Updated: Sep 26, 2018
Mawwiage. Mawwiage is what bwings us togewer todaayyy. And wuv, twue wuv...
“I was so sad when I found out. Y’all just always seemed so perfect.”
I felt like a terrible fraud. Is this how I’ve been portraying myself and my life, my marriage? As perfect? Tears stung the back of my eyes, the familiar pressure as I struggled to hold them in. Ugh. Everything makes me cry these days. Get a grip, ya psycho.
But the feeling lingered long after the encounter. I know she meant no harm. I know she was just trying to understand, to soothe my sadness away. But I was ashamed that I’d tarnished our perfection. I felt angry that my shortcomings—my mental illness—made people feel sorry for us—for Kyle—because of all that I’ve put him through.
I recently confided to Phil that, lately, I’ve been feeling a type of way about my husband. Angry and withdrawn, frustrated and aggressive. Every interaction a gnashing of teeth. Short. Combative. Compulsive. I just couldn’t control myself. “I haven’t been the wife that I want to be,” I cried to him, “the wife he deserves.” It’s not fair. Nothing is fair. After talking it through with Phil, I came to the conclusion that when have I ever been the wife I want to be? *Crickets* from the peanut gallery. Welp, that answers that.
I processed my therapy session afterward with a friend and recapped what a real shithead I’ve been lately. How I believed that Kyle deserved better. Well, too bad. He’s stuck with me. Her response was somewhat jarring. She called me brave. Is that what it is? Am I brave to be honest that he gets on my nerves all the fuckin’ time? All. The. Time. Like, listen, we live together. In the same house. Every day. It's to be expected. And then he’ll pull a complete 180 and do something absolutely adorable or ridiculous, and we collapse on the couch into hysterical (Hey! That’s the name of this blog. Didn’t even do that on purpose, scout’s honor.) laughter. Why is it inappropriate to admit that? Why does it take courage?
I recently met two friends for lunch: one married, one single. As my married friend and I compared our husbands’ bad habits, their intermittent snoring, their infuriating ability to sleep through anything—a crying baby, a barking dog—my other friend sat there quietly, ping ponging between us as we talked. Just as a note, my husband snores like a hibernating bear, and it is very annoying. There have been tangible moments in our relationship where I want to literally kick him out of our bed just to hear the satisfying .thunk. he’d make as he hit the floor. I feel compelled to say I’ve never actually done that. I’ve just wanted to. Desperately. When I'm very tired.
Anywho, as we’d finished our gentle ribbing, my friend chimed in—playfully exasperated. We should realize how lucky we are, she said. We have partners who love us, who support us, without reservation or resentment. Aren’t we grateful?
The short answer: of course. I thank God quite literally every day for my husband. For his big, burly hugs and the way his eyes crinkle at the corners when he really laughs. DJ Squints, they jokingly called him in high school, for that very reason. I thank God for his patience and for his strength. Too many times, he’s carried me when I couldn’t carry myself. But can we also talk for a minute about how hard it is some days? About the little resentments and the big annoyances? Can we talk about the deep, almost suffocating love you can feel for another person while sometimes still hating them just a little? Or listen—maybe a lot. I’m not here to judge. Can we commiserate over the very real challenge of committing your life to another person, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, without any guarantee of what those vows actually mean?
And let’s discuss how much more challenging it is when one of those partners is sick with something the other can’t see or even understand. I’ve joked before that I’m concerned Kyle is a serial killer, and in all honesty, that’s a real fear for me. He could be. He could be anything and anyone, and I wouldn’t know. The weight of that realization occasionally pounds me with a force that I could never anticipate. Every so often, I steal glances at him while we drive or stare incredulously at him mid-fight, and wonder, “Who is it really that I married?” Will he start a secret family? Hide a drug addiction? Beat me to death with his pitching wedge? Am I his secret family?
Full disclosure: my husband does not read this blog. Ever. So I can say aaannnyyything I want about him, and he’ll never know. I could tell you that he dances around our house to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” while wearing a unitard and smoking a pipe. He doesn’t do that, but I could say that he does. With great power, and yada yada yada. Also, that would be extremely dangerous because we basically live in a box made of matchsticks. Kyle is many things, but he isn’t stupid.
His lack of literary ambitions is not because he’s unsupportive of my work or my words. It’s because he, too, carries the burden of my pain and my failure. He sees the evidence of my anxiety every single day. He lives it right beside me. And for him to read about it as well, is just far too much. His heart hurts for me—and for him—for how our love for one another has inevitably changed and will continue to do so. It is less pure, less innocent, more jagged, more worn. I am angry with myself at my lack of control, at the way my fears and my compulsions sometimes drive tiny wedges between us, and I needed Phil to talk me through it.
I think that, especially as women—but I’m also not a man, so feel free to correct me if I’m wrong—we’re taught that a relationship must feel or look a certain way to be successful. That if we don’t love our partners all the time, maybe we don’t really love them at all. Just maybe we’ve settled for something less than we deserve, something less than a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils or whatever she’s having. Kudos to you if you caught both of those (admittedly obscure) references. But that’s cruel, toxic. It undervalues our humanity. It assumes the only moments in our marriage that matter are the good ones. People—and love—are far more complicated than that.
Is this why we feel compelled to only celebrate the highlights of our relationships? The milestones, the anniversaries, the birthdays, the babies. I’ll be honest: I don’t always know if we made the permanent choice because I don’t have a crystal ball. The most I’ve got is a Magic 8 Ball perpetually stuck on “Ask Again Later.” If one of us becomes a heroin addict (a very valid concern given the opioid crisis in this country), would it be crazy to think our marriage might fall apart? No, the answer is no. It takes a lot of mistakes and a lot of forgiveness to keep the commitment we made, day in, day out. Shouldn’t that be celebrated just as vividly, just as loudly?
Does my anxiety make me less perfect, or does it make me just less? I don’t always know. Look—I know I’m not perfect. Heyyooo! I think I’ve made that obvious by now. But I am perfectly human. I’m perfectly whole, even if the pieces of me are taped and glued together. And I am married to someone equally complex, whose light shines through a prism and is not always reflected back. He is patient and kind and frustrating and occasionally petty, but he is not perfect. For one, he has literally never made our bed.
In that way, we are like every other couple who has ever created a life together. Separately—and together—we are flawed, unruly.
The varnish on our no-so-newly minted love has started to wear thin. It’s been almost a decade, after all. But he is still my favorite person in any room. And I still think his butt is the cutest butt. I’d still choose him today just as loudly—if not more so—than I did when we first married. Together, we are not perfect, but we are sturdier for it. We’ve seen the worst parts of each other and ourselves and still wake up every day choosing this—our—life. Some days that choice is a lot easier than on others. And on those days, aren’t I grateful?