I thought choosing when to tie the knot would be the toughest decision of my life, I was wrong. Deciding when it’s time to leave a marriage is even harder. When I met my husband, “Dave” (not his real name), I was a 25-year-old, super-sheltered Southern belle. I generally dated guys from a small insular community of “church folk.” Dave was the first guy I went out with who wasn’t part of “our kind of people,” and quite frankly, it was a welcome respite. Being privy to a lot of the inner drama behind the church scene left me disenchanted with organized religion and hoping to find more balance in my previously uber-pious lifestyle. Dave was a genuinely good guy — and that’s what I needed. After evaluating my imaginary continuum between thug and square, he was smack in the middle. He had enough street swagger to ensure that I always felt safe, but was over the whole “bad boy thing” and hustling on the straight and narrow. He had his own used car lot, a small but viable business. Even better, Dave and I did things that many of my “church” boyfriends refused to do, like attend secular music shows (think Lalah Hathaway, not Lil Kim), vacationing together openly, and he didn’t turn up his nose when I ordered wine with my meals. From the start, Dave professed that I was his wife and he wanted to marry me. Two years after we met, we had the wedding of our dreams (think bronze, not platinum) and after a honeymoon in Aruba I was ready to start my life as his wife. Dave was not the man I fantasized about as a girl, but definitely the one of my heart. Did I mention he was great guy — friendly, God-fearing and fun? I married him for a few reasons. We loved each other. We aspired to do great things together. We both believed in family. Most importantly, I thought we’d be able to work well together. How can I say this without seeming bitter? I got hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray. My husband and I are grappling with two big issues that are ripping our marriage apart: finances and intimacy. Neither of us is a financial guru, but there is one basic rule I adhere to: pay your bills — especially the necessities. Over the last few years, that has become less important to my mate. I’ve tried to divvy up our expenses, talk it out, and make financial plans. I get silenced. Bills come, he says he’ll handle them and doesn’t. He runs a business that deals primarily in cash and I’ve offered to help manage the books since it’s his only income source — he refuses. He’ll take loans without informing me and even skip out on paying major bills, such as our mortgage and car note. Then there’s intimacy — or should I say lack thereof. Dave is quick to pound it out in the bedroom, but he’s no longer open to sharing his plans, hopes and dreams. To me that’s just as important if we’re a team. We rarely go out on dates and seldom spend time together just talking. He makes unilateral decisions about everything in his life — and I’m left to figure things out. Sometimes I’ll make a fuss, but other times I just note it in my mental rolodex as fuel for my impending departure. But I haven’t left. I know our marriage could be great if we decided to work together, but the question is how long do I wait for that to happen? I firmly believe that marriage is forever, but I don’t know whether men, especially some of our men, get what it takes to make it last. My husband, who professed he wanted a wife, and that I was that woman, is unwilling to compromise to make joint financial and life plans. Instead of growing, I feel like we’re in quicksand. The thing is, I know how to get out of it… I just don’t want to leave him behind. And I have to be transparent here: chucking a 15-year-marriage and starting over is almost as scary as staying. Today I’m trying to balance being a team player when my quarterback has defected. I want to be a supportive wife who stands by her man through the tough times, but who’s got my back? All I can do is pray that God orders my steps.
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