“Let’s not stand on ceremony.” she said “Just say what you want to say and get it over with.”
He stood there looking down at his boots, not daring to lift his eyes to hers. He knew he wouldn’t be able to go through with it if he did. He wouldn’t be able to say the words he needed to say to set him free if he had to see the disappointment and pain in her eyes. He promised to love her forever and now, well, he just didn’t and he couldn’t go on hiding it another day.
She suspected there was something going on for months, maybe even years. When they were first married, they slept warm and naked, side by side, every night. The comfort of his body near her somehow made her feel safe and secure. At any time she could reach out and touch him, and most times when she did he responded to her touch immediately, pulling her close and pressing against her, kissing her neck. Sometimes the snuggles progressed to sex, sometimes they just lay together secure in each others arms and fell back asleep.
After a few years, the closeness started to fade. She reached out for him less and less in the night, and when she did, he didn’t always notice and respond. For her, she felt rejected each time she put out a hand to him and he only responded by sighing in his sleep or rolling away instead of toward her. She knew, logically, that it wasn’t fair to blame him for something he did in his sleep, but what had changed? Would the warmth return? Feeling rejected, she started to reach out less and less until finally it would be a month before he’d reach for her and she’d grudgingly give him what he wanted. Sex had begun to feel like an obligation to fulfill, not the sharing of intimacy it once was.
Life started to change rapidly after the birth of their second child. She worked so hard with the kids all day long and she always did such a great job taking care of the house and feeding them all. Work was getting harder and harder for him. This new job was mentally exhausting, doing things he never thought he would be. Sure, all he was doing was sitting in an office, but dealing with people daily, talking with the customers, hearing their complaints and problems was more demanding than any physical work he used to do. At the end of the day, it was all he could do to come home, play with the kids a bit, eat dinner, and then fall into bed. He tried to stay awake while she finished putting the kids down, but by the time she crawled into bed next to him, he was always fast asleep. He’d wake to find her there, gently snoring beside him. Knowing how exhausted she was, he didn’t have the heart to wake her, even if it was for something sweet and pleasurable for both of them. She didn’t seem to reach for him in the night like she used to. He had begun to think maybe she didn’t love him like she used to. Maybe something was wrong. Or maybe this was just how marriage was after kids. He wasn’t happy, but he didn’t know how to communicate the feelings he was starting to have, so he left it alone.
Without that intimate connection at night, they started to drift apart emotionally. Both desperately wanted to love the other but neither knew how to start the conversation. They avoided it and eventually they both found someone else. She put all her focus and energy into the kids and he found someone that would reach out to him.
“You know you don’t love me anymore. I’m leaving.”
There it was. The big statement. And here they were, another failed marriage, another broken family, just like everyone else. She felt numb hearing those words. She knew he would say them. She knew they were coming for a long time.
“Ok.” Was the only way she could respond without falling apart, and her pride would not allow her to fall apart in front of him.
He walked away without another word. Both were broken. Both cried alone. Both felt they had failed. And both wanted the other to beg them to stay.
Thank you to Writers Write for the October prompts!