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Pasta sauce, a deceptively simple term. Hidden inside are hours of slow cooking and heaps of mouthwatering flavor. A lifetime of expertise that Ballymalou foods have packed neatly into a jar. Destined to become your dinner table's secret ingredient. Bring taste to the table with Ballymalou pasta sauces.


Love now and- Did you follow me?


I still love love. Love is stronger than anything. You see the love of love. And I love you more than anything. From the New York Times, I'm Anna Martin.


This is Modern Love, and this is our first essay drop of the season, Coming from a Modern Love veteran. Dave Finch has written three Modern Love essays all about how much he adores his wife, Kristen, and how hard he's tried to be a perfect husband to her. Dave even wrote an entire rule book so we could remember how to do everything exactly right. Now, we all know a good partnership takes a lot of work, but Dave has had to put in extra effort. Dave has autism, and he struggles to pick up on cues about what other people want from him or how they're feeling. That's why at the beginning of this essay you're about to hear, Dave is totally blindsided when Kristen walks up to him with an announcement. If you want to hear the many twists and turns of Dave and Kristen's story, you can listen to my interview with him. Just look for it in our feed. But now, here's Dave reading his essay, On the Path to Empathy, Some Forks in the Road.


A few months before our 11th anniversary, my wife, Kristen, marched into our bathroom and told me that our marriage was over. More jarring still was how casually she said it. I'd often been afraid that there might be a last straw, a breaking point. But in my head, the breakup scene was always far more dramatic. After hours of yelling and slamming fist against walls, we'd face each other, our eyes teary and sincere, and admit that ending the marriage was the right thing to do. But in reality, there were no theatrics. I asked, So that's it? We're not married anymore? Nope, Kristen said, relaxing her posture. I dug for more information. So what? We're separating? Not exactly, she said. More like detaching. Detaching, I repeated, hoping the word would somehow make sense if maybe it came from my mouth. Kristen nodded. We'll call it unmarried. And Then, as abrupt as she'd started the conversation, she walked out of the room, leaving me with my underpants and a million unanswered questions. Over the next two years, the practical parts of this setup became clear. Would we continue to live together? Yes. Could I now ignore housework? No. Race the kids together?


Yes. Remain faithful to each other? Certainly. We'd continue to honor the terms of our mutual permissible philandering agreement involving Lenny Kravitz for Kristen and Scarlett Johansson for me. The most serious change and the most difficult for me to grasp was learning to release the expectation that as spouses, we should be responsible for the other's happiness. This was Kristen's idea. Imagine if we weren't constantly looking to each other for a a sense of validation, she said. Imagine if I could just accept you for who you are and not want to fix all the things you do that annoy me. That would feel a whole lot like love. I wasn't buying it. Releasing Kristen for my dependency meant that I'd have only myself to blame whenever I felt unhappy. Worse, I'd have to become someone I enjoy spending time with, which seemed like an impossible proposition. Besides, I already had someone I enjoyed spending time with, someone named Kristen. Why would I want to cozy up with the one person who was an expert in making my life miserable? I already knew that guy. Therapists, a whole team couldn't help that guy. Kristen, for her part, quickly made detaching look easy.


She had long chats with her friends, floated around the house, singing songs, writing little love notes to herself, and refusing to engage in arguments, which was infuriating. Call me competitive, but I could not stand on the sidelines while Kristen made all this progress without me. So I tried to imitate some of her interests. I dabbled in Buddhism for a few months, and when that didn't pan out, I turned to crystals. From there, it was on to chakra cleanses, energy cures, and a regrettable essential oils phase. Even my shaman knew what a waste of time all this was, so I packed up my insects and plotted my next move. Then I thought, maybe a few solid friendships could be the key. I took to searching for soul buddies with the the rigor of a bargain shopper combing the sailwrecks at Macy's. I found a few candidates, a comedian, a handful of autism experts, and a dog, but they wanted nothing to do with me within weeks of meeting. I was too much for them, too enthusiastic about the friendship, even for the dog. Ever the optimist, though, and realist, Kristen encouraged me to spend my time on more solitary hobbies, mountain biking, and preserving the bones of animals.


But I just wasn't interested. I couldn't shake the notion that if I could be happy on my own, then what was the point of staying together? Wasn't the point of marriage to offload the entire burden of one's happiness to one's partner?


We'll be right back.


Pasta sauce, a deceptively simple term. Hidden inside are hours of slow cooking and heaps of mouth watering flavor. A lifetime of expertise that Ballymalou foods have packed neatly into a jar. Destined to become your dinner table's secret ingredient, bring taste to the table with Ballymalou pasta sauces.


Things finally clicked for me on a trip to San Diego to celebrate Kristin's 40th birthday. We were sitting on the beach watching a pair of Harbor Seals, slapping and barking at each other, and we used this time to discuss the whole unmarried concept. Many of my questions from that first conversation two years earlier were still unanswered, including the most urgent, Why bother with marriage at all? Dave, it's so simple, Kristin said, smiling and squinting into the afternoon sun. I don't need anyone to show up and play the role of husband. I don't need you to be a Buddhist or to have a host of new friends I've never met. All I've ever wanted is for you to be in my life as my favorite enhancement. It makes me happy. An enhancement, I said. My favorite enhancement, she added. She wiggled her toes into the sand as I looked beyond the roughhousing seals at the waves breaking along the shore. I can do that, I said, though a part of me still pined for that codependent relationship I'd signed up for 13 years earlier. A hundred feet away, a photographer snapped photos of a young happy-looking couple, and I briefly fantasized about drowning them in a lagoon.


The visual made me laugh, and so I shared it with Kristen, who also got the joke. She took my hand and said, Now, there's an engagement card I would hang on our fridge. And there it was. In our laughter, I heard the inseparable friendship of us being unmarried.


Modern Love is produced by Julia Botero, Christina Josa, Emily Lange, and Reva Goldberg. It's edited by Marc Pagan. Our executive producer is Jenn Poeyant. The Modern Love theme music is by Dan Powell. Original music by Dan Powell, Pat McCusker, Marion Lozano, and Carol Saboreau. Digital production by Mahima Chablani and Nell Galogli. The Modern Love column is edited by Daniel Jones. Mia Lee is the editor of Modern Love Projects. I'm Anna Martin. Thanks for listening.