Your story resonates quite closely with my own. I got married at 34, mostly because my wife wasn’t a resident, and while I wasn’t sure I was ready for marriage I wasn’t ready to break it off either. I still don’t know what I’d have done differently.
When we met, we were both pursuing careers in performing; however, somewhere along the way, she decided she didn’t want that kind of life. That makes sense to anyone who’s struggled trying to make a living as an artist, but it all really started to fall apart when she’d somehow assumed I’d arrive eventually to the same conclusion. She decided she wanted to build a house, very badly it seemed; I aspired to provide for her needs, and then thanks to the recession when all our jobs went away, it nearly bankrupted us both financially and emotionally as a couple. I took less and less performing work in favor of making enough money. She withdrew from me emotionally and physically, and for years showed almost no interest in me as a companion, or man, or artist. In my loneliness, I also developed very deep feelings for my best friend that (although we also never consummated) resulted in muddiness, disappointment and resentment that destroyed the friendship, ending with me telling her I could never see her again.
My wife and have I spent the last two years in and out of counseling, trying to figure out how to make it work, and realized how we’d both compromised ourselves into separate corners and that no one was getting anything that they needed. Eventually we could admit that while we love each other, we’d become very different and our needs no longer aligned; hell, she doesn’t even want to live in New York, as it happens. We’re splitting now although co-habitating for a few more months (oh, New York…) until my to-be-ex-wife can orchestrate her move, and it’s actually amicable. We get along better than we have in years, sleeping separately with no sexual relationship, basically living as roommates who don’t care if they see each other naked…but it took a lot to get here. We’ve spent a shit ton of money on counseling, I’ve probably killed half my liver, and I miss my former best friend terribly, but I remind myself daily that this is the best place I could be now and try not to dwell on the cost.
It bothers me how many commenters below (mainly men, it would seem) appear to believe your article gives them license to criticize you for not admitting the part you played in your marital difficulties. To me, it seems they miss the point, which is that it wasn’t at all about who was to blame, but what you went through and how you felt. I think that, like most criticism, it reveals more about the critics than the subject. Personally, I don’t believe you should be obligated to give any equal time to your ex’s viewpoint; this is an article about your experience, and anyone who’s ever been in an adult relationship should take it as granted that there are two sides and not criticize you for not ‘fessing up. Also, they seem to forget that you had cancer, and so they can particularly all go fuck themselves for not taking that into account.