Monday, June 5, 2023

The Love Diaries: I Settled and Married Young, Now I’m Sad & Stuck in an Awful Relationship

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Welcome to our series, The Love Diaries – a space for you to share your experiences, advice, fairy-tale endings, setbacks and heartbreaks. We’ll be hearing from industry experts giving practical advice alongside Capsule readers (You!) sharing your firsthand experiences with love – from the woman who cheated on her husband with a work colleague, one woman’s temptation now the love of her life is finally single (although she’s not), and the woman who forced her husband to choose between her and his girlfriend. Today, we hear from Jess*: “I settled for my husband.”

If you have a topic you’d like to discuss, share your thoughts, experience or advice about, drop a line to [email protected] with ‘Love’ in the subject line. All stories that are published will win three BOOST LAB serums following a Skin Advisor’s bespoke recommendation, worth $104.85.

This week we hear from Auckland woman Jess* who candidly admits her regrets that she settled for her husband and marrying young – and what she wishes she’d done instead.

“’I’ve always been a bit of a flirt – even at high school, I was always the one to have at least one boy on the go at all times.

I got a lot of validation from being in a relationship from a really young age. It made me feel popular, cool, worthy. I wasn’t the smartest kid (to be honest I didn’t really try that hard) so I felt like I was successful if I was able to be the one all the boys wanted.

I also wanted safety and stability because I didn’t have it at home – my mum and dad had split up and were very acrimonious, and sometimes they were so obsessed with hating each other, they forgot to show their love to me. So, I went looking for it elsewhere.

That attitude carried through to university where I met Ben* and I was instantly hooked. He was just my type, and I ALWAYS looked for my type. I even had a list saved in a text message on my old Nokia – ‘tall, dark, handsome. Tradie type. Played rugby preferably but would take any sport. A real ‘man’.’

We started dating, and the enduring memory of that time, apart from Scrumpy hands and wearing peplum tops, wasn’t how he made me feel in terms of ‘us’, it’s how I felt when I walked into a party on the arm of this hot, hulking man. I felt proud, like everyone would look at me and think, ‘damn, that girl landed him’.

‘I wish I had the courage to be on my own. I wish I had the bravery to know what I wanted. I wish I listened to my gut.’

I never felt any butterflies or huge bursts of passion. Almost from the beginning, our relationship was almost mechanical – dates during the week to the movies or minigolf, dinners at the pub. The odd trip away, working around his league schedule and his ‘boy time’ which he seemed to prioritise above all else. Sex was fine, but I found myself wondering if I’d ever had an orgasm. And if you have to wonder about it, you’ve not had one, dear.

Emotional maturity was an issue. He’d laugh at stupid, misogynistic and sexist jokes. He couldn’t figure out why I was annoyed if he was an hour late without a text. He never thought to tell me I looked nice, or surprise me with any romance. But, I assumed he’d grow up and grow out of it all.

And when the time came for him to pop the question (after a lot of hints dropped) he presented me with a perfectly fine Michael Hill diamond ring, and I was happy. But on reflection I was happy about getting married – not getting married to Ben.

Looking back, I recognise that little gut lurch as my intuition telling me this was the wrong decision. Was I in love with Ben? Was I just in love with the idea of love? And was I settling because I was simply scared to be alone, at the grand age of 23?

Yes. I was settling, and scared.

I had friends who, in as many words, tried to tell me this was the wrong decision. But there was no one on the planet that could have told me that this was a bad move – not even my gut SCREAMING at me on the morning of our wildly expensive wedding as I pulled on my strapless dress. I just chucked back a few glasses of bubbly and ignored it all, and instead focussed on the fact I was about to be a wife. Ben’s wife. Safety. Security. Success.

Twelve years later we’re still together, if you’d call it that. We never fight as such. Instead, we kind of just… co-exist. It’s like we don’t even have the passion to fight; we just don’t care enough. We’re raising two kids as best we can, our house is fine, we’re firmly middle-income and I guess life is, on paper, easy. Comfy, even.

But honestly, I’m so sad. And now look around my friends who I used to pity – the ones that were single in their late 20s and early 30s, who I was so convinced who had missed the boat on marriage. ‘Those poor things,” I’d think sanctimoniously as they trotted off to their Tinder dates.

But as they all found their ‘one’ and started their own lives, I’ve seen what true happiness and true contentment looks like. It’s in the little things – the shared knowing looks they throw each other across a room; the little comforting touches on the bum and on the small of the back as they walk along together, even the Instagram stories where they mention how much they love each other.

Ben and I don’t have a lot of sex; when we do, it’s like we’ve gone ‘shit, we better bang because it’s been three months’. It’s marital duty more than anything else, and it’s not great. Thank God for vibrators – and yes, I now know what an orgasm is like, thank you Adulttoymegastore!

There’s something missing in my life that my two kids, although I love them, can’t fill: Passion.

But I won’t leave my family. I often think to myself, ‘well, you’ve made your bed Jess, now you’ve got to lie in it’. I won’t do to my kids what my parents did to me and my siblings – I don’t want any part of that cycle. So for at least the next 10 years I’m stuck with Ben, and I’ll have to come up with a new plan to find happiness.

It’s not a bad life – and not every life can be a fairy-tale. Ben’s a good man. He’s kind, he provides for me and the kids and he does provide safety. He’s still not the most emotionally mature man, but on the whole he’s pretty dependable. He’s a good one, but he’s not my one.

I look back and wish I made so many different choices – I wish I had the courage to be on my own. I wish I had the bravery to know what I wanted. I wish I listened to my gut.

I wish I didn’t settle for my husband.”

*Names have been changed

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