K E Garland
Dr. Katherin E Garland (writer/ academic / blogger / my friend) has just published The Unhappy Wife, a book of short stories based on the real lives of 12 women in marital discontent.
The closest I’ve come to marriage is having a partner who is a wedding photographer. With or without the ring, however, relationships have their ups and downs: sometimes they work; sometimes we invest in the work to make them work; sometimes we walk away; and sometimes, we remain – unhappily.
Over the weekend, Kathy and I chatted about her book, the writing process, and insights on love and relationships.
How did the concept for the book come about?
Many of my male friends and family members couldn’t understand why their wives were so unhappy. They felt they were doing everything they were “supposed” to, such as paying bills, but their wives were so sad. Reflecting on my own marriage and unhappiness, I also realized I had a story that needed to be heard, so I decided to write the book.
The women share quite intimate details of their lives. How did you gain their trust?
During my doctoral studies, I learned qualitative methods, such as interview techniques. For example, asking open-ended questions helped the women open up, so that came in handy. I also talked to them as if we were good girlfriends. A lot of the conversations felt like two women having coffee or drinks, while talking about their lives.
What was your writing / interviewing process?
I conducted recorded interviews with each woman either in person or over the phone. Conversations lasted 1- 3 hours depending on the woman. If it was over the phone, I also took notes. It took approximately two weeks to write up, revise, research certain parts, and fictionalize characters. I sent drafts to everyone, followed by one revision before calling it a final draft. Of course, once my editor got a hold of it, parts changed further.
Is there a common thread in the making/ breaking of a relationship that connects these women’s stories?
What’s common is that a majority of the women ignored their intuition and it ended up hurting them in the end. I can’t say there’s a common thread in the breaking of the relationship, because the relationships didn’t/don’t end similarly. That is the beauty of this book.
Readers will be interested to know you’re one of The Unhappy Wives. How has that candour affected your marriage?
READ MORE HERE!
Originally published on https://10000hoursleft.wordpress.com/2016/08/09/the-unhappy-wife/
Allow me to introduce online relationship coach, Anita Charlot. She has read The Unhappy Wife and provided a very important afterword. Here's a snippet.
Kathy has done an excellent job of sharing the different and very complex struggles of women in unhealthy and unhappy marriages. As I read each story, I saw many similarities between what was written and many of the women that I have coached in the past, myself included. The pain, the disappointment, the second-guessing, and the tolerance are all too familiar.
How is it that women find themselves in unhappy marriages? Here are a few reasons I’ve uncovered while coaching my clients:
If you Google the word "unhappy," the example given is “an unhappy marriage.” These two terms are so common that even Google recognizes it as a problem. Aside from this internet definition, I’ve interviewed and written about twelve unhappy wives and here is what I’ve learned.
Are you voiceless? This is the first type of unhappy wife that I’ve grown to understand. Society quieted her. Sometimes it’s a mother who gave advice based on her own failed marriage. Sometimes there are passed-down, cultural practices the wife felt had to be followed. For example, Asian culture dictates that you marry and follow your husband’s lead. Sometimes the wife silences herself by holding her tongue about things she doesn’t think she can change, such as how much her in-laws are involved. Either way, I’ve learned that you might be unhappy if you feel that you cannot follow your intuition, speak freely or raise concerns about your marriage. Consequently, your mouth is closed, but the energy surrounding your unhappiness festers inside. This wife feels as if she cannot tell anyone about her woes, and even if she does, no one acknowledges or listens anyway.
Are you detached? There are many ways husbands and wives can be detached. The wife could be emotionally disconnected, like I was for a while, thus perpetuating a state of misery. A husband could be physically present but withholding intimacy, thus producing an unfulfilled home life. I’m not saying 100% of the marriage should be sexual, but how can two perfectly healthy people be happy if they’re not consummating their relationship with sex every now and then? Detachment can also come from wives who don’t know themselves. Stay with me as I explain. If the wife is separated from knowledge of herself, then how can she truly connect with her spouse? You might be an unhappy wife if you or your husband is disconnected in some way.
Are you committed? But kg, this doesn’t make sense? How can a wife be unhappy if she’s committed? It’s possible good people; it’s possible. Maybe the wife is committed to a marital situation that she never thought, in a million years would ever happen to her. The committed wife would never think to leave her husband. One reason is because she wants to see the marriage through. Another reason is because she loves her husband. You know? She takes the “in sickness and health” part of the vows very seriously. However, just because she’s committed doesn’t mean that she’s always happy. I mean, quite honestly, it takes some dedication, fortitude and downhill battles to remain married sometimes. You might be an unhappy wife if you’ve chosen to remain married through a specific tribulation.
Are you a voiceless, detached or committed wife? Do you know an unhappy wife, if so, then you or she might be interested in reading my upcoming book, The Unhappy Wife. It includes short stories based on real-life events of the above-described types of women. Pre-order here.
You don’t need anybody else to validate your choices. The answer is always inside you; it’s called conscience.
~ K E Garland
Mom was my lighthouse. She chose my boyfriend, Reggie, for me. He was a Denny’s server. His gentle demeanor shone through as he scribbled our order.
When he walked to the kitchen, I leaned over and whispered, “Mom. He’s fine.”
She asked for his number before the food arrived. And just like that, we began dating. When he didn’t seem interested, she changed my image. She spent hours straightening my Jheri curl. Because he liked feet, Mom paid for me to get a pedicure and she traded my tight jeans for an African-print dress with a big bow on the side. He loved it.
Mom knew best. She understood I wasn’t ready for the partial scholarship the University of Georgia offered. She commanded me to stay home and attend Savannah Tech until I was set to move away. She was right. I don’t know how she predicted it, but I didn’t finish those classes, so I definitely wasn’t prepared for a big university, hours away from home.
One thing Mom pushed was staying with Reggie. “You should marry that boy,” she advised.
After six years, I did. I moved from Mom’s house to Reggie’s apartment. We had a son, Jovani and five years later a baby girl followed.
Several years into our marriage, we moved to Atlanta for Reggie’s job. It was the first time Mom didn’t have her thumb on my whereabouts. Two hundred and fifty miles was too far for her to direct our lives. Initially, freedom tasted like ripe watermelon slices on a summer’s day. But it didn’t last long. Mom fell ill and the miles between us became a barrier. A lung cancer diagnosis, coupled with chemo and radiation ruined her mobility. Lying in bed all day bred a staph infection. I second-guessed our decision. We should’ve stayed in Savannah. The day my sister called to tell me Mom died, I spiraled into an abyss of despair, devoid of light. Who would show me how to live? Who would clear a path and lead me towards my destiny?
That’s when I met Kurt, Jovani’s Pop Warner coach. When he first introduced himself, it seemed as if he undressed me with his eyes, but I charged it to my imagination. He couldn’t possibly be looking at me. Most days I left the house because I had to, not 'cause I wanted to. Reggie and I shared a ’99 Ford Explorer with broken air conditioning. That meant I arrived everywhere with windblown hair, two large sweat stains under my arms and a shade of wetness right in between my thighs. On top of that, most of my jogging pants were snug because I never shed the baby weight from having my daughter five years prior.
Every time I walked Jovani in, Kurt lightly tapped my shoulder, signaling we should have a private conversation in the office. Jovani’s potential and challenges as a football player were always the topic of our talks. His deep, raspy voice, the opposite of Reggie’s, mesmerized me. Sometimes he reminisced about when he quarterbacked for UGA. I smiled and what-ifs flooded my brain.
What if I attended UGA? Would we have met there? Most days I snapped out of it. But one afternoon, it was difficult. I imagined us dating through undergrad, marrying and living happily ever after.
Six words shifted our innocent encounters, “I’ll email you the fall schedule.”
Kurt sent the itinerary, in addition to his inner feelings. He admired my beauty and strength. He said my smile and personality showed my true self. He wondered about my life. Where was my husband? How come he didn’t bring Jovani to practice, like all the other dads? What type of husband would send their wife to be around a bunch of men? What would Mom do? I searched for guidance, but none came.
Kurt listened as I confided in him. We were living on one income: Reggie’s. He had lost his former job the previous year, and consequently, we lost our home. With his new position, Reggie barely made thirty thousand dollars. We lived in a three-bedroom apartment. The short, connected buildings reminded me of the projects where my sisters and I grew up. Where I prayed my entire life never to return. But there I sat, in the hood, surrounded by broken screen porch doors and loud, drunken neighbors. How did I get here? Reggie had a Bachelor’s, an MBA and a Masters in Business Pharmacy. But none of his degrees could afford us a better life. None of his degrees could even afford us a new compressor for the Explorer.
The following practice, Kurt handed me money for a hair appointment. The next week, he sent me for a mani-pedi.
“How’d you pay for that?” Reggie asked.
“Oh, my sister sent me a little change. You know girls have to feel pretty every now and then.”
Kurt invited me to his house.
“I’ll visit, but we’re not having sex.”
“That’s okay. I just want you to feel like the queen that you are,” he replied. He slipped a hundred dollar bill in my palm. “Get your nails done before you come.”
That day, I dropped the kids off at school and took Reggie to work. I counted four hours before I had to be in the parent pickup line. My heart beat faster as I approached his house. He opened the door, wearing nothing but a pair of red basketball shorts. His chiseled chest looked exactly like the imprint that peered through his T-shirts. He grabbed my hand and pulled me inside, while admiring my periwinkle fingernails and matching toes.
His lips grazed my hand. “I know you’re nervous. Don’t be. We won’t do anything you don’t want to. Like I said, I just want you to feel good. You deserve to.”
I removed my flip-flops and placed them at the door, beside his line of neatly arranged sneakers. His twenty-one hundred square-foot home seemed like a lot of space for a bachelor. Bananas hung from a metal stand on the marble countertop. I followed him to his bedroom where Ronny Jordan streamed through Pandora. A black and silver comforter framed his king sized bed. Above the leather headboard was an atlas, outlined in black. Underneath was a St. Augustine quote, painted in black script: The world is a book and if you do not travel you read only one page.
I stood still. The shaggy rug’s softness kissed my toes. Every so often, the black coconut candle filled the space with sweetness.
I smiled. “Perfect. I haven’t felt this special, ever.”
“Good. I’ve been waiting for this since I first saw you.” He removed each piece of my clothing, until I stood bare before him. I shifted in my uncomfortableness. He stared. Then, wrapped me in his arms and held me tight. He laid me down. His tongue intertwined with mine, and eventually my flesh.
We never had intercourse. But I was satisfied in ways I never knew existed. Each caress liberated my insecurities.
I rested in his arms, tracing his biceps with my fingers. “So what does that quote up there mean?”
“You know? You have to go places. See what’s out there. There’s more to life than just the ATL.”
“Have you been a lot of places?
“Me? Yeah. All over.”
The only cities I’d been were between I16 and I75. But not Kurt. His wanderlust began during his college football years. Away games took the team to other states, like Kentucky, Missouri and North Carolina.
“I wish I could go to places like that,” I dreamed out loud.
“You can, Bae. You can do whatever you want.”
Kurt described a time when he visited one of his boys from Detroit. They drove over some bridge and were in Canada. He told me about renting mopeds in Cozumel and riding over the wobbly cobble streets through barrios and street markets. It all sounded fantastical. Some of it I couldn’t imagine, like a church in Barcelona that took close to two hundred years to build. He went there with a teacher friend who did study abroad. My mind opened to possibilities different than my current reality.
For six months, he met my emotional and physical needs. I joined a gym and started the workout plan that he suggested, a combination of cardio and small weights. I started wearing lip gloss and cute shorts when I took Jovani to practice. Life was good. Our cell phone bill sat on top of the month’s priorities. Normally, I just grumbled about the payment, but something told me to examine the pages.
One number stood out. Reggie had texted it 900 times. I used the house phone to dial it.
“Hello,” a woman’s voice answered.
I hung up. That night, Reggie and I sat on the couch and watched Law and Order.
“Bae, let me hold your phone so I can Google something right quick.”
He handed it to me. I entered the number in his contacts. A name popped up: Tyeesha Williams.
The next morning, I scrolled through Reggie’s Facebook friends. There she was. Tyeesha Williams. Her reddish-brown skin glowed through her profile picture. Her bright eyes and white smile revealed the single, carefree life she probably lived.
After I kissed the kids goodnight, I confronted him. “So. Who’s Tyeesha Williams?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Tyeesha Williams, Reggie. You know the little red girl you been texting 900 times? The girl you're Facebook friends with and work with?”
“Ohhhh. Tyeesha. She’s just a friend.”
“What kind of friend you talk to 900 times?”
He exhaled and looked directly at me. “Bae. Things just haven’t been the same between you and me. When you started working out and eating right, you changed. You always either on the phone texting your sister, or going outside to talk to your friends. Sometimes I talk to Ty cause I can’t talk to you. We just talk. That’s all.”
“Have you f*cked Tyeesha Williams?”
“No. Have you f*cked Kurt?”
My heart sank to the bottom of my stomach and I tried to control the sweat that formed at my hairline. “Why would you ask that?”
“Come on Pam. I’ve seen how he looks at you at Jovani’s games. If you haven’t yet, then he wants to.”
“No. We just talk, like you and Tyeesha Williams.”
The rest of the evening we discussed our wants and needs as a couple. We agreed that Kurt and Tyeesha needed to leave our marriage. We didn’t want to be the type of husband and wife where we both had outside relationships to satisfy our needs. That’s not why we got married.
But I’m glad Kurt and I crossed paths. He introduced me to someone I’d never met before. Myself. Because of him, I learned to live a healthier lifestyle so I could be the best version of me. Because of him, I learned to take responsibility for the direction of my life. I enrolled in school to finish my Bachelor’s degree. Because of him, I learned how to follow my intuition and make conscious choices that I can live with, instead of looking for someone else to lead me. Now, living entails more than simply being someone’s wife and mother. Because of him, I plan to travel the United States, and even the world.
And for that I’m grateful.
"Pamela" in The Unhappy Wife. ©2016 K E Garland. All Rights Reserved.
Pre-order The Unhappy Wife here!