When you and I recited our wedding vows nearly 12 years ago, we pledged to remain together for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. But if I’m being honest with myself, I have to admit that I’ve started to question if our marriage is working. I’m sorry to say this, but the fact is that you’re just not the man I blindly hoped you would somehow transform into when we got married.
Back when we first met, my irrational and entirely unfounded vision of what you could someday become seemed almost too perfect: kind, thoughtful, caring. That fictional mental construct that I envisioned you eventually developing into was everything I ever wanted. I thought that imaginary version of you and I would be happy together forever.
How wrong I was.
Today, it’s evident that you’re simply not the nonexistent, purely hypothetical person I always wanted to grow old with. Just last week, for example, when you didn’t so much as look up from your laptop after I came home from work, even though you knew I was supposed to hear about my promotion that day, I realized that you aren’t even capable of magically changing into what I need in a husband. When I look at you now, all I see is a workaholic with intimacy issues who has persisted unchanging for the past decade and a half—no longer the ideal husband I convinced myself you would morph into through some miracle. And that’s just sad.
I see it all now. Your outright lack of interest in my sculpture classes and my volunteering work at church, your single-minded obsession with your career, the fact that you explicitly told me on our first date that you never wanted children. I thought those things were important to the theoretical idea of who you’d become in the future that has long lived in my head, and it breaks my heart to realize that they are not.
Honestly, it’s almost as if you’re the exact same man I married.
Where’s the hopeless romantic who would prepare me a home-cooked meal and rub my shoulders after a long day at work who resides only in an artificial reality I mentally conjured? My knight in shining armor who would surprise me with roses and champagne on our anniversary if he weren’t just a desperate projection of what I wanted in a husband? The strong, sensitive man of my dreams who my friends and family repeatedly told me I would never meet if I married you?
Nowhere except in the world of my naive, illogical, downright harmful fantasies, it would seem.
It hurts to admit this, but after watching your behavior and personality remain constant day in and day out since we first fell in love in 1999, I’m left to wonder if there’s even anything left of the attentive, interesting man I repeatedly told myself you would someday be. I don’t think you’ll ever make any effort to get along with my family members, or take me to Venice, or be a comforting presence in my life as we enter our golden years, because those are all characteristics that have absolutely no basis in the real world and that I essentially constructed from scratch in my brain and clung to for 15 years. It breaks my heart to think that you simply aren’t that person anymore and never were.
So, I guess I’m just going to have to accept that the partner that only ever existed in my frequent delusions doesn’t exist anymore. And come to terms with the fact that I won’t be living out my days beside the perfect man that you, in all of my endless cycles of denial, willful self-deception, and refusal to engage with reality, were supposed to become. Because that figment of my imagination that I married is gone. Gone forever.
Unless, maybe, you’re willing to let me project onto you a sense of determination to work things out.