He Should Have Left


When we got married, I did all of our shopping at Walmart. We ate Poptarts and Hamburger Helper, and I loosely believed the whole organic thing was a fad. We lived in a rent house with all carpet, had friends come over with their shoes on, and I don't even remember what types of chemicals you used on our yard. I didn't care enough then to pay attention.

It's only been four years, but I may as well be describing a totally different person, a different marriage, a different life. Your first wife--I know you've had to mourn her.  She was easy-going and so badly wanted to please you. She left you sexy letters and bought your favorite beer and threw you surprise parties because she knew group social interactions filled you up. She had a full time job with a decent salary, coached a junior high soccer team, and no free time apart from you to spend money irresponsibly.

A year after you promised "for better or for worse," I birthed our first baby. Soon after, we were told she was unwell. I was staying home with her and no longer contributing financially, and in my panicked attempts to fix her, I began using our credit card on "miracle" vitamins and non-toxic thrush creams and all organic clothing. I could not convince myself to take her into Walmart, so we began doing all of our shopping at the local co-op. She got better but I had become convinced I had to keep up the routine and continue finding new ways to prevent her from getting cancer in order to keep her well.

I read and read and read while you were at work, so by the time you returned home to challenge my foreign new beliefs, I was already all in and panicking at your questioning. I already felt like a failure and it terrified me to have you calling me out that I still may not know what I was doing in trying to protect our child. I cried louder and longer than our baby, and you gave in again and again because who can put up with that?

The panic went on to possess my whole body whenever you tried to get through to me. Two years ago I collapsed on the bathroom floor, blacked out completely after hyperventilating and woke up to you cradling my body, your mouth gentle in my ear after you had been yellling at me just moments before. "It's going to be okay. It's going to be okay." You didn't believe it and neither did I, but you had said, "in sickness and in health," so there you were. But you probably should have left.

Because the next time I felt the swell of complete overwhelm radiate from my chest out into my limbs, I was holding my phone in the kitchen. I felt completely out of control when I threw it down on the tile, shattering the screen and scaring our daughter and myself before crumbling onto the floor with the tiny pieces of glass. I broke four phones, a glass, and a bottle of homemade all purpose cleaner in one year, and you gave me grace. You should have left. Instead, you bought me new ones. 

Sure, you withdrew from me. I wasn't safe for you, and you knew the feeling was mutual. Looking back, I just wanted your partnership in taking care of our fragile child. But I came at you as a total stranger--you had no idea how to work with me. You found your own ways of coping and freaked out in your own way when it became just too much, but you stayed. You watched me completely unravel until I was totally raw and just plain ugly, and you didn't run away.

We are in our fifth year of marriage, and as I look back at it up to this point, I know most men would have moved on to someplace lighter a long time ago. Although I've learned to breathe through my compulsions and you've given up some of your unhealthy habits, too, we don't have much of a relationship at this point. But here's the big thing--you're here. You're here because you stayed. You're here and so am I, and the dust has settled, so maybe we can find each other again. 

My dear husband, thank you for your grace. You've given me more of it than I thought I'd ever need. I love you, I'm looking for you again and I'm so happy you are here.