Freedom, of a Sort, Grudgingly Granted

I had initially been excited about getting my car, but that was before yet another DTR conversation I had for my husband, in which he revealed how much he struggled with going through with buying me a car.

We haven’t had two vehicles very often. Sometimes early in our relationship we didn’t even have one vehicle. We came to Illinois with a sedan that couldn’t fit all six of us, legally, intending to buy a second vehicle, which didn’t actually happen until our sedan bit the dust and we bought our mini van, which still left us with just one vehicle.

Obviously since my husband was the one working, that meant most of the time I didn’t have access to transportation and was restricted to whatever was within walking distance. Since I was typically too depressed and anxious to have much interest in going anywhere or doing anything, it didn’t seem to matter too much.

Getting decent employment in most places in the US requires a car, although my husband had tried to push me towards getting some kind of employment and working out transportation and scheduling with just one vehicle from 2016 or so, when the kids were all in public school finally.

He let slip that he believes I could have become gainfully employed before now. I know what my mental health was like, and the fact that I couldn’t get through ten minutes of a phone interview without my voice beginning to tremble. I know trying to handle employment while in that condition would have made everything worse, not better. But, whatever, he’s always believed if he could keep pushing himself, that I should be able to as well.

Anyway, so back when I first had to put my foot down on the subject of sleep and clutter, he’d decided it was time to go ahead and get a car for me, so that I wouldn’t be feeling trapped at the house and could become gainfully employed without having to worry about managing schedules and transportation.

Then the shit really hit the fan in regards our relationship, and now we’re staring down an impending divorce, and now he’s put in a spot where his best and worst impulses collide. His best impulses recognize I have little chance of becoming gainfully employed and capable of supporting myself independently without a vehicle, and that denying me that chance would be pretty shitty.

His worst impulses tell him he’s buying the car that will make it easier for me to leave him. I had known that already, but he added to that in Sunday night’s conversation – he expected it would take about a year and a half to finish paying off the car, and he didn’t want to continue paying for it after the initial year.

In his mind, he’d be paying for the car in which I could go out on dates. He then asked me if I’d be willing to remain celibate for the period between when our year ends and when the car is paid off. I flatly told him no, I wouldn’t agree to that. Even though I don’t expect to be dating or have an active sex life at that point, I will not agree to him controlling me in that fashion after we’re separated.

He then wanted to have me finish the payments, which was a problem again because I still don’t know if I’ll be able to get a job that pays well enough to live on my own in the first place. Even six months of car payment might be beyond my ability to afford.

I told him if he felt that way about it, why even bother to get the car for me at all?

He then asked if I felt he owed me. I told him no* – but also that I’d given up all my potential career advancement and earning potential for unpaid labor for the last 16 years. My options were pretty limited. (A depressing thought: I won’t get any restitution or back pay. Those 16 years netted me nothing but a fragile psyche and weakened body.)

Tuesday, we went and picked up the car. It was clear he was not in a great mood about it. That dispelled any excitement I might have had about getting my own car again. Still, I’m looking forward to when he’s back at work, and the kids are back in school, and I have a car with which to go places and see things. I’m giving myself August before I worry about beginning a hunt for employment.

*I was discussing this with A, later, and she just flatly said that yes, when one partner works and the other agrees to unpaid labor like child birth and child care and domestic work, they’re owed for that – things like food, shelter, clothing & transportation, at the very least. She said my husband should have made sure I had a vehicle all along, because I might not feel such an urgent need to leave if I’d had more autonomy and agency all along.

Well, for most of those years it was our finances that limited our transportation, but otherwise I do agree with her. I told her, though, that when it comes down to it, I don’t want to make this about being owed anything, I just want him to let me go with the least amount of hassle possible. I know he entered the marriage more or less in good faith, and he’s hurting, too. Things are what they are.

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