A Marriage Begins

She came from a fairly well-to-do family and was used to certain things. With this man she could see that materially, things could only get better. He had drive – her parents often told her this was more important than coming from a wealthy family, from where the children often lacked ambition and direction. The woman pitied the girls who had failed to find themselves husbands and for the first time she did not focus all her energies on her studies or even choir practice. Her grades slipped slightly but it didn’t matter. She quit trying to give weight and shape to the abstract career thoughts; instead, they took another shape altogether, that of the man she loved and the life they would lead together.

She and her beau spent hours discussing their future, strolling down the palm-lined walkways of their prestigious university on warm summer nights. Other young lovers walked the same paths at the same hours, but when she was with him she felt the path was theirs alone. The street lamps shone solely upon them, like spotlights on a stage that every young woman her age longed to be on. She would turn to look at him under the lamps’ soft glow, not saying a word as he talked animatedly with his hands about the businesses he wanted to start – something about computer parts or panels, she didn’t really understand and instead was mesmerized by the sheen of microscopic sweat forming on his brow and temples. The angles of his face glowed with promise. Such straight teeth! Such bright eyes and strong hands! She felt beautiful in his presence because she felt lucky – she was not picky with men and she did not need to be. He had selected her – of all the roses in the school, he had chosen her.

Boating, Edouard Manet, 1874 Oil on Canvas

They graduated, already knowing they were to marry. He made his intentions clear to her parents and they nodded, seeing the same promise their daughter saw. They gave them their blessing and showered the young couple with a borderline lavish ceremony. It was, the woman thought, one of the happiest days of her life. But that night she lay awake next to her toast-drunk husband and thought, “Why happiest?” She was so young. There was so much ahead of them. Things could only get better.

And for a while they did. His career took off with flying colors – he was a shrewd business man, unafraid of hard work and sacrifice. He made it very clear to his wife that it was for both of them. Within the first year his business doubled then tripled and showed no signs of slowing and the woman smiled contentedly, thinking herself his lucky charm. She let him leave her for long hours because in the beginning it was just him and a handful of his partners, none of who were married so they could stay late at the office without worrying about a wife waiting at home while dinner got cold. She understood these things, and anyway it didn’t matter; if he came home late – which was often – she would simply reheat the dinner she had cooked. She gave him no advice, took no role in his business – she had no head for such things – and sang to him when he returned home exhausted from work. Only once, when he couldn’t sleep for one reason or other did he ask her to quiet down. The other times his sleep was so deep he did not hear.

When did things begin to change?

When does any marriage begin to change? 

When the woman could not get pregnant.

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