Everybody get a different wife, a different husband than the one the ex spouse got

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The story of “Pygmalion” by John Updike is of a man manipulating his second wife so that she will be as exciting as his first wife. His second wife is exciting in bed, but he misses how much fun his first wife was out of bed. What he misses is that the first wife mimics people at parties which amuses him. What he doesn’t like is that while he gives her a back rub, she falls asleep. He finally gets his second wife, Gwen to do the imitations, but what he likes that she is lively in bed. Eventually, she isn’t so lively, she starts to fall asleep night after night while he rubs her back.

Who you are when you marry is partly a matter of who you become with this person. Who you become as a partnership, a unit. You become subversive, or patriarchal or afraid. My husband was a different person when he was married before. When he tells me what he went through that round, I know that he wouldn’t put up with that now. We have rules against certain crazy behaviors.

We are different people than we were in our first marriages. We are both more careful, more watchful and yet, more free. We can walk forward into becoming our next best self.

I was a very different person in my first marriage. I was much more obedient. I was quieter. To tell the truth, it maybe was a little less exhausting than who I am now. I let my ex make the major decisions. I wandered around in a sort of cloud. I didn’t pay enough attention; although I still don’t, I was even more inattentive then. Of myself. Of us. Of the world around me. I carried over some of this inability to pay attention to my second marriage, but then I had to give it up. I wanted to wake up and quit losing my wallet in every city.

My ex is much different now with his second wife. I think he is a much better person. She got a different husband than I did. A spiffy husband.

The second spouses get a better spouse usually. We all change. Future Kate will be a better wife than this present wife.

I look back on my younger self and think of the many stupid mistakes I made. I sometimes wish I could go back and fix those mistakes. But our mistakes defines us as much as anything.

Nobody gets the same wife as their predecessor. Nobody gets the same husband. When you talk with the ex, you’ll recognize traces of the person you are with, some of the same habits.

I think it’s better to avoid marrying the same person twice. I remember one of my daughter’s friends asking her what was similar between her dad and her stepdad. “Well,” Amy said, “They both like taking photos. And they both would know what to do in case of a big emergency. And they both are really into being dads. Other than that? Not much. Well, my mother really likes to marry a man who has a full head of hair.”


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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I have the story in a collection of Updike’s work but have yet to read it.

  2. I don’t think it is a good idea to compare one man to another or one woman to another. I suppose we all have similar behaviors. I will have to read the story. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.


  4. I however love my ex and need to receive my ex back again.
    can anyone assist me on how to handle with my trouble?

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