Marriage sucks. Not a little, but a lot. There are times I hate being married. This is one. The struggle to have two people work together and still love each other after 16 years is almost impossible. Two weeks ago, I woke up one morning and my wife asked me for a separation. No, not asked, demanded. She was furious with me. Done. Over. I thought we were stable, good. Not great, but good. I was shocked.
After a little while, I sat with her and said, C'mon. We can do this. We can figure it out. I know you're upset but... we've done harder things together. For a moment, she relented but after a day? She was back to demanding a separation. Done. Over. Finished. So over done and finished? She was house hunting. I felt like someone had reached down my throat and ripped my heart out. Over? We have three kids, 16 years together... we've worked so hard to create a life together. Two nights before, she had woken me up to make love with her. We were done?
I immediately went into a narcissistic tailspin. How could she do this to me? What? I'm not good enough? I haven't tried hard enough? Sure, I can be a jerk but I have been trying to learn new ways of connecting... Just a little self-absorbed. On top of it? The rug had been pulled out from under me - again. It made me tired. No, it was so exhausting; I finally shrugged and said, Ok. It's over. What do we do next? I've spent my whole life on a rollercoaster.
My mother and I went back and forth so many times in our relationship between love and hate and fury and tenderness I had no concept of what a life without chaos looked like. I had a job that I loved but also made me crazy, dealing with a boss whose daily cycles of drama and despair kept an open ticket for me to take as many rides as I could stomach. I took many. Last fall, I left the job, and my mother died. Something inside me stopped. The constant churning finally ended. I learned how to say no. I learned why I was so drawn to the rollercoaster. It was the only thing I knew. When my wife pulled up a new ride? I couldn't do it. I looked inside and there was not one little piece of me that could possibly imagine getting back on. I knew I loved her but I also knew I couldn't do it. That I wouldn't do it. The pull toward chaos left me sick to my stomach. I would rather lose everything.
My wife was spinning, hurt, angry, and swinging at everything in her path. What I realized, when I finally sat still and pulled my head out of my ass, was that it wasn't about me. My calm, even, patient wife needed me, the high-strung maniac, to take it in and listen. I saw the rollercoaster. She had no idea that's where she was. By agreeing to the separation? I was stepping on when all I wanted was for things to stop. We have raised three children together. We have disagreed about different parenting issues and always have been able to come to a joint decision. Always. We're objective, thoughtful and can listen to each other's views. We can reflect back what we think we've heard and correct what has been misunderstood.
A good friend of ours told us each, individually, if you can come together around parenting like that? You can do it in other parts of your life. Sixteen years is a long time. So many bad habits have built up it's hard to remember the good ones. I wrote her a long letter. "What feels like boulders are only rocks. Heavy, hard, to be sure, but not impossible. We can do this." Because it's not about me. It's about us. And what we can do. So marriage sucks. You have to work at it and work at it and work at it some more. Even then? You might wake up one day and have your spouse halfway out the door. And then you have to work on it harder than you ever have before.