You’re Not the Person I Married
Course Correction is a retired English teacher who reads, writes, and helps immigrant women learn English. Her favorite losing cause is fighting for clean air along Utah’s Wasatch Front.
Nadine Gordimer’s 2001 novel, The Pickup, features a mismatched couple: Julie, a white South African woman in rebellion against her affluent family and their shallow lifestyle, and Abdu, an Arab illegal immigrant. When Abdu is deported from South Africa, Julie insists on going with him and they marry. No way can Abdu take a foreign woman who is not his wife home to meet his devout Muslim family.
Abdu loves his family, but hates the dirt, poverty, and corruption of his native country. His university degree fails to help a man without connections get a good job. He fixes cars in his uncle’s shop and spends free time applying for entry to a developed country. Julie befriends the women in his family, teaches them and the neighbors English, begins learning Arabic, and studies the Koran. Abdu finally obtains a visa to enter the U.S. where he hopes to study computers and use her mother’s American connections to obtain a promising career. Julie refuses to go. She stays with his family rather than return to the lifestyle she hated.
Gordimer’s story reminded me of the difficulty George and I have had in resolving conflicts in our marriage. Major issues like conflicting lifestyle choices are not easily compromised. Julie and Abdu, like many young couples, marry before realizing the extent of their differences. In real life—certainly in my life—those differences may develop after years of marriage. People grow and change with their life experiences. Expecting one’s spouse not to change is pretty unrealistic.
Like many or even most women, I married with the expectation that George would change—that he would become an active Mormon. I’d read Pride and Prejudice. I knew men change for the love of a good woman. Unfortunately, George had not read P&P, and I overlooked the fact that in P&P, Mr. Darcy changes before he says, “I do.”
Still, after several years of my inspired nagging, George grasped the Iron Rod, and our family was sealed in the temple. George had spiritual experiences as a member of a ward bishopric and as a temple worker, although he found sanctimonious ward members annoying. Years later when my faith shrunk, George had no problem skipping meetings with me.
The rift occurred when I gave up garments. George had given up his bad habits and become an active Mormon at my urging. Now, I changed my mind. How fair is that? No romance novel heroine ever told her reformed bad boy, “Change back. I liked you better the way you were.” For George, my loss of faith meant our family will be apart in the next life. His sacrifices were for naught.
A younger couple might have divorced. George and I did not. Unlike Julie who stayed with Abdu’s family, and Abdu who went to Julie’s mother, it was too late for either George or me to return to Momma. Our parents were gone, and our kids sure as heck didn’t want either of us intruding on their lives. Dividing our meager estate would hardly finance the major renovation necessary for either of us to attract a new mate. We had to work it out.
Currently, neither of us attends Mormon services. I attend Buddhist meditation groups and the Unitarian Church occasionally. I admit the possibility that Mormon and Christian doctrine may be literally true—I just don’t find it highly probable. George discovered Joseph Campbell and now considers a metaphorical interpretation of scriptures. We no longer have our faith in common, but we have each other. It could be worse. One of us could insist on living in a third world country.