Doin’ Anything Next Saturday?

I knew a woman once who loved a man who had a very volatile, hair-trigger temper. The day before they were to be married, he threw a terrible temper tantrum. As her British friend would have described it, he spent an hour throwing his toys out of the pram.

She never knew what had brought it on. She only knew how terrified she was that he would turn his temper on her. His teenage daughter was there and the woman later described the heartbreak she felt watching the young girl frantically cleaning up a broken lamp and the other debris the man left when he slammed out of the house.

The young daughter sobbed as she told the woman that after a lifetime of his uncontrolled tantrums, she had become used to it and, as his wife, the woman would too. It did not seem to occur to either of them that if that were true, the daughter would not be sobbing and shaking.

This woman was not stupid. If you had asked her, she would have said that she did not expect marriage to change his basic nature. She knew that such things as a pregnancy or a change in geography will never be the deciding factor in the maturity of two people in a marriage. Nor was this the first time he had yelled and thrown things, breaking her belongings and behaving like a spoiled child.

In spite of her own small voice screaming in her ear, she married him the next day and so embarked on a marriage marked by his sullen silent treatment interspersed by violent outbursts. As the years passed, it only got worse. There were times when he hardly spoke for days on end and violently pushed her away when she tried to hug him. There was, of course, no sex to speak of and, looking back, she realized he had begun pulling away from her almost as soon as they married.

She was desperately lonely and often wondered if he was as well. He refused to listen or partake of any kind of intimate conversation and finally, after many years, she simply shut down. She worked hard to stop wanting and caring. She worked so hard to harden her heart to him that she stopped feeling much of anything at all. He had brought her to hysterical tears so many times and one day, she swore to herself that he would never make her cry again, that he would never ever see her cry. And, he never did.

Finally, but only after more than 25 years of a sham marriage, she left him. She remarried – to a gentle and loving man who knew and understood that not all scars show on the outside, and they set about living the kind of life they had both dreamed of for their whole lives.

The real question however is simply this … If it is true that this woman was not a fool who believed she could change her former husband’s inexcusably immature and violent nature and if its true that she had seen his tantrums before she walked down the aisle with him, WHY did she marry him?

She had been raised by a family who had abused her and part of the reason for settling for a man who also abused her was simply that she didn’t know she deserved better. That was surely part of the reason but I wonder if some couples get married for no other reason than they have no place else to be that day.

That sounds so very ridiculous but perhaps its really not. All relationships are living breathing things that change and grow. Whether we like it or not, change is inevitable and the inescapable growth is not always in the direction we would like or even expect.

There comes a time in most relationships when a decision must be made. There’s that long and agonizing moment when each looks at the other and both know they cannot go backward and they can’t stay where they are. And sometimes, even if there is no real base to build on, being alone is a lot more frightening than moving forward.

Sometimes, people get married because there’s no place else to go.

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