In the spirit of Valentines and its emphasis on relationships, I thought I would give an unvarnished look at marriage in the wilds of real life.
This one is more vulnerable because I am lifting the hood on what’s going on right now rather than reflecting in the rearview mirror and smoothing over the edges with big slabs of sarcasm. Instead, you’re getting messy tableaus and there are no spoiler alerts to how it will all unravel…I mean, unfold. Lucky for me, I am surrounded by sage women who have walked the path I am on and are generously sharing their wisdom.
Did you know that the most cited definition for a sexless marriage is less than 10 times in a year? If you said, ‘so many?’, I feel you. Life with 3 kids under 8 can do that. While I would love to protest that I don’t kiss and tell, the honest to goodness truth is that I don’t even know. I wish I did, but my brain is so hazy these days (more on that later) that I think I am losing my long-term memories because the short-term ones are all gone.
I do, however, know how my husband feels about it. His hurt is so deep, and it wasn’t until it turned into quiet rage that he could bring it up. I listened and let him be vulnerable in a way he hadn’t been before, and we are much closer because of that conversation. It didn’t resolve everything, but I will tell you why I am not worried.
Intimacy comes in many forms, and I make extra efforts to soothe those crunchy times and make the good times better. I do that because a woman here shared with me one of her biggest regrets. She wished she had realized that sex had been the only form of intimacy in her marriage. When it stopped, there was nothing else there and they had grown too far apart to find a way back. She also said to tell everyone I know so I offer it to you, dear reader. My husband and I are down, but we are not out.
Another thing that is adding, shall we say, colour to my marriage is that perimenopause is creeping in and it’s not the subtle, boil a frog in water way that I was assured it would be. It’s more like one day wondering why I walked into that room carrying my glasses, looking for my keys, only to find my phone on my head, and then forgetting why I am laughing and then starting to cry.
Luckily, it’s brought along a brain fog so thick that I can forget how much my hormones are wreaking havoc. Days before Christmas, I didn’t know if I was pregnant, going through some “changes,” or just having a bad day. To cope, I yelled at my kids; apologized to my kids; called a woman; took an unnaturally long bath; drank with a woman; ate chocolate; cried; iced my husband out; called a woman; thawed out my husband.
Rinse and repeat.
Now that it’s the new year and we’re past the holiday tsunami, my husband and I are closing in on a big project. It’s been a grind for two years and so much blood, sweat, and tears has gone into this that it’s essentially our fourth child. It’s been a drain on our finances and now that we are close enough to see the end of tunnel, my husband and I had some real talk. There’s a not zero percent chance that this will fail. Nothing in life is a guarantee, and this project is no different, but right now I am having to face the possibility of it all being for nothing. In the pauses of my day, tears sometimes come. There’s always someone for whom it doesn’t work out. Will that be me?
Since that chat, I gave myself a pep talk; had a pity party; told myself the truth about how I am feeling; called a woman and told her the truth. Women I didn’t expect to be are saying, ‘me too’ and ‘I’ve been there. Call me whenever.’ I unloaded my burdens and rather than platitudes, they gave me their compassion and reminded me to breathe, to not lose hope, and to not quit.
I am learning that not quitting isn’t always from a calm and confident knowing. It can be tears, apologies, and taking the risk to reveal fears and anger. In a word, it can be messy. My marriage and myself in it can be messy. But it is rich, it is full, and it is the relationship I always wanted.
So, for this February, I am celebrating all those relationships: the ones that got me to where I am; the ones that will walk with me to where I am going; and most especially the women that will keep me on track, no matter how messy life gets.