“I’m so bored in my marriage,” said Emily, 36, a fifth-grade teacher and mother of two — Lisa, 9, and Will, 6. “When Joe and I got married 15 years ago he was a great conversationalist with tons of interests, including photography, tennis, and movies. He was also attentive and romantic, surprising me with flowers and weekend getaways. Now he’s so preoccupied with running his insurance agency and working on the yard that he has no time for hobbies — or for me. If I suggest that the two of us go out to eat or to a movie, Joe says he’d rather stay home with the kids. What’s more, I shoulder all the parenting responsibilities. Joe’s business lets him set his own hours, so couldn’t he drive Lisa to ballet or Will to the dentist once in a while? Why must I always be the one who takes a personal day when they get sick?
“On the rare occasions we make love, we just go through the motions. Frankly, I don’t find him sexy anymore: He’s gained weight and wears outdated, ill-fitting clothes. He looks years older than he is.
“About a year ago I became friendly with a woman who came to our school to speak about art education. Deb’s a painter and a free spirit who lives off a trust fund and travels all over the world. Just last week she showed me brochures for a rafting trip and a cruise she’s planning to take. I got so envious! She has no kids and is separated from her second husband, so she can paint whenever the spirit moves her. The more time I spend with her, the more tied down and dejected I feel. After her divorce is final she’s moving to Tucson to open an art gallery, and she’s invited me to work for her. Separating from Joe and moving to Arizona sounds wild and irresponsible — and appealing, maybe because I’ve never done anything wild or irresponsible in my entire life.
“Joe was my first and only boyfriend. Sometimes, on my worst days, I wonder if I rushed into marriage at 21 to escape my parents, who were perfectionists with impossibly high standards. If I got a new haircut, they’d tell me it accentuated my chubby face. In fact, Dad was so critical of my size that I joined Weight Watchers at 16, only to be told by the program director that I was at most five pounds overweight! My younger brother, Tom, was their clear favorite. I was expected to do daily chores, but Mom still made Tom’s bed when he was in high school.
“Joe and I met on a blind date set up by friends. I was a high school junior from the New Jersey suburbs; he was a college sophomore from New York City. I was instantly attracted to his good looks and by the fact that he was more mature than the boys I knew. Our conversation flowed easily, and when he kissed me good-night it was the best kiss of my life.”