On Marriage

16 Nov

“I’m done. I’m serious this time. I’m done. I can’t do it anymore.”

Hubs punctuates each sentence with a slice of his hand through the air. My stomach clenches and I feel the tears creeping at the corner of my eyes. Even though I know he doesn’t mean it, and it’s not the first time one of us has threatened to leave, the words sting.

 Just like every time we get into this fight, this same exact fight, I can’t form a coherent thought, let alone communicate anything to him. I always think of the right thing to say later, when it’s too late and the moment has passed.

 “Well,” I say weakly, “I’m sorry my brother died. But this isn’t all my fault.”

“No, it’s not all your fault. But this isn’t working. I have to get out of here.” He stalks past me and I hear the front door slam.

 I stand there, not moving, alone with my tears, trying to remember how this fight even started. I still don’t understand why we are having the same fight we’ve been having for four years. I don’t know why we still haven’t learned to effectively communicate with each other.  I still don’t know how to move on from my grief and to accept my life for what it is– painful, yes, but also so very, very wonderful. Hubs still doesn’t know how to process the trauma he experienced as a child– he is unable to shed the weight of abuse, and the aftermath of a child’s perception that everything was his fault. 

We are still fighting because Hubs struggles to keep it together for me, to stay positive and make me happy, yet I cling to my depression. We are still fighting because I try to understand his anger, try to break through his inability to see any of his wonderful qualities, and he maintains that he is just like his father. We fight against forces darker and stronger than our will to make things better. If it was only about will to be happy, we would never fight again.   

I know he’ll never understand the grief that has so fundamentally changed the person I am that I don’t recognize myself anymore. I know he’ll never understand how hard I fight the pain and trauma of losing one of the most important people in my life and how I struggle not to allow the anxiety produced by Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome to overcome me.

He knows I will never understand what it’s like to grow up with an alcoholic, abusive father and a passive, enabling mother. He knows I’ll never understand how hard he has to fight every single day not to repeat the patterns of his parents and how hard he works to silence the voices in his head telling him he will never, ever be good enough.

When it comes to our respective baggage, we can’t make sense of each other. A marriage should be all about carrying some of your partner’s weight, taking some of the load so they can find a moment to catch their breath and let go of some of their pain. But how do you do that when you’re both so encumbered by your own pain that you don’t have any room for someone else’s stuff? 

I walk into the living room, trying not to cry, and trying not to notice that he just drove away.

“Mommy? You ‘menember what you said?” Nolan is sitting in the middle of the living room, criss-cross applesauce, silently playing with some Matchbox cars.

“What did I say baby?”

“When I was bein’ bad, you said no mo’ yelling at each udder.”

And with those words, every doubt I’ve ever had as a mother crashes down on me and crush me under their weight. I have failed him.

“I know I did baby. I’m so sorry.” I sit down next to him and pull my him into my lap and hug him until I’m afraid I’ve hurt him.  I fight against the urge to scream, fight against the hatred of myself that threatens to overwhelm me. I wonder how I can possibly explain to a 3-year-old something that I barely understand myself. 

“Mommy and Daddy are having a fight. Sometimes mommies and daddies get angry with each other, and that’s okay. But it’s never okay to yell, is it? Mommy and Daddy should not yell at each other.”

“Yeah. It’s bad. But you always always love me, even when you’re mad at me. And you always, always love Daddy too.”

“Yes baby, I do.”

When you get married, you marry that person because you love them. You marry them because they make you laugh, because you have the same goals and beliefs, because you are so sure that they will make you happy forever and ever amen. It seems impossible to imagine a scenario in which the person that you married doesn’t exist anymore and you are left, bound by a marriage license and ring, with a person you don’t know. I never thought I’d have the kind of marriage in which we fight in front of our kids. And in spite of that, I never thought I’d work so hard at and be so committed to making it work. And because of that, I never thought that our struggle to keep things together would make me love him more.


 I wrote this a few months ago. I am so relieved and happy to say that things with Hubs and I are much better, almost unrecognizable from the day we had this fight. I finally admitted to myself that I needed more help than I was getting. So I did what I had to do and got the help I needed. And the crazy thing is, now that I’m on the other side, I realize that a lot of the problems I thought we were having were manifestations of my anxiety and depression. Not to say things were all my fault, but there is something to be said about the power of positive thinking and having a better perspective. Some of the things I was convinced were “issues” and were going to be the demise of my marriage, don’t seem like such a big deal now. At the very least, I’m positive we can work through them successfully. We are still fighting battles, but I feel like we’re fighting them together. It is less about when I’m wrong and when he’s wrong, but more about what we’re both doing to contribute to our problems.

 I was inspired to write this from Jennie’s Real Marriages series. I’m always curious about whether Hubs and I fight more or less than other couples, so I felt compelled to over share this story. What I’m learning is that it is okay to fight. As long as the fight is productive, and you can be respectful, it can even be a healthy thing. I think that a lot of people are afraid to admit they fight, that things may not be perfect all the time. So a big thanks to Jennie for being open and honest and talking about tough stuff that we all deal with.

 So do you think my husband and I are crazy or do you fight too??


3 Responses to “On Marriage”

  1. Life of a Doctor's Wife November 17, 2010 at 8:56 am #

    My husband and I fight too. I really, truly believe it’s a natural – and, as you pointed out, even useful – side effect of sharing your life with someone.

    I’m so glad that things are better for you. I always tell myself that my marriage won’t be as “easy” as it is now… That we’ll hit rough patches and hard times… But we’ll get through it. And those difficulties will make us stronger.

  2. Jenn November 17, 2010 at 11:04 pm #

    So glad you’re back! When I got your latest comment on my blog (THANK YOU for that, by the way), I was like “Who is that?” haha. I always try to check out anyone who leaves a comment, and I am glad that I am in that habit, or I would have missed your return! 🙂

    Anyway. Kent and I fight. Not much (we bicker frequently, but that is generally good-natured), but it happens. You are a great writer; I was hanging on every word, and I was so relieved to see that things have gotten better for you!

    Also? LOVE the new blog name. xoxo

  3. Jennie November 18, 2010 at 10:46 am #

    I’m so glad you’re on the other side of things (so to speak). I’ve certainly learned (and believe!) that it’s not about how often you fight but HOW you fight. Fighting fair and respectful is just about the most important thing I’ve learned (learning?) in marriage.

    Well, that and a well-stocked liquor cabinet should not be underrated 🙂

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