By Isabel Gillies
She wonders if she should have said nothing and let her husband be in-love and have an affair. Was it her fault? Did her suspicious and complaints drive them together? Would the relationship have eventually died? (Her ex-husband married the other woman). Why did she have to confront? Why couldn’t she have just let it be? Would it have been different had they not been in a small town where everyone knows everyone’s business and where there offices would have been at different universities—basically if she had been more blind to the affair? If it could have remained secret, would their marriage have survived either with the other woman as a mistress or as a temporary fling? Or maybe she was subconsciously unhappy and contrived to push them together so she could leave. These are common questions even when we don’t’ truly consider letting it happen, we wonder. We try and search out how we are somehow responsible so that we can go back and fix it or fix it if it happens again.
She was his second marriage and he had left his first wife when she was pregnant and he had an affair. Is he a serial infidel? Or maybe not quite so frequent as serial, but a patterned cheater and thus still likely to cheat again? I don’t know. What I know is that he is a poet and that he seems more internalized in his thoughts than Gillies who experiences the world through her senses. Maybe he was happy the month before the other woman moved to town. Maybe having sexual and in-fatuative feelings for her—someone not his wife—confused him. Maybe he thought he must not truly have loved Isabel since he was having these feeling-responses toward someone else. Maybe he thinks that in-fatuation is love and if you feel it for someone you have to—have to—leave anyone else to be with that new someone. What we so often want to deny after adolescence is that these feelings are normal. We are allowed to feel attracted to someone else—we are biologically designed to feel attraction. But that’s not love. Maybe Isabel Gillies’ first marriage ended because he failed to understand the differences between biology and love.
Isabel Gillies moved home to her parent’s in mid-December. In August she had felt blissfully happy, September she became suspicious of the new professor and Bomb Drop was the first week of October. It was that fast. Seven months after bomb Drop—the end of April—she met the man she later married. It was that fast. A year later he asked her to marry him and in total it was two years and a week from Bomb Drop to new marriage.
Upon learning this I wanted to groan. She’d been doing her mirror work and now she returns to romanticized descriptions of love along with a disgusting list of excuses for betrayal:4
- Most animals mate almost every six months with someone new.
- Some people marry four times.
- Woody Allen fell in love with and married his stepdaughter.
- Some men in Utah live with four or five wives.
- People whose spouses died in 9/11 fell in love with their grief counselors, who then left their spouses to marry their new beloveds.
- Many marry someone they don’t love.
Seriously, she actually used Woody Allen and called what he has with his former step daughter in-love. She twists logic to defend her choices. Sometimes, you don’t have to be ready. …Finding love might be more about willing than ready.
And I was willing.5
Yes, she has that right, she was willing. A bit too willing. She wanted it too much, too desperately. But don’t give up on her yet. Had she ended her book with this in-fatuatively glowing pronouncement I would have been disappointed in how the arc of her character suddenly plummeted. But she discovers that too and this is why this book is so much better than her first. She makes mistakes, admits them, learns from them and lets them propel her forward in her growth.
With a new relationship, in the in-fatuation phase there is a danger of dismissing problems in the previous marriage—since the new relationship is going so well. Maybe we weren’t meant to be together… and so danger is that a person will stop their self-searching, stopping there forward development.
But the breakup of a marriage sheds light on a rather large lump of issues, which you can hide under the rug for only so long. …I hadn’t yet figured out my part in the breakup…did I think that because I was in love with such a wonderful new husband that they would go away? …slowly, as the years went by after Peter and I were married, my imperfections started to roll in again like a hazardous fog.6 She made up a list of her faults and headed for therapy.
Are things perfect now?
I hope she would answer in the negative, because to answer otherwise would be concerning that she continues to romanticize. Isabel Gillies may not have failed in her first marriage—she was left. But that by no means absolves her of responsibility for her flaws within the marriage. She knows that. She now uses the tools provided through therapy and her own reflection and that is serving her well.
- Gillies, Isabel. A Year and Six Seconds. New York: Hyperion, 2011. 200.
- —p 201.
- —pp 228 and 229