Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Working On It

We had a snippet of one of those difficult conversations yesterday. The ones that have been tugging at the coattails of my tongue, begging to be let out into the air whenever my life partner and I are in close quarters for any length of time…like during long car trips, or while weathering a rainy day in a shoebox. I pronounced our vacation “over” when it began to look like we might have to spend a second day in that shoebox condition. But because of where we live, long car rides are part and parcel of any time off we have together; I knew it was only a matter of time before the subject(s) weighing heavily on my mind would no longer be ignored.

This particular talk didn’t go so badly. Apparently, I’ve regained enough of my emotional equilibrium that I can almost discuss these things in a rational manner. At least, I don’t go into an instant meltdown in which I then proceed to wallow for days. Or maybe it’s just that I understand there is nothing to fix. Continuing with the restaurant meant that we would need to actually do something about the incompatibility issues that were making it impossible for us to work together. Now, all we have to do is acknowledge the issues and go forward in light of that knowledge. It’s liberating, if a little bleak. Nothing like a big, herkin’ dose of reality, served up with the time and (arguably) the energy to assimilate it.

And so it was that in my 35th year of marriage, I finally understood that the honeymoon was over. All those decades, I insisted on believing that my marriage was different. Special. More of fairy tale than of cold, hard reality. For years, I fought tooth and nail against the concept that a long-term marriage owes its existence to the ability of the principals to live entirely separately, yet under the same roof. I thought, “No. Not our marriage. Ours is about togetherness. Ours is about support and shared passions. It’s him and me against the world.” After our journey of the past five years, I get it. It’s not him and me against the world. It’s ME against the world; and him…well, he’s around somewhere. Perhaps as often on the world’s side as on mine.

What makes the situation most ridiculous is, this is really nothing new. Our very fundamental differences have been apparent for many years—certainly since the mid-nineties when it became obvious that, in a crisis, my first loyalty was to family and relationships and his was to work and fiscal responsibility. Put a gun to our heads, and I will turn to my peeps for support, while he disappears into his work. A classic mid-century male/female, Mars/Venus dynamic. But I could never accept that our relationship was so…archaic. For twenty years (or more) I’ve been inclined to pass off these differences as stress-induced temporary insanity, rather than accept them as a seminal disparity in the way the two of us are hard-wired.

So he says to me, “I feel like the blame for all this is being placed squarely on my shoulders.” And I replied, “No, dear… If anyone is to blame here, it’s me. I’m the one who has clung for dear life to the rose-colored glasses. I’m the one who has refused to see us for who we are, and refused to accept our relationship for what it is.”

Now, my task is to figure out how to conduct the rest of my life outside the romantic delusion I’ve lived in for thirty-five years. No more “Him and Me Against the World.” The trick, I think, is to cherish and nourish the “him and me” half of that equation—on whatever level our paths continue to cross—and just walk away from the “against the world” part. That seems the wisest plan. It is the only one for which I seem to have enough energy at this point.


  1. When you need us we all have wide shoulders. Here's to the juncos.