Yes, it really did happen that fast.
The end came swiftly, six weeks after Mari and Natalia began. In the middle of our marriage’s downfall, in the blur of Mari’s wild spin into the far-away dimension where she now resides, her mental health provider suggested that Mari may have bipolar disorder.
Two weeks later, I turned to my wife in the driver’s seat of the car we bought together, 50 miles deep into the six-hour drive to my hometown. We were on the way to my little brother’s wedding. Through the static of six weeks’ worth of neglect and hurt, I asked her,
“Have you thought about being married to Natalia instead of me?”
“Yes,” she answered.
“But you still want to be married to me over anyone else in the world. Right?”
I stared at my queen, my baby, as her eyes gripped the road and her mouth stayed closed. So beautiful in profile. So iced with pain, already lost to me. She spoke.
“Do you really want to do this in the car?”
Many will tell you that this is the inevitable conclusion to an open marriage.
Plenty of people who prefer monogamy believe that all nontraditional commitments are doomed to fail. I hear the hum of What did you expect? beneath the half-sympathies of a few friends and relatives whose support is more like criticism. You opened the door. Of course one of you was bound to walk through it.
And I will tell you that yes, this is a story about polyamory gone wrong. In equal measure, this is also a story about the fragility of chosen family bonds that cross over race lines. Intercultural and interracial relationships are never easy, and we never did find resolution to those core differences between us. When she told me in the car that it was over, she explained that she could no longer see a future with me. That the family that we would make together would be a family that she no longer wants. That although she and I had worked so hard to build a life together, it was Natalia, a newcomer but a fellow Latina woman of color, who felt more like home.
All that is true. But I will also tell you that, first and foremost, this is a story about mental illness. This labor of my love, my marriage to Mari, ends with a suddenness that is typical of hypomania. She would tell me later that she made the decision to end our marriage on the spot, and that the move felt outside of her control even as she was making it. Though it was Mari who put me out, she has appeared disoriented throughout the separation process, at times seeming not to understand why I was leaving. I have come to see, as I reacquaint myself to her in the light of her new diagnosis, that in a hypomanic state she is capable of doing things, yet experiencing those things as though they are being done to her.
I look back now over the years and see my marriage as an ongoing trial, a struggle to devote myself to a beloved who moved through emotional space at an intensity and speed with which I could never keep up. My efforts to support her left me running behind her, making her excuses and cleaning up the messes of her impulse decisions. And when those periods of frenzy careened into each inevitable crash, I was left to shoulder the weight of our household alone, watching her suffer in depression, helpless to provide any relief.
I love Mari. I always will. She loves me too.
I regret nothing of the life we made together. As hard as it was, as obvious as it seems now that we were never going to make it to the end, I am so, so glad to have married that woman. However brief our time as a family, it’s been an honor to have called myself her wife.
But our marriage was the hardest thing that I have ever done. And I am so, so happy to be free.
I am not alone in this journey, and never have been. When she pulled the plug she sent me straight into the arms of my whole extended family, the tan line on my ring finger freshly exposed to the sun. The people who love me drew me close, and I stood proud beside my brother to celebrate his future with his new wife and their toddler son. I held my head high, smiled for the pictures and laughed with my cousins through the weekend. If you saw the wedding photos, you would never guess that I was standing in calamity. You’d never know that I got in the car to attend that wedding with my wife and arrived alone and single. I look beautiful and strong. My eyes are dry.
Back in the apartment that I shared with my bride, I packed my things alone, sometimes crumbling into tears and confusion as I sorted my dirty clothes out of our shared hamper, split the wedding china, selected half the knives out of the knife block and pulled my books from our interlayered shelves. But when it came time to move the furniture, I didn’t have to lift that weight alone. Though he couldn’t be there in person to help, my Sugar Daddy paid to hire movers.
My new apartment is chilly this autumn, but it feels cozy. It’s a little bit dark, but I feel bright. I wake up calm now in the mornings, looking up at the fissured panels of a drop ceiling that I pay to keep over my own head. There is no moment of shock, none of the confusion that sometimes comes from waking up in a new place.
I know exactly where I am.