Category Archives: ahdaf soueif

Divorce Cake


These days I can really relate to people who kill their spouses. Why go through all the hassle, pain and drama of getting divorced when you can just take care of the problem with one swift axe blow to the head? Admittedly, you would have to dispose of the body (inconvenient!), and appear suitably tearful and bereft at the memorial service (stressful!), but I can see how murder, dismemberment and deceit might actually be better than spending one more second in a crappy relationship.

Oh, don’t worry – I’m not going to end up on “America’s Most Wanted” any time soon. I’m not really the type for premeditated murder. I spend most of the time wishing that my husband, MM, would just evaporate into thin air, never to be seen again.

I am fond of this person. I certainly don’t want anything bad to happen to him, but I don’t love him. I recently read Ahdaf Soueif’s “The Map of Love”, and the following passage pained me because it highlighted just how much is missing in my relationship:

“And in the daytime, when I watch him climb out of the sea under the blazing sun, with Nur on his shoulders and Ahmad and Mahrous on either side, the love I feel for each inch of his body is an exquisite ache in my heart” (pp 461-462).

Far from feeling an “exquisite ache”, my heart is more likely to sink whenever I see my husband! But I want to feel that “exquisite ache”, and yet, like so many other people, I tell myself that such feelings are only the stuff of novels and movies, or that if there is such a thing, then it will soon be snuffed out by the humdrum nature of daily life together.

In his defence, my husband does not have it easy. I am a very difficult person to be around. It’s easy for me to be emotionally and verbally abusive because that’s what I grew up with, so it doesn’t take much for me to resort to that when I’m stressed or defensive. I have taken too much from him, and I haven’t given much back. He complains about that, and it’s true.

However, I honestly don’t care anymore about trying to be a better, kinder and less hurtful person. I’ve been worn down by my husband telling me over and over again how bad I am, and how selfish. It doesn’t matter how tired, drunk or hungry I am, he will just rant over and over again about it. Sometimes he’s kept me up until 3:00 a.m. just yelling about how bad I am. I don’t know about you, but I find that quite abusive, which is ironic because I’m supposed to be the abusive one. I also find it has hurt my self-esteem, and makes me question myself constantly. Whenever I have a disagreement with somebody at work, or wherever, I’m very quick to fall into  a black pit of self-recrimination about what a bad person I am even if it’s their fault.

I’m also resentful that there is so much focus on my “craziness” in this relationship. All too often I’ve seen how my bad behaviour allows other people to justify their terrible actions. According to MM, I consciously “choose” to be mean and abusive whereas anything he does was because he was an innocent victim who was “provoked”.I just don’t buy it.

At this point in my life, the only incentive I can see for not losing control of my temper and tongue is not because I want to become a better, more spiritual person. No,it’s because emotional, out-of-control women will always be blamed for everything no matter what anybody else does wrong.

Nobody sees the things MM does wrong because he just can sweep them all under the carpet while everybody focuses on me being “crazy”.

I used to be the kind of person who looked down on people who stayed in unhappy, boring marriages. How terribly weak, I thought, to stay when you’re miserable. Now I have become exactly that kind of person. I don’t want to be in this relationship but I don’t particularly want to be out of it either. I don’t try to make things work because my heart’s just not in it. I don’t enjoy having sex with him at all, and I practically flinch when he touches me. This is something I do feel bad about because I know that he needs a lot of physical affection. But what can I do? I can’t fake something that’s not there.

If I’m honest, I think he’s a weak, passive loser. I hate the fact that he’s thirty-four years old, and that he says he’s an “artist”. He spends a lot of time “perfecting” a graphic novel which he will apparently never finish. Now he wants to be a concept artist, and he’s borrowed $1000 from his mother to take some class that will supposedly help him fulfil this goal. I’m very sceptical.

I question why I have such a visceral reaction to his failed artistic endeavours. Did I marry him because he was unthreatening because I, too, am a frustrated type? If I’d married somebody successful maybe it would have been too painful for me to be with him while I struggled with perfectionism?

I once had an acquaintance who was a rich doctor who made some disparaging comment about my dating impoverished artists (he was probably annoyed I had no interest in dating him). He smirked and said that I’d soon get tired of that when I realized how awful it was to be broke all the time. I was insulted, but I also remember feeling smug that I didn’t consider dating or marriage as some kind of mediaeval financial transaction like some American women do. I know I’m betraying feminism for saying this, but sometimes I do now wish that I was married to someone with money, and who was successful. It would make life easier.

Despite my brilliant undergraduate degree, my Master’s degree and my fluency in three languages, I am far worse off than my grandparents ever were, and my life is much more stressful. A combination of bad decisions, and poor self-esteem mean that I live from pay cheque to pay cheque.

I am thirty-three years old, and even though I’m not ready to have kids any time soon, there would be no chance of my doing so if I were. MM would never be able to help support a family. In some weird, primeval way, this makes me fucking mad inside.

Money is really the root of all the troubles in this relationship. Over the years, MM has bailed me out when I didn’t have a green card and couldn’t legally work. I would feel grateful for this, but I have to hear again about what a bad, selfish person I am for spending this money. Apparently I’m a spendthrift! Althought I spent it on surviving…on rent, food, bills…whatever I needed to stay afloat.

MM just called me, and I know that I won’t leave this relationship. I’m too gutless. I’ll just stick my head in the sand and pretend that everything’s OK. When I imagine being single again, I realize just how socially isolated I am. I don’t really have any good friends here. Being married acts as a buffer against the world, and makes a crazy cat lady like me socially acceptable.

What a huge disappointment life has been. I am everything I once used to despise.

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