Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Terrible No Good Very Badness

Being married is really hard awesome. I mean it. It is what my life is supposed to be about. I am meant to be married to Gluten-free E.

This week, though, you are getting to see that our newly-renewed marriage is about as far from perfect as I am from being the world's best mathematician. We're still two weeks, two soccer games, another (husbandless) vacation, and countless calls/emails/chats/texts/arguments from the Bar exam. After that, it's not all campfires and Kumbaya either... we're still a single income family struggling to make ends meet. We're still in debt for what amounts to another mortgage for his schooling. We're still not into a stable place with his career, nine years in.

What scares me more than anything is that we'll get ourselves into a situation that's tough, stressful, emotionally draining, and frustrating, and we'll be over. It's a hard thing to admit, just how scared I am about that. Strife in a marriage is inevitable. There's no shelter we can build to shut out the hard times, no tool we can use that will wipe them out before they occur. I wonder, all the time, if we're going to make it, especially when the feelings I have now are echoes of what I felt before we separated. I feel pain, and I want to bolt. It's hard to type it, and even harder to own it. Renewing our vows meant it wasn't going to feel like that, right? Coming back together after a separation meant it wasn't going to be that way, didn't it?

I'm pattern-obsessed; I find it challenging to go against memory and choose optimism or imagination of what may be when I know what already was. Everything about this pattern screams of our split last October with the intent to divorce. In our current study-necessitated separation I find myself processing the evidence (for lack of a better term), and drawing a negative conclusion. This is counter-productive. We're not in endless separation. We're not apart because we can't be together. Ironically, though, my fear about what could happen could end up creating the situation I dread. My current behavior as it relates to this relationship is erratic, inappropriate, and confused. I'm scared. I'm acting out of fear, and what I know from the past, which is hardly all rainbows and unicorns. Acting out of fear? That's a winning plan. Neither of us is being gentle with the other right now.

That was one of the most striking things the priest said at our Retrouvaille weekend: Be honest with each other, but be gentle. It's so stinkin' hard.

Par example: I am hurt, so I am being mean. I am trying to hurt back with my words. I know it isn't right, but there's a terrible part of me that feels like I squelched my own voice for so long and took it. I don't want to be the one who stifles and worries and lays awake at night with a racing heart because she can't stand up for herself. Right now I don't want to accept pain without inflicting it. That's not a healthy place to be. I'm like Henry when Addie hurts him by accident, swinging blindly at whatever I can hit, in the hopes that someone will feel as badly as I do. There's a defensive animal in me now who lashes out because the wounds are too recent a memory: the dog that bites because it was beaten before. (I should be careful with metaphors... nobody was beaten. Don't let your imagination go nuts. You get what I mean.) It's yet another thing that's counter-productive, and I feel adamant that it proves to the masses that E and I have a marriage that is riddled with fault lines and shaky ground. Volatility. Further proof of our imperfection.

We choose each other, this marriage, love, as I've said, with full knowledge of what our "low" can be. We choose it anyway. We are committed to it, even in this stage I like to call The Year of Hell, to borrow a phrase from my beloved Star Trek Voyager. More than anything, I want harmony with E. I want to be the wife who puts his needs before mine. Is it selfish to admit that in my heart I pray for the same for myself? That's the part I don't know. It seems like wishing for my own needs to be met negates the selfless desire. Regardless, it's my responsibility to work on myself. I can't keep up this defensive behavior, because it puts up a stumbling block for E once he can bring his attention back to his family.

I want this to work; I don't want it to be the end of anything. Do you know this feeling, though, when you don't have anything left in your bag of tricks? When you have exhausted all options? Here I sit, not knowing how to make it right. I don't admit any of this to celebrate it or advise it, more to work through it and as I said, to claim it so that I can then do something about it. If you're the praying' kind, send one up for us, huh? It couldn't hurt.

I have no conclusions of my own, only a borrowed thought: a quote, a goal--from our Marriage and Family Therapist (who we haven't been to see in some time... yeah, yeah, I know.) This is from his Twitter, but I believe I heard him say basically the same thing before.

Change your relationships: choose consciously, stop reacting.


  1. H,
    I don't know what's truly going on in your marriage, family and personal life right now, but I do know that you and E are both extremely strong individuals that have already committed to each other and your family twice. You two will pull through this and make the best of this situation. Have faith in your love for one another and your commitment to each another. I truly believe that love will prevail. Believe in it and everything else will fall into place.

  2. "To dedicate oneself as a Victim of Love is not to be dedicated to sweetness and consolations; it is to offer oneself to all that is painful and bitter, because Love lives only by sacrifice...and the more we would surrender ourselves to Love, the more we must surrender ourselves to suffering."

    --St. Therese of Lisieux, a Carmelite nun who lived in the late 19th century. (from her autobiography, The Story of a Soul.

    I am currently reading this book now and I highly recommend it, there is great wisdom from this Saint about learning how to die to the self and live with Charity. The world mocks this kind of love but this is truly the self-giving love that God desires for us to learn in marriage. It is the self-giving love He gave for us and expected nothing in return.

    Keep praying, keep trusting in God.