What happened to us? How did we get to this point?
We’re in the same room, but you barely look up from your iPhone to glance at me. I contemplated once walking by you naked to see what you would do, but the thought of you not noticing me is too embarrassing to make me want to attempt it.
When we communicate, it’s obligatory. A “how was our day?” is really an inquiry to find out what happened with the kids while you were at work more than it is an inquiry into how I am doing. I wonder what would happen if I actually told you how I was feeling at that moment, or how I’ve been feeling for a long time now. You’d likely nod but not respond to avoid triggering an argument.
We hang out, side by side in bed at night, watching reruns of sitcoms on TV. I coax you to put your arms around me and cuddle with me. You oblige, but I get the sense you don’t really want to.
We’ve talked so many times before about why things are the way they are. You’re not surprised by our current predicament.
In fact, you foreshadowed it and am surprised I did not see it coming. You’ve been telling me for years now this would happen. That if I continued down this path, this would be the end result. I am slowly starting to understand what you mean now, but I sense you’re doubtful if I truly comprehend the situation.
Your complacency with our relationship makes me want to give up and throw in the towel. Maybe it’d just be easier if I packed my bags and left. Perhaps it’ll make you realize how much you miss me and love me. You’d promise you’d change if I just came back. I imagine the possibility, as unrealistic as is.
But I know that’s not the kind of man you are. If I left, you’d close the door on me and on us, for good. By checking out physically, I would ensure the end of our marriage. Yet somehow, you checking out emotionally is OK. That doesn’t seem fair, does it? You’ve often said to me, “I’m here, aren’t I?” But are you really here?
You and I both know I would never leave.
I’d like to say the main reason is because we made a vow “till death do us part,” but that is not the full truth. Part of it has to do with the kids, but part of it also has to do with the shame and embarrassment I’d feel if our family and friends knew what we were really going through. You’re an open book, I’m not.
Sometimes I get angry at my parents for not setting a good example for me of what a happy marriage looks like. Bearing witness to their relationship, I vowed I would have a marriage that was different, better than theirs. It’s clear I haven’t achieved that, and the sad fact is, I do not know how to either. At the same time though, how can I blame my parents when my grandparents never set a good example for them either? And so, the cycle continues.
I look at our couple friends who all seem so happy. Sure, they’re stressed and tired, just like any couple with young kids, but their relationships are strong. Of course, I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors–you’ve always told me never to compare relationships–but I don’t get the sense that they’re struggling like us.
Their marriages seem to have grown by leaps and bounds, cemented together even more by having children while ours has remained stagnant, or maybe even regressed.
I wish I could keep calm and carry on. I wish I didn’t care so much like you, but my Type A neurotic personality is working against me. How I’d give anything to be a Type B like you. Better yet, a Type B and a man, to just brush it off the shoulder. Like a typical wife, I am more emotionally invested in us than you are, and so, I cause myself more unnecessary anguish.
I consider myself to be a strong woman, but I’ve acted in ways that run contrary to how a strong person would behave. Without meaning to, I’ve played the victim. I’ve cried, begged, and pleaded with you–often to no avail–to get you to empathize with me. I’ve also lost control and yelled at you in frustration and anger. Hurt you with my words because I was hurt that you couldn’t (wouldn’t?) understand me. You’ve seen me unravel at the core and those are things I can never make you unsee. Would you call that vulnerability?
Your strongest quality in life has been my weakest. You’re flexible, you have the ability to adapt to change. Good or bad, you adapt.
In this case, you’ve adapted to our mediocre marriage. I have not.
Impulsively I ask, “Do you still love me?” My voice is small and childlike, fearful of your answer but also needing that reassurance.
“Yes,” you reply nonchalantly. Then, you look up and notice my weary face. You look me straight in the eye and add, “I love you.”
And that’s all I need to know at this moment for us to make it to another day.