Me Without You
What if the secret to a happy marriage is sometimes behaving like you're not married?
Things Worth Knowing with Farrah Storr is a reader-supported publication. To support this writing and join my writers group you can pop your email below.
‘There’s something you should know about me Farrah,’ my husband told me in the dawn of our married life together, ‘I can never give up my trips alone.’ It was less an ultimatum and more a fact, casually thrown into the order of our marriage with all the wrecking power of a Besozzi.
Like me, Will was a journalist when we met in our early twenties. Except he got to travel the world. Sudan, Belize, Ethiopia, The Democratic Republic of Congo - every page in his passport filled with a dozen different stamps; every stamp telling a dozen different stories. I suppose it was part of his appeal in the early days of our courtship. It was exotic and daring, which in turn made him both exotic and daring too. He brought me back coffee from Addis Ababa; Havaianas flip flops (long before they were a thing) from San Paulo, and once, a piece of human shin bone from Caracas.
For years I thought the point of travel for my husband was to see the world. Only later did I realise it was to be alone.
Of course when we got married and he switched from working full-time as a journalist to full-time as an author, I thought the trips would stop. But they did not. As an author, my husband’s new life revolved around home; our home. And so his desire to flee the nest intensified. He would jet off to Bali to finish his book. Or spent a month in India researching the follow-up. ‘Why can’t you just do that at home,’ I’d wail to him. ‘You don’t understand,’ he would always reply. ‘I need to be me. Alone.’
He was right. I didn’t understand. Those close to me found it even more confusing. My father was suspicious. Peers thought it signified a chink in the marriage. It was not the done thing. Married people did not go on holiday alone. They did not dine out by themselves in restaurants or watch sunsets over exotic lands with no company other than themselves. Marriage, conventional marriage, was about togetherness. It was about putting the life that came before this other person to one side and building a new life together. To question that signified what? That you were not the marrying kind? A level of selfishness that made married life an impossibility at worse, a constant battle at best? If you were unwilling to give up the things that came before your spouse, perhaps you were unwilling to embrace the things that came with your spouse too.