Miss Sharlene was the 11th woman I’d interviewed. She invited me to sit in her living room and listen to her stories. For four hours, she described each and every marriage in detail. Here was a woman, old enough to be my own mother, outlining over 40 years of marriage to three different men: an adulterer, an alleged drug dealer and a drug addict. For much of our conversation, I sat with my mouth hanging open. The remainder included laughter and a lot of mmmhmmms.
Concept: With Miss Sharlene, I grappled with re-telling each marriage. Did readers need to hear about each man? Ultimately, I figured that’s what would make her story different. The book didn’t have the life experience of an older woman to demonstrate how one could fall in and out of love and continue to be unhappily married over and over again.
Like many of the women, Miss Sharlene sounded as if her husbands had done something to her. But surely, I thought, she must’ve learned something about herself with each of these unions. So, I asked her one question in order to prompt self-reflection. What advice would you give to younger women? That’s when Miss Sharlene provided me with lessons:
- You have to learn a person before you get married, but learning a person happens on a daily basis.
- Just cause you get pregnant from somebody does not make him your man or your husband. It makes him your baby’s dad.
- There’s no perfect person. We as women are not perfect. We have imperfections. But the thing is, we’re looking for perfection in a man. And that’s where we go wrong.
- We can’t be in a relationship when the person feels like we are his savior. You can’t save a person.
She actually gave me seven lessons. I wrote these verbatim in the book, but placed them at strategic points so that they seemed as if she had applied them to each of her marriages.
Commentary: At the time of our conversation, Miss Sharlene was two years newly wed to her fourth husband. I was shocked. Was she a hopeless romantic? Was it religion and the bible that kept her seeking marriage? Maybe it was her age? I didn’t ask her any of these questions because our interview was already lengthy.
But this came to mind. It’s easy to judge Miss Sharlene, or any woman for that matter. When we read about someone who’s been married 3-4 times, it seems obvious what the “issue” is, even when the men and relationships seem different. But none of our so-called challenges are ever apparent to ourselves. They can be though.
We have to be willing to look in the mirror and face what’s there. Change cannot happen without self-reflection. We have to be willing to admit our backgrounds have not only affected us in the past, but also shaped who we are in the present, including what types of relationships we attract. And ultimately, we have to take responsibility for the choices we make, whether conscious or subconscious. Otherwise, we’re doomed to be stuck in a cycle, same relationship, different man.
With that said, I included Miss Sharlene in the Detached Wife section because she seemed to be disconnected, not from her husbands, but from the reality of her self.
Next month we’ll be discussing the last wife in this section, Pamela. Be sure to order your copy and catch up so you can join the conversation!
Side note: Many thanks to Mek over at 10000hoursleft.wordpress.com for the featured image.