Friday, June 05, 2009

Keepin' It Real

It's been almost three weeks since we renewed our vows. Lots of things going on around here. E is studying for the California State Bar Exam, and I have been wrapping up school. Limping to the finish line is more like it. Things were hunky-dory for the week before our little ceremony, and being in San Diego, though I was sick and had the toenail from hell, was a nice vacation from reality. We even felt a little bit of the newlywed excitement again. For a little while. Emphasis on little. Life happens. Kids happen. Dogs happen. Frustration happens.

We had to stop today and take an honest look at things. I don't know how it is for other people, but for me and E, the bad habits run deep. Even now, in our post-Retrouvaille relationship when we know we have the tools to keep this marriage moving in the right direction, we slip back into unhealthy patterns so easily. It doesn't happen all at once--I always see it in him but not in myself, the opposite is true for him. We both get the Crazies going for one reason or another, take everything the wrong way, and react like stupid teenagers. All of the sudden we'll be knee deep in a RIDICULOUS argument about cleaning the bathroom (that isn't really about cleaning the bathroom) and the hurt starts happening and then the words get nasty. Back someone into a corner, and their true nature just comes out. It can't be helped. And every time, we both stand there thinking How did we get here? and sometimes it's all we can do to let go of whatever petty thing we're holding on to so we can reach out to the other person and say Hey, Nerd. Let's stop this crap because we need to fix this. Fixing it is what we both want. We just never knew how to recognize that before. And we didn't know to stop.

So in that regard, there's definite improvement. We both know there's no letting the other one go, and we're not going to do it. I am just amazed sometimes at our pettiness when it comes to arguments. Even now. Even when we know that FIXING THIS THING is what we both want. Neither of us wants to do the negative thing (and really, even negative now isn't like negative before we separated) but we get so tied up in it. It's hard to let go when you get to cutting someone else down. It's easy to keep the fight going because it doesn't mean you have to stop and look at what a meanie you've become. I'm speaking about myself here. I guess that's what I meant when I said "keepin' it real."

I've talked before about how I'm always going to be a fighter. I don't keep my opinions or feelings inside very well. I emote. I argue. I nit-pick. I don't think that means I love E any less or that he loves me any less when he doesn't agree with me 100% of the time. I don't have it in me to just accept things... I don't know. I just question. Can't help it. Question the text, question the reasoning behind things, question the husband. The difference for us now, as I've said, is in knowing how to get ourselves out of these things, and in looking that other person in the face and saying I'm not letting you go, because you're worth it.

This morning was not good. We were not hearing each other. Talking but not hearing. Ugly. We fixed it. But it's just a part of real life. I don't think I knew or accepted that was how marriage was going to be when we got married (the first time) and I was all of 20 years old. I loved him, sure, but I thought he'd always love me, and I thought that meant we would always be nice to each other. Because we just would. End of story. Because I was a good girl, and good girls don't break rules, and screaming at your husband as he's about to leave for BarBri that he hasn't taken care of the house/yard/laundry for the last six years is completely obnoxious, self-absorbed, and rude. Because I couldn't imagine that someone else with their own thoughts, ideas, and hurts, could get to a point of being so overwhelmed that he could lose focus. Because I didn't realize how complex I am. Because there was just no way I could know any of that.

He was the one to say it today. Do you know what a gift that is? To hear from someone when you are at your absolute ugliest you can be (and I am not talking physicality here) that you are worth holding on to and sticking it out and talking it through when it is hard? It's quite a blessing. And it's one we didn't have in our marriage before we separated. He was the one to throw up the stop sign today and keep it from continuing.

I'm glad E's so even-keeled now, and in some ways we've switched places. I'm a bit of a loose cannon now and I never was before... I think that must be a part of the ebb and flow of growing up together from the age of 16, and also just a natural side effect of the trauma we put ourselves and each other through in our decision to separate. it's an arduous process, but the reward is worth the effort. I can't say it's going to get any better while he preps for the Bar, but I have hope because I know that if we do what we need to do, we can get through it. I know that we both choose love, even when it's ugly. I'm taking stock in the vows--the promises--we've made to each other publicly and privately since Retrouvaille.

Part of celebrating our redefined commitment to each other is recognizing the truth of "us." I believe that makes it even more meaningful--that the complexities make it more valuable, and that being truthful about our relationship means we own it. As always, I can just remember how alone I felt when I was in a difficult marriage, and it was through others sharing their stories that I came to find some degree of hope--I believe the same has to be true for good marriages, and that there must be somebody out there who thinks that to be "good", or "worth it", a marriage must be picture perfect. Ours ain't perfect, but we need each other... we better make it work.

I'll keep keepin' it real.


  1. That's right, marriage isn't always pretty...but you keep on keepin' on and it works! Love will prevail.

  2. Not pretty, not perfect, but love, friendship, and family is the best of life and sometimes that means not saying something to someone, that you wouldn't say to yourself. It took me a while to realize that...first figuring out how to love and speak kindly to myself and then loving my husband as if he were me (we forgive, like, love, laugh and give a break to ourselves, a lot better than we do to others). Funny how that works...

  3. Sunder--welcome! Nice to have a new follower! Thanks for the comment too. You are so right.