Wednesday, April 01, 2009


Am I nuts? I think we all know the answer to that question. The simple truth, dear internet peeps, is that I revel in my special brand of crazy. Exhibit A: My (non?)marriage.

Legally, I’m married. But I don’t wear my ring. I live with the man whom the state recognizes as my husband. But I don’t think of it that way. Well, not totally. I love him. He loves me. I have children with him. But I do not consider myself currently married. I am making a conscious decision not to change my facebook status back to married. (As if facebook is what matters...) I promise you, I am not a complete tool. I'm also not begging for attention. I have a reason for all this crazy in my little head. Ain’t that weird? Let me elaborate.

E and I were married 9 years ago this month, on April 15, 2000. It was a beautiful day. It was exactly as we had both wanted it to be—we were surrounded by love and family and it was a joyful celebration. This is not the part of my post where I tell you it was a mistake, or that we were too young to know better. It wasn’t, and we weren’t. I took our marriage very seriously. Yes, I was chronologically young, but as anyone who has known me for any length of time will tell you, I’ve been about 40 since I was 16. We talked marriage through from every angle and we knew without a doubt that we were meant to be together. What are you supposed to do when you meet the one, your best friend, when you’re young? Wait, arbitrarily? (I have to say that we wouldn’t have gotten any better at the things we did that were not great anyway, just by waiting.) And you know what? We were right. We need each other. Even when it's a struggle.

It’s hard to explain to people how the decision to marry was for each of us: I knew that this was absolutely what I wanted, and I “got it” that being married meant hanging in there when things got hard. E was all for being with me, and although I wouldn’t say that he got married against his will, he just looked at it like it was the next thing. He wasn’t thinking of it in terms of having to work at it, or in terms of it potentially being hard. Or ugly. Or unbearable. And when I say "it" was ugly and unbearable, I mean I was ugly and unbearable. As was he. As is everyone. I wasn’t thinking of marriage in terms of there ever being any doubt that he would love me back, 100% of the time. There’s no way to know what a marriage is going to be until you’re in it.

Again, I am going to stress my point about this not being an age thing. Contrary to what people tell me, I don’t believe that young people have a monopoly on getting married without really understanding what they’re doing. There is not a special subset of divorces for young people. Everybody takes the same leap, and it doesn’t always work out. I see plenty of people older than myself who get married for a myriad of ridiculous reasons with just as many ridiculous notions about what it will be like. AND (can I use a bigger font to draw more attention to this sentence?) I do not regret getting married when we did. I do not regret having our children when we did. I also don’t regret separating, or coming back together. I can’t live my life that way. I am a product of all of those decisions. And you do the best you can with what you have.

But for a host of reasons (didya like that? Host. Like a host of angels, only not!) we had problems. A lot of our issues had to do with circumstances that we chose for ourselves (my drive to finish school early, get a teaching credential, and work, his staying home…our having had babies young), and some that we didn’t choose (his being unsure about his career and future, our financial struggles). Plus I believe we just didn’t have a clear idea about how careful we needed to be with each other. Our communication skills were severely lacking. I take everything three times more seriously than I should, and he’s likely to blow off steam by saying whatever is on the tip of his tongue. I get afraid that people don’t want me around, so I give them an "out" by asking them to go—he thinks when people say that kind of thing they mean it. Do you see where this was headed?

In October of 2008, for the second time in a year, we separated. It sucked. I don’t regret it—something had to change—but it made life so difficult and so painful. It made things so complicated between us. And sad, painful stuff happened once we were apart, as stuff is wont to do.

Freaking stuff.

When we separated, it was with the intent to divorce. We meant it. Absolutely. I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t hear that he didn’t love me. It had been years of that. Of course, I know now that he didn’t understand that loving someone meant making a choice—not feeling a blissful wash of emotions that made everything glitter with the dew of happiness. I couldn’t hear it anymore that he couldn't love me. And he couldn’t stand me. I had to ask him to go. In the ensuing days of separating our lives, we both spoke to each other out of fear and hurt more than anything else. I asked him not to even talk to me at one point. And he took me seriously.

I never thought too much about the verse that says “What God has joined together, let no man pull asunder,” but in the context of divorce, the “pulling asunder” is like ripping off an arm. There’s no neat way to do that. Have you seen Kill Bill? I had emotional guts all over the place. It wasn’t pretty.

The nature of separating is that by definition, you have to live your lives separately. This is the reason for my confused perspective on our (non?)marriage now. I am so thankful for Retrouvaille. I am so thankful that E asked me to go with him, so thankful that we were able to find a way to hear each other again, and that he makes an effort now to make me feel loved, every day. But I can’t reconcile that time when we were apart. I can’t consider it a part of our marriage. That six months or so (plus the three from the first time, if we’re really counting) are months when we were not married—I don't care what it says on paper--we were not together, we were not living in the spirit of marriage.

I am loath to celebrate our anniversary this April, even though the thought of celebrating such a joyful day that we shared 9 years ago is a nice idea. It’s a lie, in my mind. A sham. We’re still married, but only by default. Only because we wanted to file our taxes together one last time. How freaking romantic. I can’t see us inviting all our family and friends to a big party in 2050 and celebrating our Golden Anniversary. I also HATE the idea of our marriage being a revolving door. The door closes now. And that's a good thing. I think that we both look at it differently now, so we need to do something to denote the occasion. We need to say that this time we’re back with a vengeance. Regardless of what it meant or didn't mean before, we’re going all in.

For this reason, I am glad that E wants to renew our vows. Me too.

What’s funny is that I have zero interest in any of the things I wanted to do the first time. No princess dress, no church, no flowers, no nothing. Honestly, we could just do it with our kids and parents and siblings and that would be enough. I feel like marriage is also in part about saying to those who care for you that you’re making a promise. But I don’t really care about anybody's view or definition or classification of marriage anymore. I know what it means to me and I know what it means to E and I know that this is it. We’re not going to do this separation thing anymore. We are drawing a line in the sand. We are looking each other in the face and knowing what we're committing ourselves to. We want to mark that from this point forward.

I am such a symbolic thinker. Words are symbols. Things are symbols. Symbols are symbols. I feel like we need a ritual—a ceremony—to show the changeover from old to new. A shift in perspectives. Elizabeth Gilbert describes this beautifully in her travel memoir, Eat, Pray, Love:
This is what rituals are for. We do spiritual ceremonies as human beings in order to create a safe resting place for our most complicated feelings of joy or trauma, so that we don’t have to haul those feelings around with us forever, weighing us down. We all need such places of ritual safekeeping... And I do believe that if your culture or tradition doesn’t have the specific ritual you’re craving, then you are absolutely permitted to make up a ceremony of your own devising, fixing your own broken-down emotional systems with all the do-it-yourself resourcefulness of a generous plumber/poet. If you bring the right earnestness to your homemade ceremony, God will provide the grace. And that is why we need God.
I need a safe resting place for my feelings, a repository for the idea that E and I are linked together forever from that point forward. I don’t have that assurance just yet. Too many complexities between us, too many fears and hurt feelings and chances to get out. Neither one of us believes that it’s all sunshine and unicorns ahead, but we’re willing to face it together, and we’re willing to make that promise to each other with the full understanding of what it means to choose love. So, this May we’re going to get (re)married. We’re creating our own homemade marriage ceremony for the never previously un-married.


  1. "I take everything three times more seriously than I should, and he’s likely to blow off steam by saying whatever is on the tip of his tongue."

    It's marginally scary that this line could have been written by pretty much any girl I've ever dated, including the one I'm dating now.

    Might be like you in more than the English-major way.

  2. Hahaha... you mean they're like me? The kind that hang on to every word and everything that happens and over-analyze it until it is beyond recognition?

    I think it's a guy/girl thing. Well, not every guy and every girl, but a lot of them. I find that my Englishteacherocity makes me even more likely to assign meaning to everything, even when the intent wasn't there. But what are you gonna do? I gotta be me.

  3. Worth noting: (yeah, I'm double commenting my own post. Deal.) I also hang on to all the really GOOD stuff. Not just bad. I think this makes me incredibly sentimental in a positive way. It ain't all bad.

  4. Um,not just an English teacher thing... History too! :)And, I remember 4/15/00 with fond memories but excited to see where 5/?/09 leads for you guys! Hugs. :)
    <3 MLB