Assertiveness, communication, dialogue; I thought about them a lot, especially when my marriage collapsed.

I was deeply in love with my wife, but she was difficult and prone to outbursts of sudden rage, which I attributed to her high-strung nature. Later, I also learned she was an alcoholic and a drug addict. She was mean, selfish, argumentative, abusive, and unfaithful. But I loved her anyway. I didn’t want a divorce.

In those days I had this wild idea that I could wade into those swamps of love, and from those reeds, those weeds, from that murky opaque purple water, eventually pull up ingots of pure gold.

It was not to be. My wife’s condition worsened. Her abuse mounted. Toward the end of our marriage, things really started to fall apart. She had affairs with other men and she didn’t even care if I found out about them. She made no attempt to hide them from me. She would meet guys in bars and even bring them home with her. To our house. Bring them right in our bed.

Frankly, it was pissing me off.

Finally I just lost my temper. Some guy was in bed with us, and I knew what they were up to. I recognized the sounds. I wasn’t sleeping. I’m not stupid.

Finally, I just blurted out, “Look, will you guys pipe down, I’ve got to get some sleep!”

I know my words were sharp. The tone of my voice might have been, perhaps, a little too aggressive. In fact, the guy got up and left. But looking back, I can’t help but think — if you don’t mind me blowing my own horn a little — that my words impressed my wife quite a bit. And I swear I saw a spark of love, of respect, of admiration, flicker, as I waded from the mud, knee deep, as I waded out from those swamps of love.