What happens when things start going wrong with a marriage? Arguments? Silence? Nightmares?

I drift on the edge of sleep. I’m held down by something that’s twisted around my body. I’m drenched in sweat. I can’t move. I cry out. That wakes me. My eyes open; I’m staring up at the ceiling. Something’s shaking me. It’s Dennis, my husband. He’s shaking me, telling me to wake up.

I tell him I had another nightmare. He gives me that look that I’ve seen so often. He looks disgusted whenever I have a nightmare. I tell him I can’t help it, and he tells me I should see a shrink, the same as he always tells me. He gets out of bed. No good morning kiss, no “I love you.” He leaves the room without a word, leaves me alone with the fading recollection of my nightmare.

I pull off the blanket and sheet that are twisted around me and get up. I make breakfast for Dennis, make coffee. He comes downstairs dressed in his stockbrokers’ pinstripe suit. “No time for breakfast. I’ll get something when I get to the office.” He leaves. No goodbye kiss, no “I’ll see you tonight.”

When did things start going wrong between us? I remember. Our fourth anniversary was on the second of June. I bought him a new watch, a very nice, very expensive TAG Heuer watch. When he got home I smiled at him, kissed him, hugged him, said “Happy anniversary, darling,” and gave him the watch. He said “Oh. I forgot.” Or he didn’t care. No “I’m sorry,” no “Thank you.” “You make such a big deal out of things, Susan.”

He’s never worn the watch. “The band’s too loose. I need to get it fixed.” I told him that I’d do it. He gave me that look. “I said... I’ll take care of it.” Almost a year and it’s still in the box it came in, in his dresser drawer.

I hadn’t fixed anything for dinner, it was our anniversary and I assumed we’d go out. “What’s for dinner?” “I thought we’d be going out for our anniversary.” “Can’t, got a ton of work to finish. I’m not hungry anyway. Had a big lunch.” I went to our bedroom and cried myself to sleep. And had my first nightmare. Exactly one year ago today.

I did see a shrink. A psychiatrist. That was a month after our anniversary. He said Dennis and I should see a marriage counselor. He said that’s what was causing my nightmares, our relationship. I didn’t tell Dennis. He wouldn’t understand. I didn’t go back to the psychiatrist.

I shower and dress. Dennis doesn’t want me to work. He says that partners’ wives don’t work. “Get together with the other wives. Play golf. Go to lunch. Go shopping.” I tried it. All they talked about was golf and shopping. I stopped joining them after a month.

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Arts, a Master’s degree in Business Communications. I saw a classmate from Stanford when I was downtown one day. Carla has her own company, an advertising firm, very successful. She and I talked several times. She offered me a job, a very good job. I didn’t tell Dennis; he’d just say no. I don’t want to be a housewife with nothing to do. I took the job. I love it. Dennis doesn’t know I have a job. I leave after he does and get home before he does.

Carla and I talked about my nightmares. She said to forget the psychiatrist, forget the marriage counselor. She gave me a business card from a divorce attorney. He prepared the papers. He filed them yesterday and I’m picking them up today.

I’ve had my nightmares less often now. Less often since I’ve been working, and much less often since I saw the divorce attorney. I think excitement caused this morning’s nightmare. I’m very excited because today’s our fifth anniversary.

The same as last year, Dennis won’t remember that today’s our anniversary. So I bought myself an anniversary gift last week, a very nice, very expensive watch. I’m going to put the divorce papers in the bag the watch came in. It’s a Tiffany bag, one of those blue ones; Dennis is impressed by things like that. My little gift to him will make it a very special anniversary for both of us. I’ll tell him, “You make such a big deal out of things, Dennis.”

My nightmares will be over.


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