04/06/2011 07:22 pm ET Updated Jun 06, 2011

The Moment I Knew

I was home after a busy day at work, my toddler son playing at my husband's feet in the living room, while I stood at the kitchen sink rinsing arugula, and getting ready to grill some salmon. I felt my husband's presence like an absence; that heavy feeling when someone doesn't want to be where they are. I turned around to face him, and he let out a long, slow exhale. "I'm done," he said, staring straight ahead at the wall in front of him. Then he turned his face toward me and his cool, blue eyes met mine, "I'm done with this," he said, gesturing his hand in a casual way that indicated that "this" was this life, our house, our son, our 13 years of memories together, and me. Suddenly, meaningless me.

He was "done." Just like that.

But I wasn't done. I begged, I pleaded, I cried. I tried to make him see the error of his thoughts. We had a new house, a new baby, I had recently been fired from a job I loved. Everyone has struggles like this in their marriage, I said to him, trying to make normal this terrifying new world we were in.

So we started "trying to save the marriage." We went to therapy, I walked around the house as if on eggshells, I did all the dishes cooked all the meals, tried to become the perfect wife, we went away to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. I took on more of the care of our son, and cried into my pillows at night as I felt my husband disappearing from me, anyway. I got a big, new job and tried not to need his help with everything I was carrying, and the two of us simply tiptoed around the giant hole he'd blown open in our marriage, right in the middle of our living room floor, as if it didn't exist.

One night after I'd put the baby to bed, sometime shortly before Thanksgiving, I was talking with him about us: What were we doing for the holidays? Where were we going? He was only grunting in half-answers, not turning his attention from the television. I started to walk up the stairs to put away some laundry, and said, "Since we're trying to work on our marriage, do you think you could be in this conversation with me?"

He whipped his head around to look up at me and spat out, "I'm not trying. I'm done trying. I'm just waiting for you to be done trying."

It was as if I'd been punched in the stomach. This is the night the blinders fell from my eyes, and I believed at last what he'd said six months before. We were done.