Miss Sharlene from The Unhappy Wife book

unhappy-wifeMiss 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:

  1. You have to learn a person before you get married, but learning a person happens on a daily basis.
  2. Just cause you get pregnant from somebody does not make him your man or your husband. It makes him your baby’s dad.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

unhappy-wifeQuite a few readers have told me this story was their favorite. What did you think about Miss Sharlene?

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.

Sofia from The Unhappy Wife book

unhappy-wifeSofia was the first wife that I’d interviewed. Her story is interesting for two reasons. The first is because I wanted ethnic diversity. She identifies as Latina and her ex-husband is part African. It was great to be able to show that marital challenges are cross-cultural. This story was also interesting because there are not many women who are willing to share details about intimacy with the world.

Concept: At the crux of this narrative is a sexless marriage. Sofia and Leo didn’t have sex for years. What caused the lack of sex was Leo’s infertility. This was the one story where I was able to show the husband’s innermost feelings. Leo’s reaction to his inability to produce sperm affected how he interacted for the remainder of their marriage. He once told Sofia, “If I would’ve found out it was you who was infertile, I would’ve left.” This is a direct quote. Whether it was because of gender or ethnicity, not being able to have sex and procreate was a big deal to Leo. It seemed to be what being a man and marriage was about for him.

But Leo wasn’t the only one who had a view of how marriage was supposed to go. Sofia did too. Another central part of the story was how much she enjoyed taking care of Leo’s needs. Because he was career military, he was always coming and going. Sofia enjoyed this. She helped him pack out to leave, and she helped him unpack when he returned. She cooked and assumed other duties that some of us might deem “old-fashioned.”

Commentary: I wanted to show how both Sofia and Leo had developed a societal stereotype about wives, husbands and marriage, and then lived out those ideas. Leo believed a husband was someone who could give his wife a baby, and if he couldn’t do that, then what was the point of being married, much less having sex? Is this the truth? I’m not a man and I’ve never been infertile, but I suppose if my gender identity was inextricably linked to my fertility, then where would that leave me? What would that make me?

The fact that Sofia stayed with Leo for years, even after his insensitive comment also struck me as odd. She explained that she was fine because she continued to do the part of marriage she liked: taking care of Leo. That was her focus. I suppose that can be marriage, but I’m not sure it’s a relationship. I’m not sure that a husband and wife can sleep separately, have no sex and be 100% happy. This is also why I categorized her experience as part of the “Detached Wife” section. It seemed that she was separated from the reality of her relationship.

unhappy-wifeWhat do you think?

What else stood out for you in this story? Do you think she should’ve been in another category? Is sex important for a marriage and/or relationship? Or am I trippin?

It’s not too late to order The Unhappy Wife here, so you can catch up. Next month, we have to skip Rhadiya, because she also signed a waiver that doesn’t allow me to discuss her story in public. And if you read the book, then you probably understand why! So we’ll move on to everyone’s second favorite wife, Miss Sharlene 😉

Lesa from The Unhappy Wife book

unhappy-wifeI revealed that I had a story in this book during the pre-release stage. I’ve also written 3 Ways to Avoid being an Unhappy Wife, where I describe my struggles with marriage. I wrote my own story somewhere in between the third and fourth wife’s interview. It didn’t seem authentic of me to ask women to trust me to re-tell a story about their lives if I wasn’t going to do the same. The difference was that I wasn’t trying to hide many details. What you read is pretty much how things happened.

I knew I was a detached wife way before I created the section. Some of this blog’s content has shown how I became a detached human being. Adoption, my adopted mother’s death, and my adopted father giving up parental rights all shaped me to be the type of wife I was to Dwight.

When the slightest things changed in our relationship, I detached. Sometimes that leaves an opening for infidelity.

Concept and Commentary: Before I found myself in this situation, I thought emotional affairs were the most ludicrous thing I’d heard of. I remember watching an episode of In the Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman, where the husband was confiding a lot in a female co-worker. It seemed so silly and harmless to me, until I found myself in a similar situation.

What I wanted to show in my firsthand account was how quick and easy it is to slip into a barrage of texts or instant messages that mirror infidelity, especially nowadays. The advent of Smartphones, tablets and apps have made it easier than ever to create communication outside of your marriage to fulfill whatever needs your spouse won’t. It produces an even deeper illusion than a “traditional” affair because there is usually little physical contact. You can portray whoever you want to the person on the other side of the screen.

The other concept I wanted to show is the idea of consciousness. On page 42, I wrote, “What was happening? Why was this happening? How did I allow this to happen?” Of course when I re-tell the story, it’s obvious how it happened. I was attracted to the guy and then used our text messages as an escape. Duh. But at the time, I was really baffled.

That’s when I learned this: Things don’t just happen to us. We are constantly co-creating, whether we believe it, or not. This situation pushed me to pay more attention to the life I wanted to create and the person I wanted to be. I had to be attentive to not only the energy I was putting out, but also the words and actions associated with that energy. I became more mindful about who I wanted to be so that everything was aligned.

unhappy-wifeWelp, that’s where I was going with Lesa. Let me know what came to mind when you read this story. Next month, we’ll continue with another type of detached wife, Sofia.

Still haven’t ordered and read your copy? Don’t worry, we’re only halfway through the conversation. Order here.

Mrs. Little from The Unhappy Wife book

unhappy-wifeMrs. Little was the second wife that I’d interviewed. Although she’d given me quite a few details about her marriage, what kept resurfacing were small anecdotes and feelings about her mother-in-law. She was voiceless, but in a much different way than either Jasmyne or Gina.

Her comments reminded me of Steve Harvey’s movie, Think Like a Man. In it he approaches how so-called “Mama’s boys” affect relationships, but I thought this was different because the mother-in-law’s actions were subtle, or like people like to say nowadays: petty.

Concept: Her husband, Mark knew how Mrs. Little felt, but she’d never really expressed herself to the mother-in-law. Quite honestly, I have issues with my own MIL that I’ve never shared, so I began to wonder what it would be like if Mrs. Little could tell Ms. Little everything she wanted to say over the past two decades. Then, I thought wouldn’t it be great if she wrote her a letter? Wouldn’t we all like to do that with someone, in a way where they don’t get to respond, but just read?

I also had fun using the epistolary format. It seemed that would break up the monotony of reading traditional narratives, yet still explain the past and present challenges with the relationship.

Commentary: I’ve never been a mother-in-law, but I have one and I’ve talked to a few. What seems to be challenging (sometimes) is accepting that their son is no longer a little boy, but rather a man with his own responsibilities. Essentially, it’s an issue with transitions and change that manifests through marriage. From my perspective, it seems that mothers want to still “mother” their sons, while either not embracing the daughter-in-law, or ignoring her altogether.

That doesn’t work.

And there was a twist for this story. Mark was using his military salary to pay his mother’s bills before he married. The mother-in-law had to not only deal with a new woman in her son’s life, but also not being financially taken cared of anymore. She’d lost a lot all at once. I’m not sure they’d ever discussed a plan for this change.

I tend to believe that conversations can heal all things. People underestimate the importance of sitting down, airing grievances, setting the stage to move forward, and then actually moving forward with a clearer understanding. I’m not saying this always works, but I do know that unacknowledged issues are rarely solved.

unhappy-wifeLet me know what you thought about Mrs. Little and Mark, what I’ve said here, or anything else that you felt was important. Next month, we’ll move on to the next section, The Detached Wife. Thom’s wife signed a waiver that doesn’t allow me to discuss the story in this format, so on to the next chapter we’ll go..

Interested in purchasing a copy and getting caught up to discuss the rest of the wives? Order here.

Gina from The Unhappy Wife book

unhappy-wifeGina was the third wife that I’d interviewed. By the time I began putting the book together, I knew that she fit into the Voiceless Wife category. At first glance, her story may seem similar to Jasmyne’s. She knew she shouldn’t have married Bryan, but wed anyway and sought counseling through marriage ministry. However, her story is a tad bit different. Whereas Jasmyne seemed to heed advice from people she trusted, Gina never told anyone how she felt. Her mother, father, and best friend never suspected that she knew Bryan wasn’t the man for her.

Concept: Gina began our interview by saying, “I knew I shouldn’t have married Bryan as soon as he proposed,” so I wrote the story around that idea. I wanted to show the reader how we can have a suspicion about a person, and even if they do something blatant, we ignore those feelings and proceed with our own illusion.

With this narrative, I wanted to also illustrate how we keep relationship secrets due to something I’ve talked about on this blog before: shame. Gina didn’t want anyone to know that she’d given up her dog, her weekly visits with her mother, or her relationship with her best friend, simply to please Bryan.

I have to add that this wife’s story is one of my “favorites” because of the bloody kitten scene. I don’t want to spoil it for people who haven’t read the book, but the imagery of the animal gasping for its breath stayed with me for quite a while. This part of her story is true.

Similar to Jasmyne’s chapter, I created the part about her stomach twisting and turning in knots. The reason I continue to use this analogy is because intuition is oftentimes described as a gut feeling. If you’re familiar with chakras, then you know the yellow one is associated with your stomach and trusting what you feel. This is a message I felt important to continue.

Commentary: What stood out to me is the progression of abuse. Bryan slowly pulled her away from her loved ones, including her dog. He never physically hurt her, but rather imposed psychological abuse. He was jealous of everyone she interacted with, but it wasn’t obvious to her until after the experience. This is common. When you’re in a situation with a person who’s mentally abusive, then it might not be as apparent, especially if you’re ignoring instincts.

The other part of Gina’s story that intrigued me was the shame she carried. The shame grew at the same rate as her instincts about the relationship. This fit into another reason I felt compelled to write this book. There are many women who keep the details of their marriages secret because they believe they’re the only ones going through horrible situations. I’m not suggesting that we tell everyone, everything about our unions. I’m just saying perhaps it’s time to be a little more authentic in how we present ourselves to our friends and family. And if those people can’t be trusted, seek counsel that is aligned with who you are and what you believe. There are ways to discontinue the abuse and the loneliness that accompanies maintaining this type of secret.

unhappy-wifeLet me know what you thought about Gina and Bryan, what I’ve said here, or anything else that you felt was important. Next month, we’ll delve into many readers’ favorite character, Mrs. Little.

The Unhappy Wife is on sale here.

Jasmyne from The Unhappy Wife book

Jasmyne was the fifth wife that I’d interviewed, but I decided to use her story first because I thought it offered a blatant message. Her entire relationship seemed to be based on Bible-based therapy and ill advice from friends and family. Each of these demonstrated one of the themes I’d intended to convey with this book: It is important to listen to yourself and your inner voice.

Concept: During our interview, Jasmyne told me about a couple’s retreat that her two therapists wanted her to attend before she divorced Eddie. “You invited us into this marriage. Now, you have to invite us to its divorce” is a direct quote from the counselors. She felt as if she couldn’t leave the guy based on her own feelings.

When she mentioned the retreat, I knew that would be the focal point of the narrative. I wanted her character to flashback several times to illustrate how she knew Eddie wasn’t the right husband for her. It was important for me to show these feelings existed before she got married and way before she ended up at a weekend session.

Although all of the details of her marriage are true, I made up the part about vomiting. Again, I wanted her intuition to be obvious, so I thought associating her gut feelings with a stomachache would send a clear message to the reader.

Commentary: There are two things that stood out as I listened to Jasmyne’s story. The first was her description of Eddie. I speak with many people who have abandonment issues in one way or another, so it was natural for me to ask, “Where are his parents?” Due to therapy, Jasmyne understood Eddie’s issues stemmed from two deceased parents. In her answer, I heard about a good guy who wanted to give and receive love; however, he seemed to be a little boy who never learned how to be a man. She felt that she could remedy this with her love. This is a common relationship pattern, but I’m not sure what the success rate is for working out childhood problems in this way.

The second thing that stood out is something Jasmyne’s friends, family and therapists continued to tell her: Nobody’s perfect and he’s not that bad. Although I was sad to hear this, I was glad that it was a theme for her story. This is something that women tend to do. We encourage one another to remain in unhealthy relationships, simply because the man “isn’t that bad.” In my opinion, the tolerance level lies within each person. For example, a friend of mine texted that she would’ve left Eddie once the hot water was turned off. There are plenty of women who would stay. My point is that it’s not for me or anyone else to suggest staying or leaving, but rather, it’s up to the person to learn to listen to her inner voice and make the best possible decision for her situation.

Let me know what you thought about Jasmyne and Eddie, what I’ve said here, or anything else that you felt was important about this story.

And if you haven’t ordered a copy of The Unhappy Wife, then please do so here. We’ll be discussing Gina in February.