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I'm not one to look back in regret at decisions past and say, "If only I'd done it differently." What's past is part of the "now" and, whatever the outcome, so much a part of the current fabric of life that an alternate reality is just fiction.

Many decisions are irreversible: having your appendix out, quitting your job, getting married. It is true that you can make another decision which affects that same aspect of your life, but the original decision still stands.

Some decisions change everything, and reversible or not--as, for instance, divorce--your life is changed forever. You are not the person you were on the other side of the divide. Major decisions entail great risk.

If I could go back in time and not make a decision--just one choice--I would go back to 1988. At that time I was living with my current husband. I believe the expression is "living in sin" (not that I believe in the concept of sin).

We cohabited as equal partners. We had balanced responsibilities for household tasks and upkeep; we both had jobs outside the home, making approximately the same salary; we both had advanced degrees (if that makes any difference to somebody). There was an atmosphere of mutual respect and interdependence and love.

My daughter was grown and out of the house, so it was just the two of us, plus two dogs and three cats.

Then we got married and everything changed. He was the "husband" and I was the "wife." Husbands do certain things and other things are beneath them. Wives are not equivalent to partners, but lesser beings and subject to their pater familias. He calls the shots. All of a sudden, my money was not my own; I couldn't go anywhere without reporting in; I was responsible for all the housework, chores and errands; I was not intelligent enough nor competent enough to have any sort of autonomy.

The change came about because society defines the roles of husband and wife, and no matter the intentions of the people involved, it is very difficult to re-define those roles. They seem to have a permanent hold on our unconscious expectations and fears.

I have struggled for 20 years to re-establish the boundaries, re-define our expectations and re-create our relationship. We're doing better now.

But why on earth did I get married when there was no need to?

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