Today, I’m starting a new series with Mama J who will be celebrating 19 years of marriage in May. This is her second marriage and it’s working, in part, because of what she learned from her first marriage which lasted five and a half years. The first lesson Mama J shared with me was about independence. Here it is:
I never want to be that dependent on someone ever again. I felt so financially dependent, so emotionally dependent.
We were married in the summer before our junior year in college in Indiana and when we graduated we moved to Illinois so he could do his master’s and I did an internship. When he finished his degree, we moved to Chicago where I started working at a hospital. I didn’t know it then but he started seeing someone else before we moved to Chicago and she also moved with her boyfriend to Chicago.
I really wanted children but it turned out he had no sperm and even after a couple of surgeries, there were still no sperm. That put a lot of strain on our marriage. I told him he was more important than having children and that if we could get counseling, we could fix our relationship and then we could adopt. But he said, “I just don’t love you. I don’t think I ever really did.”
That was just the worst thing. He made me feel like a piece of dirt on the ground. I know that he loved me. It was just so sad. The more mean he was to me, the more I tried to do everything I could to make him love me. I tried everything I could. I thought if I took more care of him, he would love me again.
Then two days before Christmas, I listened to his voice mail and there were messages from her. That’s how I found out about the affair. In an odd way, it was so great to know that there was somebody else involved and that it wasn’t just that he stopped loving me.
After that, I moved in with another girl from the lab I was working at. I had my own vehicle. I had an education and I was independent enough to get through an average day. I think it really helped me to stay in Chicago and not move back in with my parents or have my family bail me out. It was hard but I think it was an essential lesson. It forced me to be self-sufficient in a really good way.
When I was a teenager, my mum would always tell me how important it was to go to college, so I could have a career and not be financially dependent on someone else. And I thank her for that because I have always been able to support myself and my family. However, I also didn’t get married until I was in my thirties and I think part of the reason for that was that I confused “not being dependent” with “not being committed” and I think that stopped me from opening my heart. I think my mum was so adamant about having a career, I thought a career and a serious relationship were incompatible. mmmh? Maybe self-sufficient would be a better word? Where’s the line between being in a partnership and being independent/self-sufficient?