A Short Essay On A Long Marriage (SparkPeople)

Originally published on SparkPeople.

I can share here, right? I’ll tell you straight out what happened.

My husband and I are separated. We got separated on January 1st, our 21st wedding anniversary. We didn’t get in a fight. It was just time for me to go at least for now. I hope if he sees this, he’s okay with me sharing. I will be careful not to say anything too personal, but as I believe my life can be an example of good and bad for others, and because my friends always help me see things better, I can’t miss what we all may gain from me sharing.

I asked for a 2 week separation.

I’ve thought a lot about marriage and staying with someone for a long time. Some days in the past year, I’ve been nearly consumed by it. When there’s so much friction you feel like you’re going to explode, you just have to get off that road for awhile. And that’s what I’m doing.

What I have to say about it would fill pages and pages. What I want to share here is just a little about some recent things.

When I talked (for 3 hours on new years eve!) to my friend/coach…we talked, among other things, about three separation buckets. a) I’m done, b) I think I’m done, c) let’s work on it so we’re not done. said there’s 3 basic separation buckets. I want to expound on what I think those three separation buckets look like.:

a) I’m done. Finished. No counselors. I might wait a little bit to get a lawyer JUST to make sure, but ugh, I don’t want to be with you anymore. You suck, I suck, we’re not gonna make it. I want to pop your head off and sh*t down your neck most days, except for an occasional reprieve. I bet you feel the same. Where’s the toilet paper, the plunger, and the handle. I need to flush.

b) I *think* I’m done. I’m not completely sure? I don’t want to go to a counselor. Right now that seems like a waste of money/time because I don’t think it will help. We’ve been down that road before, and we’ve worn the topic out. But I’m not 100% positive about where I am and where I want us to be. So I’m going to separate from you for 2 weeks. No dating, not really any talking. I want to see what my life is REALLY like without you. Is this really want I want. And is this what you want, too? I’m hoping we’ll both miss each other. Or I’m hoping we both decide we should move on without the other. Whatever we decide, I hope it’s the same for both of us, but I’m willing to take that chance either way.

c) I need some air; I’m suffocating in this, but with a little time, I think I can breathe again. Let’s get another counselor/go to another workshop. But let’s do it from separate headquarters. Let’s go to our own corners for a little while and see what can come of this because I’m pretty sure I don’t want this to be over, but we’ve got to do something cuz Bucket B is looming in the background looking pretty nice.

I’m in Bucket B. That was a hard conversation to have on the morning of our anniversary, but I figured out this is what I wanted on New Year’s Eve after talking it out with my friends and thinking about it so hard. And I want to be as honest as soon as I could, despite the fact that I’ve been lying about how I feel for awhile.

So that’s the status of that. So far, I miss him. I won’t say I don’t. I’m feeling tender and sweet towards him. I want to see him and be his friend and have him for a friend.

We had a conversation about what’s happened between us since he started his own business. We hadn’t been taking care of the relationship. Everything we had in common was wrapped up in the business, and we hated each other there. When that went away, because he left and I stayed there, I think we were fooling ourselves into thinking we’d be okay. What we forgot to do was get something going SEPARATELY that we would be drawn to TOGETHER. Instead, we hauled to our separate corners and then turned our backs. The result was this stranger that I could hardly talk to; and the same was true for him.

The marriage has a separate life. Everyone KNOWS that, but few people do anything about it. Our marriage is an example right now of what happens when you don’t. It’s not that I don’t love him, it’s not that he doesn’t love me. But we don’t have anything to do together, and after all the other issues, we’re not so clear we want to find anything.

Two weeks doesn’t seem like a long time, but then again, it feels like forever. In two weeks, some of the anger will wear off if there is some. In two weeks someone will be missed if there’s some missing to be done. In two weeks, there’s some amnesia about the exact minutiae that led to the break, and hopefully there’s some growth and awareness about the underlying causes.

We’ll see what our two weeks brings. So far, I haven’t been very good about being alone. I’ve been hanging out with friends, sitting on Facebook, going to public places. I haven’t faced anything, really. And when I do, it’s painful, and raw and wrenching. So I write it down in aching, acidic poems, and then put my pen away and go out.

I want to say two things about marriage in general right now. First, the idea of staying with another until death do us part, when you think about it, is rather odd, and not very practical. Mind you, I’m not trying to justify divorce; I’m not trying to justify my request for separation. I’m merely thinking about the institution. A friend pointed out to me that marriage is the ONLY agreement that has no end clause other than death built into it. You have to get ANOTHER agreement in place to get rid of this one. I’ve noticed the contract isn’t specific enough to be enforced either. And the vows are our own to make. They’re not part of that agreement, and don’t have to be the same. Each side makes the same agreement, too. Isn’t that odd? I’ll be just like you; as if they were the same person. Can that even happen?

Apparently, marriage was created at a time when the average length of one was 9 years. Women died in child birth, men died in the fields, or in wars. But now, marriages can last a very long time. But the people in them change, grow, turn out to be different people than they could possibly envision when it all begins. Maybe this all works out, and it remains a fit, but often it doesn’t. This is fodder for a long essay on its own, so I will get off that topic for now.

The other main thing I wanted to say is this, and this is strictly my opinion/observation. I think that when you initially marry, you usually marry someone you can relate to from a status/background fit kind of way…Someone you have a lot of stuff in common with from a more surface place. We both like red, we both love chinese, our parents were both alcoholics. Sometimes you marry the other side of the tracks, but it’s unusual. That’s why you hear about it. Sometimes you marry for idealogy, foundation core belief reasons.

But who initially talks about all the processes, language, conflict management stuff that should REALLY be talked about before you get married the first time? (Often the second time, too!) It’s a rare marriage, I would bet. You want to have sex all the time, you want to hang out all the time, you seem to get along great, you get married. Long term fit isn’t something you can even imagine because you don’t know who you’re going to be.

A BUNCH and I mean a BUNCH of my friends are having marriage issues right now. BTW, cheating has been the catalyst of the breakup in most of the cases, too. Why? Someone who cheats after 20 years when they’ve never cheated before isn’t just a cad or a slut. They’re cheating because they’re aching, seeking, missing something they truly need. It’s a dance, and there’s nearly always blame on both sides.

Maybe they’re looking for someone else, or wanting out, because NOW they have all the stuff figured out that they couldn’t figure out before, now they know how to do this. They (think) they know how to run a relationship, they believe they have the skills. And they want to use those skills and simply can’t where they are. The hole is too deep in the one they’re in, or they haven’t come to the same conclusions, or developed compatible skills. There’s not always cheating, but it’s amazing the number of long term relationships I’ve heard about in the past few months that ended this way. In any case, back to the kind of relationship I think someone looks for when they’re in my age range.

If the people have learned from that failed marriage, I believe their new relationships (if they’re healthy) have something different in common. At that point, new single people they meet are unlikely to have the same backgrounds and tastes in common. They’re fully formed, opinionated, people with families, backgrounds, careers, entanglements. They’re much more complex. When they’re drawn to that new person (again if they’re healthy I think), they’re drawn because they have similar processes, they get the importance of agreement about how to manage conflict, how to talk to each other. They know it’s more important to talk about what does and doesn’t work. And I bet they pony up to the table admitting their faults and favs way sooner. They don’t want to f*ck up and fail again. Life’s short, and they likely feel they can’t make TOO many mistakes before you get put on the back shelf in a warehouse as un-sellable merchandise, so to speak.

I think the reason it ends up being impossible to use these skills and establish this level of communication back in the original relationship, is because the wagon wheels ruts have gotten so deep that you just have no choice if you want to move forward, but to get out of the wagon and get on a new path. Sure, you have more baggage, but at least you can roll a little easier now because you know better how to steer.

Surprising things can happen when you take a new road. Sometimes two weeks is enough to let the ruts fill partially back in so the wagon can make forward movement. Sometimes, though, the new road in separate wagons is now clearly the better choice. My hope is, for my husband and I, that whatever way it goes, we’re at least in agreement on whether it’s best to keep or get out of the wagon we’re in.

Thank you for letting me share this with you. I chose to put this here because you are my friends. I know that many of my friends are of the same age as me, and I know for sure some of you are struggling. I’m not looking for sympathy; I’m hoping instead we can all share this kind of wisdom and pain, and think and talk with each other about it.

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