I waited until I was 40 to get married. It wasn’t on purpose. I just didn’t want to be married too young. At 22, a boyfriend asked me to marry him, but I had no interest in being a wife at that age. I wanted to be independent. I wanted to know I could take care of myself way more than I wanted to be married. So I waited.
That right person didn’t come along in my 20s or most of my 30s — either because they weren’t right for me or I wasn’t right for them. I had little interest in having children. I hadn’t outright said I didn’t want them, but I wasn’t itching to become a parent.
I entered my 30s and began to wonder if I would be alone forever. That’s not what I wanted at all, but it looked like that might happen. I still dated with the intention of falling in love and getting married. My now ex-husband came along. I’ll call him Mike. I was financially stable, and I wanted someone also financially stable. Plus he was also a nice guy. We dated for a year, and I convinced myself I loved him. We had a pretty good life. I thought that was enough. But I overlooked everything that should have told me the marriage would fail.
For one thing, I am a black woman and a liberal. He’s a white man and a Republican. Now, I have white friends who are moderate Republicans. These are people who don’t go to Fox News for information. They know better. Mike watched different news programs because, as he said, “I want to get information from as many sources as I can.”
That sounded good until he started quoting problematic conservative commentators like Larry Elder. He probably picked Elder because, like me, he was black. Mike also respected this man for some reason, and he didn’t understand why I wasn’t a fan. A heated discussion ensued, where I explained to Mike that black conservatives who support ideology the Republican Party uses to oppress marginalized people aren’t pro-black. They’re anti-black. He didn’t understand, and we never came to any kind of agreement. Still I convinced myself this exchange wasn’t important in our relationship. I stayed with him.
That wasn’t the first time race came up. When Ferguson resident Michael Brown was murdered by Officer Darren Wilson, Mike asked me why Michael didn’t just do what the officer said. I explained the history of policing in this country and how modern-day officers are merely a continuation of slave catchers. So the dynamic between black people and the police is already skewed in a way that puts us at risk of them assaulting or murdering us. He merely shrugged his shoulders and repeated he didn’t understand why Michael Brown didn’t comply. I told him even complying gets black people killed. He said nothing, and I let it go. And I stayed. Damn it, I stayed.
We had numerous other differences that should have been red flags. Two stand out.
I’m a good cook. He couldn’t even boil water. I know some women are okay with this. I had previously dated numerous men who plainly stated cooking was women’s work. I didn’t keep them around after that. Mike never said that, but when I asked him to help cook or read a recipe and try to make a dish, he would reluctantly pitch in. If I were giving him directions, he would make a sad attempt at slicing and dicing or adding seasoning. He clearly had no interest in doing this. Unfortunately for him, I came from a family of men who were good cooks. He wasn’t getting off the hook simply because, as he liked to say, “Cooking isn’t my forte.” He liked to use this statement every time I said, “If you can read, you can cook.” For someone who disliked cooking, he sure as hell liked eating though.
The few times he attempted meals on his own were disastrous. You probably think I should have been grateful he even tried. If he actually tried, I would have been grateful. But his idea of attempting to cook a meal was not following the directions and overcooking or burning everything. I finally stopped asking him to cook and did the cooking myself. I was no dummy though. That was his plan all along.
I started traveling in my mid-30s. Right before I met Mike, I solo traveled to Europe with the intention of doing a trip every year. After we got married, I would bring up traveling. Mike would say we couldn’t afford it. That was a lie. We could. I asked him if he had any interest in travelling outside the U.S. He answered there were lots of places here he hadn’t visited, so he wanted to start with those first. How many trips did we take within the U.S. during our almost eight-year marriage? Zero. Not one. That meant my dream of traveling every year didn’t happen. I didn’t go anywhere again until I got divorced.
Let’s talk about sex. Before I met Mike, I had a lot of sex and a lot of really good sex to boot. Mike? Not so much. This wasn’t a huge deal until I realized that, while he liked sex, he wasn’t particularly adventurous about it. I don’t mean threesomes or anything like that. How about something past five minutes of foreplay and ten minutes of missionary sex? Eight years of this, and I was bored to tears. We had talked numerous times about our sex life. We had discussed what we each liked. I listened and did what he liked. He resorted to what he knew, which meant I was frustrated and angry. I stopped having sex with him the last two years of our marriage. I bought a vibrator instead.
His mother should have been a red flag, too. She wasn’t a terrible person, but she was a terrible mother to Mike. He told me stories about growing up that, if they had happened now, she would have gone to jail. He was left alone at age 2 while she went out to clubs. He was getting himself up and ready for school by age 5. Maybe she was home. Maybe she wasn’t. Rightly so, he resented her. I never disliked her, but it made me protective of him. I couldn’t believe his mother was so neglectful of him. She also beat him, although he would never tell me what this exactly involved.
So with all these issues that he refused to address, we divorced, and I moved out.
What was the deal-breaker? The racism. I refused to look past. Where would it leave us if he didn’t believe racism existed? That means over the seven years we were married and the stories I shared about racism I experienced… He believed none of them. I should have known he didn’t support me or any other black person in our fight. He never acknowledged my pain or shame when I relayed my latest racist experience. I refused to see it, and I refused to understand what this meant for our relationship.
The sex? Eventually, I would have ended the marriage over the sex. Lack of intimacy — or not enough intimacy — is symptomatic of other problems. We were never good communicators in the first place. Even though we talked about our sex life, that problem just mirrored other issues. We weren’t close. I didn’t feel supported. I never felt heard or appreciated. I didn’t feel loved. Looking back, I’m sure we didn’t love each other.
That’s a deal-breaker.