"Do you even love me?"
As soon as the words left my lips I wanted to take them back. What if he said no? Why would I ask a question when I clearly wasn't ready to hear the answer?
My husband and I are nowhere near perfect but we have always been together, best friends, there for one another. For 15 years we have fought, resolved, and rose from the ashes stronger than before. I think our talent has always been that we can handle it all. We don't always handle it gracefully, but we manage. When we were in college he once got wasted at a bar and threw up in my purse. Of course, he was promptly booted from the establishment. I was so worried about him that I too left and went to his house to make sure he was okay. He opened the door and told me I smelled like puke...his puke. When I was pregnant with our first daughter, I was so petrified to miscarry a second time that for nearly a year I basically ignored his every sexual advance, convinced that it would result in fetal demise. I didn't give a rip about his needs. I truly didn't.
Somehow we prevailed. We made it through college, careers, career changes, kids, more kids, and then butt-loads of kids. No matter the storm, we have always weathered it. But this time feels different. Our communication has sucked lately. We've become the definition of ships passing in the night. He goes to work before the sun peeks over the horizon, I take care of the house and the kids all day long, he comes home from work at bedtime. We do the sports runs, the homework, the play dates, the baths, and the rest of the shit. Then we decompress, separately. He fools around on his phone, and sometimes I do the same. I work on my blog, he plays Clash of Clans. We retreat.
Sure, we meet in the middle of our marital bed to do what married people do, but afterward, we return to our spaces, convinced that we need sanctuary even from each other. How wrong we are.
We should be combating the stress of lives filled with small children, jobs, and finances by holding on tightly to one another. But instead, we've been choosing isolation. This has left us in a hell of a place. He started stopping at the bar for a beer, for a minute, for some space. I've started escaping to the den, the basement, or to my closet to write and hide and think; to have my space. We tag-team with the kids so that we can afford each other the space we think we need. The space continues to widen until we both fall into the gaping chasm that's right smack in the middle of our marriage. We've started to get comfortable living together yet separately.
What happened to us?
What the hell are we even doing anymore?
Where are we going with this?
The funny thing about these "Coming To Jesus" moments is that they force you to reflect, re-evaluate, and re-prioritize what is most important. We thought it was space and time that we both needed so desperately, but it turns out that wasn't what we needed at all. We needed to be together, even when it feels like more work on our daily plates. We need to move through this stage of marriage and parenthood together.
In the midst of this latest argument-realization-coming clean session, I asked him if he still loves me. Three seconds, then five seconds passed. What in the hell? Is he THINKING about it? Is he considering saying no? In that moment, I allowed myself to consider what it would mean to move forward without my husband and best friend, to not be loved by him any longer. It was unpleasant, certainly not the outcome that I would choose.
He said yes. Of course he still loves me. So there's that. Now comes the hard part. Now we repair the space that we've created in our daily quest for solitude. We have to have some uncomfortable conversations about how to better communicate our needs, our concerns, and our fears as we grow older and our children grow older too. Our roles can no longer be that he works and pays bills and I manage the kids and the house. This isn't working for us anymore; our roles have divided us so greatly that we no longer take interest in each other's "duties." We have to actually talk, and not just about the kids, the science projects, and tomorrow's agenda. We have to truly TALK or we're never going to make it through this chaotic stage, and we really want to make it to the other side of crazy. I hear it is glorious over on that other side.
Sacrifices have to be made. When did we stop making them anyways? When did we both decide that "putting ourselves first" and "taking care of me" meant not taking care of one other and our marriage? We got confused and stupid and selfish.
The good news is we've recognized these flaws and we still love each other, really we do. Thank God we still choose WE. So here we go, time to climb out of the chasm of solitude and back into each other's arms.