Veda from The Unhappy Wife book

unhappy-wifeVeda’s story came recommended by a mutual friend. When I first began speaking with her, she was hesitant. Veda didn’t believe that she was an unhappy wife.

“My husband doesn’t beat me or anything,” she said.

To which I replied, “Good. That’s my point with telling these stories. You don’t have to be in an abusive relationship to be unhappy. You just have to have questioned how you ended up in a situation, married to this man.”

Veda agreed to open up to me. I was grateful.

At the time of our conversation, her husband had suffered a stroke about a year prior. The effects of his illness were numerous. Basically, Veda had gone from having a helpful partner to being somewhat of a caregiver, while continuing to mother three daughters and working a fulltime job.

Concept: I knew I wanted to present Veda as a committed wife for several reasons. Whereas Darlene was committed due to religious principles and Crystal was committed because of her mother’s advice, Veda was committed because she loved her husband and took her wedding vows seriously. You know, “in sickness and in health”? As I listened to her story, I wondered how many women had actually thought about what that phrase might look like. How many of us could really imagine what may happen?

Veda’s story is unique because it gives a brief depiction. “In sickness and in health” looks like telling your husband to seek medical attention because another stroke might kill him, and accepting the idea that he doesn’t want to listen. “In sickness and in health” looks like enduring your husband’s stroke that left him debilitated in many ways, while maintaining some semblance of a household you both once knew.

I asked Veda if she felt as if she’d had a fourth child.

“No,” she said, “I love him. That’s my husband.”

This is what I wanted the final narrative to show. A woman can love her husband, but unforeseen circumstances can develop and cause the entire relationship to shift, thus creating aspects of unhappiness.

Additionally, I hoped this story would help women think to themselves, could I have remained with my husband if he didn’t listen to me and ended up having a stroke that totally changed our relationship and way of life? This is why I chose the past, present and future format. None of us knows what the future of a relationship will bring. The most we can do is know ourselves so that we can make conscious choices that are aligned with our values, and follow our intuition with each situation.

unhappy-wifeI hope you’ve enjoyed discussing each story with one another. I also hope that you’ve found the stories as useful reflections of your own relationships. Next month, I’ll re-blog part of Anita Charlot’s afterword from the book. Her expertise as an online relationship coach provided valuable insights. The Unhappy Wife will continue to be for sale.

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Crystal from The Unhappy Wife book

unhappy-wifeCrystal was the fourth woman that I’d interviewed. By the time I wrote her story, I had to admit that something metaphysical was happening whenever I began typing. I say this because I knew bits and pieces of her life with a drug-addicted husband, so I kind of already had a set beginning, middle and end for what I was going to write.  I assumed she was going to express regret for staying with him so long. Her interview was a technicality.

But she didn’t. Listening to Crystal, I realized that she saw her role as the person who never gave up on him. I had to write a love story about forgiveness and hope with unhappiness along the way.

How was I going to do that??? Were readers going to think I was condoning abuse and drug addiction? I decided it didn’t matter. I wrote the story she told me and allowed the narrative to unfold with metaphysical guidance.

Concept: The first thing I wanted to show was the pattern of drug addiction over the years, hence the episodes. The next thing that was important was to develop a sense of how drugs rule people’s lives. For Crytstal, each episode yielded a different phase in life: having a kidney transplant, delivering a baby, and going to college. But for 20 years, Tré focused on one thing, getting high.

The third part of the relationship I wanted to present is by episode five Crystal had decided there was nothing she could do about Tré’s habit. She realized the only person she could control and save was herself. She finished her undergraduate degree and secured a great position. She also raised her daughter. But she did these things all while remaining married.

Commentary: What’s the point? What is the point of being married to someone if you’re going to live separate lives? I thought marriage was a union, a coming together of two people because of love. Can you love someone and remain married to him, while watching him destroy his life? My husband says all the time, “You have to decide do I love this person exactly as he or she is, or do I love certain parts about him or her?”

There is a happy ending for Crystal and Tré. Crystal waited 20 years for it, but deliverance did occur. How many of us would be wiling to wait two decades for someone to get their life together and be the spouse we always wanted?

I’m not ignoring one important part to this story. Crystal’s mother kind of guilt tripped her when she first committed to Tré. She reminded her of all the other hobbies she’d given up on and basically told her that being married wasn’t a pastime.

I agree. But I think if Crystal’s mother would’ve known that Tré was an abusive drug addict, she might’ve given her different advice. Maybe.

unhappy-wifeWhat did you all think about Crystal and Tré? One of the Amazon reviewers said the she couldn’t understand why she stayed. Do you agree? Should she have left? Are concepts like forgiveness and grace just for religious books and spiritual leaders? Let me know what you think?

We’re coming to the end of this journey. Next week, we’ll discuss Veda, the last woman in the book and the Committed Wife section. Again, it’s never too late to order a copy of The Unhappy Wife. You can catch up on all of the commentary and add your thoughts whenever you can.

Darlene from The Unhappy Wife book

unhappy-wifeDarlene, Darlene, Darlene…where do I begin with this story? First, I was happy to include this woman’s narrative because she was a preacher’s wife and I know that sometimes, we still place people like preachers and their families on pedestals. The reality is that preachers and their wives are people just like you and I. Part of my purpose was to show this through their experience.

Also, Darlene is another woman with whom I had a lengthy conversation. She told me about learning how to be a woman from Kain’s mother, fooling around with Kain’s brother, and ultimately marrying Kain. Similar to Miss Sharlene, I wasn’t sure if I needed to include all of these details, but ultimately I did to show her background and how she came to marry someone like Kain.

Concept: I didn’t know much about the Pentecostal church before writing this story, so Google was my best friend as I researched. The introduction where I describe Mother Williams showing Darlene how to be a woman in this type of church is the result. What I found out is Darlene’s experience is common. There is a lot of focus on women being mindful of how they represent themselves because, you know, men can’t control themselves if they see legs and cleavage. There is a lot of focus on women maintaining sexual purity and there are bible verses to support reasons why.

Quite honestly, I was in awe of these teachings. But I included them to show the reader how a woman could construct an idea about herself and what type of wife she’s supposed to be, no matter what.

The other aspect of this story I felt was important was Darlene’s gullibility. She admitted after going through this ordeal that she had no idea about what was cheap and what wasn’t. I fictionalized her examples for the book, but the way Kain dated her was similar. He had no money, but he passed it off as “frugal.” I’m not saying a man has to take you to an expensive restaurant; however, Kain’s financial traits transferred to the marriage and Darlene ended up assuming much of the costs.

The last part of this story that I wanted to drive home was how much we rely on other people to tell us what to do, even in a marriage. Darlene just wanted to be a faithful wife, who submitted to her husband, no matter what. Mother Williams encouraged her to do that. Her apostle friend encouraged her to continue by wearing a mask of happiness. Darlene honestly didn’t know what to do, unless someone gave her steps.

My commentary for this one is brief because I’m running out of words for my own count and also because the message is the same. Women have to learn to not only hear their inner voice, but also listen to it. Can you ask for advice from someone? Sure. But if your husband brings you an STD, works, but asks you for money every month, has sex with you four times a year, and doesn’t speak to you, unless it’s to save face in front of others, then you might want to consider that a sign.

unhappy-wifeWhat did you think about Darlene’s story? Did you catch my not-so subtle naming of her husband, Kain? What did you take from this story that I didn’t mention?

It’s never too late to order The Unhappy Wife and start reading because these blog posts will be up for a while. Next month I’ll provide a few insights about Crystal and how she chose to deal with her drug-addicted husband.

Pamela from The Unhappy Wife book

Pamela was the last wife that I’d interviewed. My plan was to have 13 women’s stories, but by the time I’d actually spoken to everyone and written each narrative, I was worn out. Twelve was enough.

unhappy-wifeWhile Pamela’s marriage includes similar tropes as the previous women, I was happy to include her story because it was about infidelity from a real woman’s point of view, something that isn’t always depicted or discussed in media. Additionally, Pamela had no remorse for committing the act, and that was a part of the adultery narrative that had to be told.

Concept: At first I was going to only focus Pamela’s story on her mother and how she influenced Pam to give up on college and get married. But as we continued our conversation, she not only revealed her adultery, but also told me it helped her as a person. I knew then her story had to be about more than simply her and her mom’s relationship.

Likewise, I wanted to provide a counter narrative to how society views affairs. There are three ideas about cheating that I’ve noticed: (1) it’s the worst thing that can happen in a marriage; (2) it is an irreparable break of trust; and (3) it’s something only men do. I thought Pamela’s story would shape a different conversation.

Let me be clear. I’m not trying to condone cheating. I’m just saying that it’s time to expand the narrative, especially as women take on different roles than they once did in the past.

Commentary: I believe Pamela felt bad about herself long before marriage. It began when her mother crushed her university dreams. And then, like a lot of women, post-pregnancy weight added to her insecurity. On top of that, she relied so much on Reggie’s degrees and income that his unemployment added another layer of disappointment.

By the time Kurt entered the picture, she all but invited the escape. This is how some affairs occur. They begin with an insecure woman being noticed and paid attention to by another man. In this case, Kurt uplifted her, something that her mother didn’t seem to do. Kurt also had the money to pamper her and he accepted her body the way it was at first. According to Pam, Kurt was a Godsend. Without him, she would still be living in despair.

Pam’s story showed my overall message with this book:

  • Know yourself.
  • Love yourself.
  • Be yourself.

Pamela didn’t know herself. If she did, then she would’ve been able to determine if going to college or getting married was a better path for her. She didn’t love herself. If she did, then she wouldn’t have ended up in Kurt’s bed, seeking love and attention through his admiration and wallet. She wasn’t being herself. She had assumed an identity, wife and mother.

What did you all think about her? Was she wrong for cheating with Kurt, even if it did lead self-discovery? What about overbearing mothers? Do you think parents should guide their children so much that they influence their life’s path?

unhappy-wifeOne more thing: My editor said this story was the best in terms of writing. I suspect it’s because it was traditional. It has a clear beginning, middle and end. The ending is nice a neat and tied with a bow. Readers tend to like that. What do you think?

If you haven’t ordered or read The Unhappy Wife yet, there’s still time! We have one more section to discuss, The Committed Wife. Next month we’ll start off with Darlene, mmmhmm, the preacher’s wife.

3 Unexpected Outcomes of Self-Publishing by K.E. Garland #Spotlight

Many thanks to Felicia over at NesiesPlace for this Spotlight invitation. Check out the feature about The Unhappy Wife, give her a follow, AND check out her own book In The Best Interest of the Child.

Nesie's Place

I’m honored and pleased to have Dr. K.E. Garland on the blog today. An educator by profession, Dr. Garland is not only finding success as an indie author, but her works of creative nonfiction are fostering discussions for social change [among women especially] on an international level.

Today, Dr. Garland shares three outcomes she never imagined when she first decided to self-publish.


TUW coverThe Unhappy Wife was conceived during one of my former 320-mile commutes to and from work. During those drives, I used to call family and friends to keep me company. Many calls were with one of my male cousins. This time, his marriage woes were exhausting.

“I’m going to write a book called The Unhappy Wife,” I told him, “and I’m going to ask your wife to participate!” He laughed and laughed at me, but I was serious.

It wasn’t just his wife and their drama. I had…

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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 😉

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.