Some widowed people commemorate their wedding anniversaries with fond remembrances or celebrations. Not me. Surprisingly, he didn’t want me to memorialize him at all—not on holidays, his birthday, his deathday, anything. “That just roots you in the past. Move on,” he said. I thank him for that one moment of clarity on his deathbed.
Still, the societal norm of posting old photos on social media and remembering the good times seems to be expected of widows.
Sadly even if I wanted to, I don’t have a lot to commemorate about our marriage. I remember mostly the horrible things he said and did. On one anniversary, I stared at the card I’d gotten him. I wrote “Love, D,” because I had nothing nice to say about our marriage together.
In the beginning, I should have seen the red flags. Many things started out as “jokes.”
I was so young. Just graduated from university. Young and impressionable and stupid. He was a little older and had figured out all the things he wanted in a wife and life. He was born in the wrong decade. Anyway… This is how our marriage started:
- At the wedding, I hadn’t eaten for hours. When I finally got a small plate of food and sat down with him and some of his friends, I was called away to take more pictures. When I returned, every single thing on my plate had a bite taken out of it. He thought it was funny. I was hangry, but my feelings were discounted and ignored and laughed off.
- After the marriage certificate was signed, he said that was the paper that handed me over from my dad to him as if I were a piece of property. “No returns, no guarantees, you’re mine.” Again, it was a joke—one he repeated for years.
- He tweaked my breasts. All. the. damn. time. When I told him to stop, he said, “They’re mine. I can do what I want.”
- He had a jerk boss who taught him that the members of a household get a vote for every dollar of income they bring in. He said it like a joke, but it was a repeated thing that belied how he really felt. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a woman (even in a technology job) will almost never catch up or surpass what her husband makes in the industry with a few years’ head start. The monetary value of the housework I did was not included in that calculation.
Sometimes I struggle with the existential crisis of “why didn’t I leave that first year or the next or the next?” I was in stupid love and determined to give him his fairy tale marriage that I’d been taught all my life by society to provide. I know I can’t play the “what if” game. That’s a useless blame game that keeps me in the past the same as memorializing a cruel man. It’s time to move on with my life.
All I can do now is share my story and hope it helps someone who needs to read it. I’m working through my own anger at him and his family who saw him only as a perfect golden child. I tell my story here as a way to help work through that anger so I don’t throw the truth in their faces. They still have a right to grieve the way they need to, but I won’t sacrifice mine for theirs.
A marriage should be a companionship, a partnership, a safe place with mutual love and respect. That kind of marriage is worth commemorating and celebrating.