The First Few Years of My Marriage Were a Failure

My first marriage started badly and only got worse as time went on

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Photo by Ben Rosett on Unsplash

I was 18 years old and already had two failed relationships under my belt. At 16, I lost the girl I thought I would marry one day. At 17, circumstances aligned that saw me with a fiancée again, even though I never explicitly asked for it.

I felt like a terrible man who was shitty to women and I shouldn’t be anywhere within 10 feet of a person of the opposite sex. But that didn’t stop me from jumping right into another relationship.

Linda was a little older than me, so she was more sure than I that she wanted a relationship. I was trying to stay afloat at work despite my anxiety, depression, and psychosis, and was trying hard to make sure people thought I was as healthy as they were.

We had been spending a lot of time together: drinking, smoking weed, watching movies, and going out with my friend Paul and his girlfriend, even though he made it no secret that he didn’t like Linda.

But the thing that clinched our relationship in my mind was the sex. After my disastrous first time with my previous girlfriend, I was not at all a confident lover. Then, there was the matter of the 1000 pounds of guilt I had strapped to my back. Even if I wasn’t a Jehovah’s Witness anymore, I still had the programming of 18 years of hearing that premarital sex was a sin, and under no circumstances should I engage in it.

So when the time came for certain parts of my anatomy to perform, it didn’t, and even when I was able to get things in a firmer direction, I lasted all of three pumps and a squirt.

I was crushed, because all during puberty, I had an idea in my head of what it would be like when I finally had sex, and my performance didn‘t match what I thought would happen.

And, as I do with everything else, I started overthinking it and developed a massive case of performance anxiety. Linda didn’t seem to care, but I did and started getting more and more depressed. I also started panicking when I knew sex was about to happen, and the whole idea that it is enjoyable went out of the window.

I dreaded sex and lost interest. We still did it, even if my heart wasn’t in it. But, the way Linda acted like I was still sexy and attractive made me start not just to like her, but to love her. And what did my Witness training teach me about love?

When you love someone, you get married.

Around this time, Linda had the first of many disagreements with her mother and needed a place to stay. I told her she could stay with me but failed to ask my brother first. After all, it was his apartment. He got upset when he saw me carrying Linda’s stuff up the stairs, and later that night, we had one of the few real arguments in our history.

We worked it out, but it was just another instance where I acted like a young, stupid, and entitled little asshole to someone I cared about.

Later that week, after living with Linda for a few days, I thought I was entirely sure I wanted to spend my life with her. We went on a walk, and I felt good for the first time in forever and ended up asking her to marry me.

She said yes, and I had fiancée number three at 18 years old.

I wish someone had given me a reality check.

Eventually, my brother got a job offer and left Gallup for greener pastures, and Linda and I had no place to live. We found a tiny apartment we could afford, but it had problems. Cold air leaked in the windows, and snow blew under the door. There was one gas heater in the bedroom that didn’t come close to heating the whole house.

It was so awful, we named it, “Ye Olde Shithole!” Linda left the theater because we were officially “together” and she couldn’t work at the same place as me. She got a job as a waitress where the tips were okay, and the food she brought home from work was excellent.

We were broke but had some good times. My mom and dad wanted to meet Linda for a long time, so they showed up in Gallup one day. Of course, we made it seem as though Linda was just visiting my apartment because they didn’t know we lived together.

Since Gallup is a boring and hideous place, we loaded in the car and took the drive to Santa Fe for the day.

Linda must have passed the test because as we were walking up to a restaurant for lunch, my dad lifted his leg and farted loudly, and he would only do that in front of people he likes. He does have manners. They also bought me some groceries because the cupboard was bare.

It was a good sign.

It was around that time that Linda peed on a stick and found out she was pregnant. I had no idea how I was going to announce this to my family because up until then, I had done a good job of hiding my sins from them and the Witnesses.

I didn’t want the Witnesses to know because I would have been disfellowshipped and my mom and dad would have been forced to shun me, and I didn’t want to lose them. We vowed to keep the pregnancy a secret for as long as we could.

But, time went on, and working as a manager for the theaters was getting old. Imagine if the former manager you took over for had a history of stealing money. Then imagine the big boss treated him like a son and enabled him. Also, imagine that the big boss let the former manager still have keys to the building and access to the safe.

Finally, imagine overhearing the former manager talking to the big boss and referring to me as a “scapegoat.”

The next time money went missing from the safe, I documented everything, turned in my evidence to the corporate office, and quit my job.

It was the only thing I could do.

One would think with the kind of experience I had, someone would hire me. But, I was young and not a high school graduate, and in a depressed economy where there were more educated workers than jobs, I got left out in the cold.

But I lucked out and someone offered me a free apartment in exchange for being the rental manager/maintenance man, so we didn’t have to worry about rent, and the apartment was much more pleasant and suitable. But I still needed to find something that paid actual money, because Linda and I had to eat.

So what did I do? I sold vacuum cleaners door-to-door. If you know anything about the companies that sell these overpriced hunks of metal, you know that very few people want to spend $1200 on a vacuum, even if they can make small monthly payments.

I sold a total of one my first week, and that was it, but kept cold-calling because that is what the senior salesmen said to do if I wanted to make money.

Then Linda left her job at the cafe, and our food and money quickly ran out.

With the last bit of money, we went and bought a substantial bag of potatoes.

I was severely depressed and anxious about having no money, and it was putting massive stress on our relationship. It also didn’t help that my duties as a rental manager were clashing with my ability to go out and sell vacuums.

And you can imagine what eating only potatoes for two weeks will do to a person.

The depression got so bad that all I did was sleep. I ignored Linda, I didn’t answer the phone when tenants called, and I didn’t sell any more vacuum cleaners.

During the time when I was in a funk but had managed to go out of town for work to cold-call a new territory, Linda started to bleed, and her friend Tina took her to the Indian hospital.

She lost the baby, and even if we still didn’t know how we were going to tell people, it was a huge blow to our relationship and the last straw that broke the camel’s back.

I was a failure again. We had no money, no food, and I was getting fired as the rental manager because all I did was sleep, so we had no place to live either.

I finally called my parents and asked them to send me money. All they had was $100, but it was enough for us to buy more food than we had seen for a long time.

When I was talking to my dad, he suggested I move back to Tucson, where he could help me. He could get me a temporary place to live until I got a job and got back on my feet, and it sounded like the perfect solution.

Things were not going great with Linda, and when I said I was fickle, I meant it. I listened to my friend Paul when he tried to convince me not to stay with Linda. Again, he never liked her. For a while, I listened, and I told Linda I was leaving and would not be taking her with me.

What an asshole, right? But, in my defense, I was young and having second thoughts about getting married when I had my whole life ahead of me. My life was also in turmoil and I was only thinking of myself.

As for Linda, she had no place to go but back with her brother to the reservation. She couldn’t move back in with her estranged mother. I felt terrible that she would be starting from zero, but, I was firm and told her I couldn’t take her. At least for a while.

As time got closer to leave, the more I didn’t want to go without her, so we started talking about what it would be like to go together. We even talked to my parents about it and they thought it was a good idea, but mentioned that if we wanted to stay together in the same house with them, we would have to be married.

In all the excitement, we forgot that part.

In the end, I changed my mind, apologized, and we started making serious plans for both of us to head to Tucson. And when my friend said I was making a mistake, I ignored him.

A week later, we arrived in the city, driving an illegally licensed 1971 Plymouth Valiant. The plan was instead of staying with the parents, we would be staying in a very fancy house in the foothills that they were caretakers of. It was something I had never seen the likes of, at least that’s what my mom said, and as long as we didn’t break anything, we could stay for a while.

What I forgot was the house came with some huge strings attached.

The house was more than I ever imagined, and Linda and I toured it the first time with our mouths hanging open. It even had a fridge with cold water and an ice maker. As we sat on the snow-white couch with our glasses of filtered water and fancy ice-cubes, my parents filled us in on the situation.

They were glad to help, with conditions. As Jehovah’s Witnesses, their conscience would not allow Linda and I to stay together in the house unmarried, so if we wanted a free mansion to live in until I could get back on my feet, we would have to get married.

Immediately.

I was shocked, speechless, and the heavy glass tumbler almost fell out of my hand. My parents didn’t know Linda had been pregnant and thought I was still a virgin. To them, they could still save my everlasting life if they got me married before we sinned.

As for me, I was still growing up and thinking about the whole “marriage thing,” and in no way wanted to get hitched right away. I wanted to be able to be ready when I was ready.

But, to answer my unasked question, my dad said, “The Justice of the Peace is open today, and we could go over there right now!” I was so dumbfounded that all I did was stare at my hands as they shook. I loved Linda, but I was scared.

This was too quick for me! Even though I was the one who had asked her to marry me on that walk those months ago, there was no way I was ready to get married right that minute.

But, eventually, I knew there was no changing my parent’s mind, so I looked over at Linda and mouthed, “What do you think?” I knew this is what she wanted most of all, and she wouldn’t turn me down, so I turned to my dad and said the only thing I could.

“Okay, let’s do it.”

I was between a rock and a hard place and needed the help of my mom and dad. I didn’t have much choice in the matter.

I made the decision not to let my fear and uncertainty ruin everything and knew I would get used to the idea of marriage because the thought of forever with Linda didn’t seem like a mistake.

I promised her that we would have a big wedding with family and a white wedding dress the next year, not knowing that would never happen.

That week, after the ”honeymoon” was over, I went back to the old Burger King I used to work for and got my job back. I couldn’t use the car anymore, because I dared not take the chance of driving it without the proper license, so I found a bike and used it to get to work.

Time went on, and I settled into both my job and marriage. I know I wasn’t a good husband because I was always moody and irritable from my depression and anxiety. I think that is why, shortly after we got married, the sex dried up. I didn’t feel like Linda wanted to do it, and I wasn’t going to ask, because I still had performance anxiety and embarrassment from being only able to make it last for a few minutes.

I stopped being attentive. It went like that for a while: me working all the time, ignoring Linda, and walking around like someone just kicked my puppy.

I wished I had never gotten married, as shitty and unfair as that was, but I was fickle and cared more about my own feelings than anyone else.

If Linda ever had things she was keeping from me, I did too as well. Work was like my second home because I spent so much time there. I was a shift manager and worked whenever they needed me, day or night, sometimes both.

One thing everyone knew about me at work was that I flirted with all the women, and I talked dirty. No one ever filed a complaint against me, but they should have because I was out of control. I was lucky that the girls who I managed always responded positively because if this had been after #MeToo, my stupid sexist ass probably would have gotten sued for harassment.

I made it a point not to make physical advances, but that doesn’t excuse me because I acted like an idiot and not someone who had respect for my wife and women in general.

The funny thing was, I told these women stories of my sexual exploits that never happened because the truth was that I was a disaster when it came to sex. I made everyone think I was some kind of sexual dynamo and that my evil wife never wanted to have sex with me because she was frigid.

It was only a matter of time before someone took me seriously and started having feelings for me.

My friendship with Jennifer started innocently enough as joking around and having fun during our shifts together. But, soon, I started having feelings for her that didn’t involve friendship, and she did too.

I had built up this idea of the kind of person I was in her mind when in truth, I was a sad, mentally ill liar who made up stories about my sex life so women would feel sorry for me. Jennifer fell in love with the idea of a man who didn’t exist, and I fell in love with her youth, vibrance, and lust for life.

She was a beautiful and fiery woman, and I was smitten. After our relationship went on for a time, I started thinking I would like to be with her instead of Linda and told her so.

I don’t remember exactly when, but during this time, I took Linda to the doctor because she wasn’t feeling well. As it turns out she was a few months pregnant.

I had started making plans to leave Linda, but with this new development, I now knew I never would.

I spent her pregnancy miserable, trying to lead a double life, and making a mess of both. In every picture of me from that time, I looked wretched, because I was. I was pitiful, depressed, anxious, and the voices in my head were convincing me that there was no way out of this situation, and it would be better if I killed myself. I was also working and trying to be a husband to one woman and a boyfriend to another.

Linda decided she wanted to go back and visit her family on the reservation so they could share her pregnancy with her, but I had to work, so she went by herself.

She didn’t know how much of a mistake that was.

The first night she was gone, I made a date with Jennifer to get together for a party and drink. I was also reasonably sure it would be the first time we had sex. We had a great night where there was no mistaking the undeniable sexual chemistry, but it started getting late, so we got a bottle of wine and went to her apartment.

The whole night her hair smelled of coconuts, and I couldn’t believe that this wonderful woman wanted to be with me. She looked as happy as I, but it may have just been the wine.

But, my lies caught up to me, because when it came time to prove what a sexual animal I was, I couldn’t perform. My whole world crashed down around me, and everything I had ever said to make myself look better fell apart.

Jennifer didn’t seem upset, just confused, and she told me later that she thought I didn’t want to do it because I was thinking about Linda.

The person that walked through the door of Burger King the next day was a different one. I knew it was only a matter of time until Jennifer told everyone what happened, and I would be a laughingstock.

It didn’t happen right away, but it did happen because several people asked me if it was true, and I had to be honest no matter how heart-wrenchingly embarrassing it was. I don’t know how I knew that Jennifer would never keep my failure to herself, but I was still surprised and hurt when I knew that everyone was laughing behind my back.

But, I was the one to blame, so there wasn’t much I could do.

I still dated Jennifer, but the dynamic was different between us. She spent a lot of her time partying with other guys and telling me all the details. Every time she slept with another guy, it reminded me that she thought I was less of a man each time.

Linda noticed a difference in me as well, but she never knew what caused it.

Eventually, Jennifer got tired of being the other woman, and even if we did love each other, she couldn’t stand to be near me. She left town, and I didn’t hear much from her again for a long time.

After drowning my misery in wine for a few days, I pulled myself up and decided that it was time I stopped looking somewhere else for love when I already had Linda, and a few months later, our first son, Jason Jr, was born.

I didn’t know how, but I was going to try to be the best father and husband I could be and try to make amends for betraying my wife.

As time passed, I only proved to everyone that I am incapable of being a decent person. I spent all my time working because Linda stopped when she got pregnant and never went back. When I was home, I was so tired and distracted that I ignored everyone, even my son.

And even when my second boy, Joseph, was born later, I didn’t slow down at work because I knew that I alone was responsible for seeing that my family had a roof over their heads and food in the refrigerator.

I was always miserable and depressed, and more often than not, when I had time off, I spent it by myself reading instead of with Linda and the boys. I mean, I did spend time with them and helped around the house when I could, but there was no way I would ever win Father or Husband of the Year.

I was also getting bashed and beaten by the voices in my head. They were bad enough during the day, but when I slept I had night terrors which caused me to scream and thrash in my sleep. I also had sleepwalking episodes fairly often, and ended up in my front yard one evening, screaming into the darkness.

My undiagnosed mental illness was clashing with my selfish personality and making me a terrible person who only cared about me.

Not one to ever learn my lesson, I moved on to another Burger King and a new group of women to flirt with. None of these people knew how much of a failure of a man I was, and I set about building up my sexual prowess to everyone who would listen.

It wasn’t long before I started getting close to another young woman, Julie. As dead as I felt inside, when we spent time together, I could feel a longing for her, and against my better judgment, starting seeing her.

The first time we had sex followed the same pattern; I wasn’t able to perform, but Julie wanted to keep trying, and eventually, we were successful.

I thought I was in love again.

I know Linda knew something was going on because she started acting differently, too. And one day, a few weeks later, we had a huge fight and split up. It was a mess, and we drug everyone through the mud with us, including my mom and dad.

I moved out, and it didn’t take long for depression to seize me, and the voices to convince me how much of a loser and failure I was. The only option was that I would have to die.

I went so far down the rabbit hole that I feared I would lose my new job selling rental furniture. I completely ruined my relationship with Julie and rarely ever got to see my kids.

So I did the only thing I could do: I completely self-destructed and lost myself in booze and drugs.

I was alone, suicidal, and about to move away from all the people who had ever loved me.

It’s a wonder that I never died.

I knew the voices weren’t lying when they told me I was a terrible person, I had proven it time and time again, and even if I was sick, I couldn’t use that as an excuse for my bad behavior.

I felt like I couldn’t live with myself anymore unless I was drunk or stoned.

I didn’t know how things would work out.

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Writer | Essayist | Video Content Creator | Future member of the two-comma club | Dreamer - I am doing it my way and it might take a bit longer. Don't wait up.

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