00 A.M., realize I didn’t have classes I needed to be awake for, and go back to sleep until well past noon. When I was awake long enough, I watched bad movies and ate stale chips. This happened every day, without fail, for a year and a half. I started feeling anxious, knowing I should do something about this unfortunate turn of events but lacking the motivation to actually do anything.
But isn’t that how the universe works? It goes out of its way to give you exactly what you didn’t ask for.
When my friend told me about this man whom she believed was perfect because he was “just like me,” I was initially thrown off guard, but then I started entertaining the idea. I was 20 years old and at a crossroads in my life. I could literally choose any direction to go in and take it. I could backpack across Europe if I wanted to. I could climb Everest (probably not, but everybody wants to climb a mountain, right? That’s a thing?). I could forget my arts education and start over completely, learn something new. Or…I could just get married.
As bad as it sounds now, I think I was willing to do anything that got me out of my parents’ house and offered a break from the routine I’d lived through for so many months. So even marriage, which I’d sworn off until I was at least 26, seemed like a welcome prospect. It sounds harsh, but it’s the truth. I wasn’t thinking about love or the future or even how this person looked. I was, to be completely honest, only thinking —selfishly, I might add— of how it would be a nice change for me, so I went for it.
When I gave my friend the green light, she immediately stalked our suspect on social media and sent me everything she could find. He wasn’t bad looking. Average looks, cheesy smile — nothing that made my heart stutter. I remember feeling a vague sense of foreboding and a tightness in my chest, but I ignored both. I was determined to follow through with this endeavor now, this adventure that was going to change my life for the better.
I was 20 years old and at a crossroads in my life.
We were married five months after we started talking. I can’t recall how I felt on my wedding day besides numb. It occurred to me that I was 20 years old and getting married, willingly, to a complete stranger. I’d broken all my own rules and I couldn’t even truthfully claim that I was happy about it. But it was too late. In a blur of events, I was moving halfway across the country, away from my family–just like that. After two decades of being in my parents’ home, after years of wanting to be somewhere else, anywhere else, I was gone.
It was during our third month of living together that I realized I didn’t love him. I cared about him, sure. I was slowly adjusting to living with someone else who wasn’t family, slowly getting used to his habits, both good and bad. I cared about him the way you care about a distant cousin you’ve never met — that is, by association. Again, harsh, but true. I knew that he was my husband and that I could at least make an effort to care, even if on the inside I was questioning our entire, eight-month relationship.
It had happened so fast. I don’t know if I was expecting it to happen so fast. I never had time to adjust to the idea of going from a single girl who’s never had a roommate to a married woman with an actual, real-life husband. There was no period of time where I could sit down with myself and have an honest conversation about whether this was really what I wanted. That conversation came later, in the middle of the night during one of many sleepless episodes.
I cared about him the way you care about a distant cousin you’ve never met — that is, by association.
I remember that night well. I was staring at a singular point on the ceiling, at a black spot that could have been a spider. My thoughts were particularly dark that night. I listened to him breathing next to me and tried to slow down my own breathing. My heart shook like a battering ram in my chest. I clenched my hands into tight fists at my side and tried to count backward, but it was useless. The thought had already seeped into my brain, like black ink, spilling and spreading until it was all I could think of for the rest of the night.
I don’t love him.
I cried, at first. I cried whenever he left for work. I cried at night, long after he fell asleep, and let my satin pillowcase hide the evidence of my tears. I don’t know who I was crying for. It could have been for him because he didn’t deserve to not be loved. But it could have been for myself because I sold myself short, something I realized too late.
I walked into marriage for all the wrong reasons, because I was young and naive and afflicted with the disease of the young, who want to do everything now and rush into half-considered decisions. Of course, I’m still young, and I’ll make a thousand more bad decisions. But this is the one I have to live with because now I’ve put myself in a position to pretend for the rest of my life. It will get easier and I find myself caring for him more and more every day, but I don’t see myself ever being in love with him.
The thought had already seeped into my brain, like black ink, spilling and spreading until it was all I could think of for the rest of the night.
That crippled me, at first. The idea that I had to live with this human being, even though I didn’t love him, drove me to the edge of panic for months. I fought an internal battle where there were no winners and I felt completely helpless. But I’ve come to accept that maybe love isn’t what I’m meant to get out of this relationship, that there are more valuable lessons to take away from our time together. As strange as it may sound, I’m getting to a place in my mind where I can be okay with just caring about my husband, even if I can’t bring myself to fall for him.