But. BUT. There are awesome parts. After almost a decade and a half Z and I like each other more now than when we met. I am fucking amazed by that. I'm also amazed how important the liking is to day to day contentment. And I'm amazed a marriage can survive several years of solid dislike. I hope we don't go through a period like that again, but if we do I'll know that the possibility exists we will find our way back to each other. And you know what else? Not to get too graphic, but after nearly 15 years you can still like-like each other enough to be freaked out about getting pregnant. Well, maybe you also need to be crazy to worry about the pregnant part. Z has complete faith that the pill I carefully take at the same time every night will do its job.
At every stage of this relationship I learn new things, last week I realized something huge. There are two other people in our relationship and they aren't our sons. They are the memories of who we used to be. Sometimes those assholes create a lot of problems for the current version of us. Obviously there is conflict in our relationship. We work hard on it, we try to learn from past mistakes and do better. Sometimes we succeed. Sometime we fail. Sometimes we do both at the same time.
Last week there was conflict and one of us approached it in a pretty sensitive way. The other one reacted with defensiveness and anger. It took us a while (and a therapy session) to figure out what the hell happened, but we got there. One of us was reacting to actions of a version of the other one who hasn't existed for almost 10 years. Because when you have so much history it is damn hard to give your partner credit for changing and even harder to forgive them for hurt they have caused over the years. At first the realization left me feeling defeated. Why try if we can't get past our histories? Dude, cliches exist for a reason-knowledge is power. Both of us can work on letting go a little and concentrate on the choices we make today. Those old versions of ourselves are with us every day, but we don't need to give them control over how we feel about each other now.
I don't know, maybe you all have made these discoveries already. Maybe we struggle more than most to get our relationship to function. But if you are struggling as well I just want you to know I get it. I also want you to know it is worth it. I wouldn't trade a million heady first kisses or the powerful and intoxicating feeling of falling in love for the depth of intimacy I have with Z. So we go to therapy, we figure out why we fight the way we do, when we make discoveries about our behavior we try to learn from them, we don't give up. And we are rewarded because most of the time we don't have to think about this crap. But if we ever get lazy, if we ever do stop working, I believe that is when the relationship threatening problems will start. And the real fucked up kicker is even if we do work hard the relationship might not make it. Man, does that fact keep me honest. There are no guarantees, folks. This hard work might go up in smoke. Still, the risk is worth it to me. I nondenominational pray that I will spend the rest of my life with Z.
Celebrating my 22nd birthday in December of 1998. We were on our way to go swing dancing, which is how we met.
Only about 6 months in and he already realizes he's got his hands full.
Almost 14 years later we are puffier and collectively have something like 16 more tattoos. But I think the tattooed and puffy versions of ourselves are a hell of a lot cooler than the two kids were back in '98.
Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith.
The boys we picked up along the way are pretty swell as well.
Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith.