When Nothing Is Certain

27Jan09

Before I get into the nitty gritty of this particular post, I’d like to link to my happy hour test drive post over at the Modern Materialist, in which I recount how some friends and I tried out some premixed shots two weekends ago.

You can get the lowdown on our evening there (though you can pretty much guess the outcome from the photo above).

Now that that’s taken care of…

…this might seem TMI, but Michael and I almost gave up on our marriage this past weekend.

I know. Sounds melodramatic. And there have certainly been times when I’ve been suffering from PMDD and forgot to take my Xanax and almost walked out…

But thinking about divorce? That’s actually nothing new for me, hormones out of whack or not.

Our courtship was a tumultuous one, partially because I was terrified of commitment, and partially because I was afraid of making a mistake that wouldn’t be a snap to reverse. As we started talking marriage, my shrink sessions became filled with discussions of that one persnickety question: How can I be sure?

In the end, I decided that I could never be sure, but that there were certain truths I knew to be self-evident:

  • we had a similar moral code,
  • we were both nonreligious,
  • we both wanted children, and figured 2-3 would do just fine,
  • family was important to both of us…
  • …as was career fulfillment,
  • and I sure did miss him when he wasn’t around.

Despite what my single friends may think, marriage doesn’t tie everything up neat and, even after the wedding (and now slowly approaching our two-year anniversary), I still have my doubts.

There are the spaces in our lives we don’t leave for each other. There are the times I feel he’s not listening, and the things he does that he doesn’t think I notice or appreciate. There is the stress of not having enough money, no matter how hard we work, and of never having the energy to connect, on a physical or emotional level.

The biggest thing, though? Wendy explained it beautifully in her essay on why women in relationships fantasize about other men. I’m not necessarily unhappy with Michael. I’m merely scared of a future that will never happen…an alternate life that will never be lived. Will I never live in Boston? Will I never live abroad? Is it too late to disappear into a writer’s retreat? Are there no more surprises waiting around the bend?

This past Saturday, we cried and screamed and I got a migraine and Michael finally said: “Is that it? … You have to decide. … You can’t keep torturing me.” And then he left me in the bedroom with my own conflicted thoughts.

And because of all he’s risked for me, and all he does for me, and how bereft I am without him, I eventually determined that no, our marriage was not a mistake.

Will the doubts come back? Perhaps.

But a marriage is a work in progress, and I have to believe that there are still some surprises waiting around the bend.

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7 Responses to “When Nothing Is Certain”

  1. Good luck Steph.

    Just went through a breakup myself. The inner voice tends to rule in the end so when you ask yourself if this isn’t a mistake and you come to the conclusion that it isn’t, you’re doing the right thing. Stay strong.

  2. 2 Christina

    I hope that you’ll be certain that you guys have tons of surprises waiting for you. Maybe, like when you started freelancing, you will have to do deliberate things to set everything else in motion. You have always stuck to your guns as long as I’ve known you, especially after you’ve invested in a difficult decision. You and Michael are totally capable of having a life together in Boston, or abroad, or you at a writer’s retreat for a while (they have grants…), or whatever it is you guys want to do. Like when you finally resigned from your job (and were ecstatic afterward), it’s the decision to do it in the first place that seems impossible. Everything else is the surprise.

    Right?
    Right.

    I don’t know, except that you’ll be fine.

  3. 3 Nicole

    ::sigh:: I’m sorry to hear you went through that, but please know that you’re not alone. I still have doubts too, and “for the rest of your life” seems so daunting. We have a couple arguments that we have over, and over, and OVER and will just never see eye to eye on. But then I look at the list I have about us that you have about you guys – what are the chances that I’ll find someone else that loves me so unconditionally and deals with my particular brand of crazy? Feels the same about religion? Wants the same amount of kids? Makes really good tomato sauce? Not to mention could I put up with someone else’s craziness? The grass is always greener, except when it isn’t. And then we have a fight again and I think about seeing a marriage counselor…

    Life itself is the surprise, there’s always new things to figure out. That sounds totally corny, but I have to believe it’s true. Thinking about you :)

  4. “marriage doesn’t tie everything up neat”

    This is 100% true. I think it’s funny that some couples choose to renew their vows later on in their marriages. I kind of feel that to have a successful marriage, you need to renew your vows on a daily basis! Not in the formal sense, but in the “hey – I love this person, so I have to treat them better than I do the barrista at the coffee shop around the corner” sense.

    That said, I think it’s okay to have doubts. And as a therapist once said to me – “it’s okay to feel what you feel, it’s what you do with your feelings that matter.”

    Best wishes.

  5. “I’m merely scared of a future that will never happen…an alternate life that will never be lived. Will I never live in Boston? Will I never live abroad? Is it too late to disappear into a writer’s retreat? Are there no more surprises waiting around the bend?”

    Just wanted to comment on this–I’ve never been married, but I can definitely relate to these fears and anxieties, and I’m pretty sure everyone has them in various degrees as their relationship gets more serious and seems like it’s heading towards a long-term/forever commitment. But here’s the thing…taken out of context, what you say about being scared of a future that will never happen is/can be an issue ALWAYS, married or not. We’re always making choices and decisions that affect the path our lives take–where we live, the jobs we take, how long we stay at those jobs, the friendships we make and break, and yes, relationships and marriage. And I think for many people, that feeling of “what if I had done this differently?” will always nag…but that doesn’t mean we made the wrong decision. Of course, sometimes the decisions we make are the right ones when we make them and no longer work weeks/months/years later, but I definitely can’t comment on that in relation to your personal life and marriage–but my point is, recurring relationships issues and fights aside, that “what if?” feeling, in my opinion, should be taken lightly in many cases.

    Also, like you said, “marriage doesn’t tie everything up neat”–neither does anything else! Just like marriage doesn’t guarantee happiness and magically fix existing relationship problems, the single life is not a guarantee that there ARE surprises waiting around the bend. That’s something you create for yourself, and you can certainly do that in a marriage just as you can when you’re single. Life can change dramatically in one day or as a result of one decision–and I think that’s ALWAYS true, regardless of relationship status. (I always think of my mom when I think about this–in the span of 4 years, she went from being a single “old maid” in Russia, to getting married and having a child [me!], to being a widowed single mother moving to America with one suitcase of belongings to her name).

    Anyway, before I go on for longer than I already have, I’m glad you posted about this. Not that I know from firsthand experience, but marriage seems like hard (but rewarding) work–I’m always happy when people admit it and ‘fess up that marriages/long-term relationships are not all rainbows and sunshine all the time, and you did that beautifully here! (Do I sense an essay for the Frisky in the works?)

  6. Thanks for the responses everyone! It was a rough, drawn-out argument, and it’s been a rough week, and lord do I feel like hibernating. As with all rough, drawn-out arguments, though, I feel as if this one was followed by a greater awareness and a greater sensitivity on both sides of what the other person feels, worries about, stresses about…

    And you’re absolutely right, Diana! I used to approach my career in much the same way, worrying that if I accepted even an *interview* for one less-than-ideal job that it would doom me to a life of misery, and leave success and fulfillment always out of reach. Somehow, over the years, I learned that life isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition, and that nothing is ever set in stone. I don’t know why marriage — and the fear of making wrong decisions — still strikes such terror into my heart. As I try to get over that, I’ll continue to make sure that Michael and I are both challenged (whether he likes it or not), and that life never becomes stagnant.


  1. 1 .Freelancedom* » Blog Archive » Following Multiple Paths

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