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The Moments I Should Have Known

04/06/2011 07:55pm ET | Updated June 6, 2011
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When I bullied, badgered and begged him for six months to tell me he loved me, and he finally did, and I opened my mouth to say: "I love you too," and nothing came out.

When I wrote a personal essay the working title of which was "Monogamy = Death" in an attempt to explain away that moment of speechlessness, and concluded that the reason I hesitated to say "I love you too" was: I didn't understand what love really was, and at last, my wise and emotionally superior soon-to-be-husband had taught me: love is when you love someone so purely that you don't care if he ever says he loves you back.

When "Monogamy = Death" was later published in an anthology entitled "Why I'm Still Married: Women Write Their Hearts Out on Love, Loss, Sex, and Who Does the Dishes" with the more flip, cutsey title "Monogamy Meltdown," and I was part of the "from paper to wood" chapter because I'd only been married four years by then. Contributing to an anthology titled "Why I'm Still Married" when you've only been married four years is like contributing to an anthology called "Why I'm Still In Business" when you still haven't turned a profit, and your business address has a "suite number" which is code for "my tiny apartment."

When I spent another four years, after my wedding, writing another book, which for years (yes, years) I simply called "The Wedding Book," where I wrote pages and pages and pages and hundreds of pages more of words, and conducted interviews and research, and developed elaborate theories all in the hopes that I could write my way out of the one thing that scared me to my bones: I was a really miserable bride.

When my book, ultimately titled "I Do But I Don't: Why The Way We Marry Matters," and pitched as a hybrid of memoir and cultural criticism, was published, and one night sitting out on the fire escape I said to him: "Wouldn't it be crazy if this book came out, and then someday we got divorced?" And he didn't speak to me for almost twenty-four hours because I had been such a traitor as to utter the word: "divorce."

When my book, which sold however many copies and got me on NPR and CBS Sunday Morning and on a lot of feminist blogs but of course never got reviewed in the New York f-ing Times, didn't earn out its advance or make me famous, either, and he looked me right in the face and said: "Your book was a failure," over an expensive Italian dinner on a frigid winter night.

The Moment I Knew.

When he said, "I think it's crazy that my wife doesn't love me anymore." And I said, "Who are you talking about? Are you talking about 'your wife,' or are you talking about me?" And he said, "You are my wife." And I knew I couldn't be anymore.