Just days after saying “I do,” Jordan Linn Graham, 22, reportedly began feeling doubts about her union with Cody Lee Johnson. The two argued, according to an affidavit. Then they decided to go for a hike in nearby Glacier National Park. They argued some more. When Johnson grabbed Graham by the arm to stop her from walking away, Graham allegedly turned and pushed Johnson, causing him to tumble face first down a cliff. He died.
Stories like this make us all sorts of uncomfortable because they challenge the stereotypes that keep us blissfully in denial.
Wedded bliss lasts at least a year, right? Not for everyone.
Women don’t harm their spouses. That’s what men do, right? Um, wrong again. Women make up 40 percent of the defendants in spousal murder cases.
Well, when women do in their husbands, they usually have a good reason. Like the guy is abusive. Right? Not necessarily. A Canadian study found that not even a quarter of husband killers were victims of abuse.
Here’s another reason such tales make us squirm: they remind us of our own darker nature, the very part of ourselves that we desperately wish didn’t exist. Years ago, when I was unhappily married, I started writing a novel about a woman, Grace, who ends the life of her husband, Lionel, by pushing him off a cliff at Yosemite. I never finished it because:
1) I’m a terrible novelist.
2) My marriage improved.
I used to think I was the only horrid person who ever harbored dangerous thoughts. Then I told others about them. That’s when I heard from wives who revealed their fantasies about plane crashes, car accidents, aneurisms, pork sliders gone sideways, and insulin shots gone accidental overdose. I don’t know what Graham and her groom were fighting about on the day that she pushed him off the edge of that cliff, but I can tell you this: many spouses, during the heat of an argument, have had the same urge.
They just didn’t act on it.
It got me thinking: what about the ones who do follow the impulse? What pushes them over the edge? I trolled the Internet in search of news stories about spouses who do one another in. What follows is a little primer about what to do and not to do if you want to ensure that “till death do us part” comes later rather than sooner. Here are five ways to keep your spouse alive.
1. The trigger: You just found out that he’s been shacking up with your nemesis.
Don’t: Beat him with a coffee cup, as a Japanese housewife did, after she learned her husband cheated on her with a woman she hated. After ten whacks with the cup, her septuagenarian husband was dead. It’s probably a good idea not to whack him upside the head with a frying pan, either. Or a hammer.
Do: Confront him when you are both sober and no where near sharp or blunt objects.
2. The trigger: You’re both drunk on lemonade and vodka.
Don’t: Decide that now is a great time to ask the man to teach you how to properly handle a gun. That’s what stay-at-home mom Michele Wanko, 42, allegedly did six hours after she and her husband William began drinking. He obliged, emptying his gun cabinet of several weapons. She allegedly picked up a semi-automatic pistol, pulled back the slide, and accidentally shot him in the chest, killing him. Oopsie.
Do: Stay away from cars, guns, knives, baseball bats, and scissors whenever you’ve been drinking or fighting or both.
3. The trigger: You don’t want to be married anymore.
Don’t: Attempt to hire a hit man because doing so seems easier than divorce. When Julia Merfeld, 21, allegedly did just this, the Michigan mother of two accidentally hired an undercover cop instead. When Michael Kuhnhausen hired a hit man to kill his wife, his wife fought off the assailant, removed him of his hammer, and then proceeded to strangle the hit man to death with her bare hands. A note in the assailant’s backpack implicated the husband, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Do: Look into mediation. It’s cheaper than both a divorce attorney and a hit man.
4. The trigger: Your husband won’t let go of the hood of your car.
Don’t: Floor it and drive erratically for 11 blocks until you can find something to crash into, as Maria Espinosa, 51, allegedly did. She was promptly charged with murder.
Do: Drive very slowly to the police station. Then dial 911.
5. The trigger: You just got a credit card bill that didn’t make you happy.
Don’t: Fight anywhere near your car. That’s what a Texas woman and her husband did. When she became too exasperated, she allegedly backed up the car and pinned him underneath. She was charged with manslaughter.
Do: Go for a long, long walk. After you feel calm, talk about it.