Disappointment is a much underrated emotion. Left unchecked, it can devolve to disenchantment and down the slippery slope to “I don’t care anymore.” It can even lead to suicidal ideation.
Bill and Mary were childless because she was barren. After marrying in their mid-20’s they waited six years, in deference to career development and financial solvency, before trying to become pregnant. On the proud day they became homeowners (it was Bill’s 32nd birthday), they stood dreamily in was to be the nursery. “Shall we paint it pink?” Mary said. “Blue, green or yellow. Let’s get
pregnant,” Bill retorted with a loving squeeze.
Now, approaching their 12th anniversary, they reported that there was no joy left, no sparks either, nothing to feel but a growing boredom. They’d been to every conceivable specialist. Mary had had countless injections and two operations. They’d spent most of their savings on their fertility project.
Let’s let Bill tell the rest of the story: “Mary had hoped for children, longed for them, pined for them, yet could not bring herself to consider adoption. My own disappointment was bearable, though deep. Mary’s disappointment was intractable, so much so that she went into a state of depression from which it seemed nothing could rescue her, not psychotherapy, not antidepressant medicines. We had been encouraged by therapists who said that many childless marriage were highly successful, husbands and wives forging exceptionally strong bonds through their shared misfortune. But with us it worked in reverse. Where there had been passion there was now politeness; where plans and laughter, now a grinding hopelessness; where tears and heartbreak, now silence. We never quarreled and rarely argued about anything at all. Neither of us any longer cared enough for that.
“After 12 years of marriage, I finally concluded that I hadn’t been enough for Mary, without babies. I was forced to face it that to her motherhood mattered most, that marriage had been but the pathway, that many a man would have been good enough for that. One day I asked her how soon she would have divorced me had it been I who had proved infertile. She said she wasn’t
sure. I felt wounded by that, and thought it profitless to keep wondering whether we might have been contented enough to stay together forever if Mary herself had been fulfilled.
“I’m terrified that Mary’s depression might get even worse. I can’t keep living like this. I’m thinking of filing for divorce.”
Questions: How did Bill and Mary’s vow break? When? Who broke it?
What would you have done in Mary’s shoes? In Bill’s shoes?
We’d like to know what YOU think.
NEXT: WHEN THE VOW BREAKS, Part VI: My Spouse Won’t Die