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My Husband Used My Disability As An Excuse To Travel Alone

Victoria Ponte

While it isn’t unheard of for couples to occasionally travel without their spouse, it can become a wedge in a marriage if it becomes habitual by one or the other partner. My husband went on a few trips without me before I became disabled in 1999 and it never bothered me much. After I had a severe stroke and ended up with a mobility challenge, it seemed like adventure travel became more important to him than ever.

He seemed to enjoy saying “You can’t do that, or, you can’t go there”; then proceeded to go by himself. I later realized that this solo travel was a way for him to validate the idea of checking out of the marriage and going on the prowl for someone new. If I couldn’t hike along with him, there were millions of women who could.

When our oldest son was about to graduate from middle school, my husband told me he was going to Machu Picchu with a group led by a friend of ours. This type of trip was absolutely out of the question for me with my limp and my cane. I questioned why he needed to go at this particular point in time because I was pretty sure Machu Picchu would still be there after our son graduated. He very much wanted to go on this tour with this group of people and that was when they were going.

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Since I really couldn’t go, he supposedly put out an email to a group of friends asking if anyone could go with him. The next thing I knew, he was going with a young, single female friend. I was embarrassed when he told friends he was going on this trip by himself with Trish. It seemed perfectly logical to him because his wife was disabled and he really wanted to go. I was mortified when he returned and showed video footage at another couple’s house of him and Trish summiting Machu Picchu.

It wasn’t that I couldn’t travel. It was just very inconvenient compared to trips we had taken in the past before I had the stroke. Post-stroke, I designed family vacations to go on safari in Kenya, and tour Costa Rica.

I remember when a prominent museum wanted to pay my husband’s expenses to travel to Italy to deliver an important flute from our collection for an exhibit. He went alone. When he returned, he went on ad nauseam about how there was no way I could have walked around the places he visited because it was mostly on ancient cobblestones and historical structures. I could have done it; he just didn’t want me to go and slow him down in any way.

When the same friend who organized the Machu Picchu trip organized a festival in the hills of northern California, I inquired about the accessibility of the program. The friend was familiar with my condition and saw no reason why I couldn’t attend.

My husband didn’t want me to go because he was sure there would be so much I wouldn’t be able to do and it would hold him back. I spoke with the organizer at length and confirmed there would be no issues and booked the trip for both of us.

The festival was held at an old camp that was totally flat surrounded by some hills. There was a car I could ride in to travel from one end of camp to the other. I participated in everything with the exception of one strenuous hike up the hills. My husband seemed very detached and annoyed by my presence as he socialized with the other attendees. It seemed I might have been in the way of a hidden agenda.

He continued to take trips on his own for sixteen years after I had the stroke. He always maintained the trips were necessary in order for him to maintain his sanity. How could I deny him such an important part of his well being?

In the four years since my husband officially checked out of the marriage, he has not gone on any solo trips. As far as I can tell, he has not gone insane. I think he was full of shit.

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