My amazing BFFL describes it as the mountains and valleys. And she’s reconciled that in her marriage. She just keeps looking forward to those mountain moments.
Marriage isn’t smooth sailing for many people. It certainly isn’t for us.
Most of us want to have those Facebook-perfect lives, and we want to portray the image of having it all together. Frankly, I love believing in the fairy tale of it all, the happily-ever-after. But maybe it’s this fantasy that bites me in the butt every time… the hope that things will be OK. Reality sucks.
Some of the time things are good for us. I want to say that this is the case most of the time, because in the whole scheme of things we have a pretty charmed life with few major problems. There are no life-threatening illnesses, no kids on drugs or in prison, no horrendous family problems, no massive debt or money problems. We have minor health issues, our kids are now all college graduates in various stages of getting their lives established, and we have yet to figure out what we want our future to look like and where we want to spend it… if we want to spend it together as a “we.”
Yet these valleys in our relationship seem capable of going to new and darker lows each time. Sometimes it’s the same old issue again and again. I lose hope. I want to give up. I don’t see a way beyond it. I suppose that sometimes I need to ask myself if “it’s me;” am I having unreasonable “bi-polar” reactions when things are bad? Why is it so difficult to dredge up that positive that I spoke of in my last post?
Here’s the thing: I wrote previously about how marriage is hard work. In that post I wrote (comparing our REALLY difficult years to the present): “The difference is, we acknowledge we don’t have all the answers and we don’t know everything. We may be a bit wiser in our “old age,” but every new challenge or situation can torpedo us unlike any before, and throw us into a major tailspin. Thing is, we have discovered some things that help us from descending into an irrecoverable flame-out.”
I’m trying to recall just what things we discovered to head off that flame-out.
We’re trying to pray more.
The recurring theme over and over for me is whether we both really want to do that hard work required by marriage. It exhausts me. And I have persistently felt like it’s too hard for him. He will make promises to me to “step up” in this marriage, but he can’t sustain the efforts. There is a tease of what he is capable of being as a husband, leader, lover, and best friend… and then it just fades away again. Part of it is because he’s human and imperfect, just like me. Part of it may be because I’m a lot to handle. But I can’t escape the feeling that it’s just because it’s too hard for him.
I’m sure he thinks similar things… “She can’t sustain the things I need in a wife, help-meet, lover and best friend…”
This dance is so hard. The moment one of us isn’t living up, the other begins to falter, and it’s a vicious cycle, a whirling vortex, that’s hard to pull out of.
…And it’s the weariness of trying, and having it go bad over and over.
So, some people will say, “Why do you stay if you aren’t happy? Surely there are ways to be happier…” Five years ago I was really buying into that theory. I felt like anything would be better than staying in a miserable, sexless, and morose marriage. Miraculously we fixed a few things. We didn’t stay sexless. We tried to be happier by being more patient and respectful (what he needs). He attempted to be more loving and romantic (what I need). It kinda sorta worked for a while. You get a glimpse of the person you fell in love with, and the marriage that you always wanted.
And then it slips away. Sometimes so gradually you don’t notice (except maybe when three or four weeks slip by and there is no sex). Sometimes it is represented in the moment your offspring treats you like shit, and your spouse does absolutely nothing to show his loyalty or support of his wife, maybe even throws you under the bus a little (a common issue our entire life together). It’s so demoralizing. It’s like getting shot in the heart again just as the previous wound is scabbing over.
Is that the way it’s supposed to be?
The “fix” began 5 years ago only because I was convincingly ready to leave, to chuck it all. He had a choice, to give it up or try harder. He chose the latter– but temporarily. I also had to step up and try harder too. I don’t know who starts flailing first… but of course I think it’s him. I don’t want the threat of me leaving to be what causes him to work harder. I sure as hell wouldn’t like that threat.
So you sit here and ask yourself– what IS good about us? Will we ever find another person to even remotely care about the imperfect people we are? Will we ever find someone we can trust as much… what, not to be totally disloyal? Can we continue to survive the emotional disloyalty we seem to default to? Will we ever find another who takes marriage vows seriously enough not to be gone at the first glimmer of inconvenience, sickness, or discord?
Can we survive the valleys and live off the mountain moments, however few and far between they become?