Heavy lifting…marriage restructuring project underway!

As I sit down to type this, I am not sure it will see the light of day as it is a personal issue and even I have my limits to what is appropriate for public sharing especially when it involves my life partner.

Last night I was reminded of why marriages fail, because we spend so much time looking for a wedding and thinking we will ride on into the sunset and being happy that even for the best of us it’s easy to forget just how much hard work and heavy lifting is required to keep the relationship viable for both parties.

The truth is as we head towards our 14th wedding anniversary this fall, 16 years total together that we are truly facing a challenge that will determine whether or not we stay standing or not. Oh, its nothing dramatic, nobody is slapping anyone around or emotionally abusing anyone…come now, put a hand on me and someone leaves in a body bag. That’s been my personal motto. No, I fear we have fallen victim to life. Jobs, bills, kids, changing bodies, that getting old shit…life.

In many ways I have been a smug bitch (yes I know some of you will cringe at my use that word but on my blog I can call myself what I want to call myself), in the past several years I have seen so many girlfriends’ marriages and partnerships fall apart…I have tried to support them yet somewhere in my mind I always said that would never be me. Why? I am married to my best friend, business partner, lover and our bond is rock solid. We are the couple that is always together, the Spousal Unit works from home, I do part of my work from home, as a one car by choice family, we are always together barring my occasional outings and work related stuff. Yet despite that I finally had to admit that somewhere along the way things have shifted and maybe we aren’t working so well together. Again it’s nothing noticeable, but just that pang in your heart that says “Is this it?” I have tried to ignore it instead saying it’s not really that but in my search to find me, I have had to accept no this is not a momentary thing.

I have to admit the man was stunned and we are talking about what we can do to get the train back on track. I made a joke this morning that people joke about the 7 year itch, maybe there is a 14 year itch. Turns out I might not be joking at all. I did some Googling on the matter and it seems there is a growing body of work that suggests that in previous generations couples did grapple with the 7 year itch but now its marriages in the 10-14 year range that face the greatest assaults and threat of divorce. It makes sense as couples marry later, have kids later in life, it is after the first decade when the pressures heat up. In the first 7 years of our marriage, we went through a custody battle with my ex, lost both our mothers, moved 1100 miles to a state neither of us wanted to move to and started going broke in year 7. In year 8 our daughter was born and we officially went broke, so badly at one point we had to use Medicaid for health insurance.

Looking back, the first 7 years of our marriage weren’t exactly a cakewalk especially since I spent most of that time accruing over $100,000 in student loan debt for an education that while it enlightened me has not enlightened our bank account. I made that decision banking on a good economy and like many assuming I would have higher earning power but so far it has not come to pass.

Since year 8 though and the birth of our daughter, that’s when shit started getting wonky, the spooning sessions we took for granted for the first years together became a rare treat. Having a high needs highly spirited child who still interrupts our conversations makes it hard to talk at a deeper level. In the 5.5 years since her birth, I realized we have only been away from her on a date three times and since the last time was to attend a friend’s 40th birthday party not sure we can count that as a date. Looking at this now, that’s a lot of days to not really connect, oh yeah we talk but I am realizing when we do ever get beneath the surface? Rarely and clearly not as often as we need. Even the fact that we are always together might be working against us since it’s easy to get complacent and not have the deeper conversations when you are always together…after all not all talk is created equal. Also while many folks think working from home is a plus, it does have a darker side, it’s sometimes harder to unplug from work, in my husband’s case being self employed, and unplugging can be bad if a client has a last minute change. After having lost several clients a few years ago, we both are skittish about unplugging from work; the loss of another client would financially ruin us. Good paying gigs for freelance writers are harder to come by these days so it’s the downside to our world.

Ever since I was a kid my nickname given to me by my Dad has been rabbit. Why? Rabbits know when to hop away…yet I am no longer a child and while my first instinct lately has been maybe its time to blow this pop stand, but I woke up this morning with a clarity that said hopping away is not the answer. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I am a planner, its how I try and stay one step ahead of the bad shit in life. So in my mind I have already been calculating what I would need to do to leave, how much cash is required, etc. But I look at my daughter, I think of my son, I think of myself and say what the hell am I hopping to? The fire may not burn as high as it once did but there are still some sparks….sparks can start fires. So right now what we need is to create enough sparks to light this forest on fire…anyone who has been married any length of time knows you can’t sustain a fire of love all the time but I do believe at certain stages you need a fire. I think as an almost middle aged woman (though by some standards I am already there but I ain’t claiming it yet no matter what my body says) sometimes you need a deep fire of love to anchor you as you deal with the rest of the shit that assaults you in middle age.

I also know now that just like with parenting the minute you think you “know” or you think you can give some advice on matters of the heart is pretty much when you can expect the universe to kick you dead in your ass and let you know you don’t know jack. I wish I had a simple answer to what my future looks like but the thought of losing my best friend is too hard to bear so we are get ready to redesign our world and life together unsure of what the future holds. Perhaps this is just part of this crazy ride we call life; we just have to fly blind at times despite how scary that feels.

PS: Before posting this I asked the Spousal Unit to read it and give the thumbs up or down as far as sharing…he gave the thumbs up. I know some may question why am I sharing such a personal issue, well I think many people deal with these issues yet few talk about them. In a generation past, women got together with the coffee klatch and talked about this stuff, now we don’t. I think knowledge is power.

8 thoughts on “Heavy lifting…marriage restructuring project underway!”

  1. I really identify with your post Shay. We’ve been married 7 years and I don’t know, I think the 7 year itch applies to me. It’s been very difficult and trying and tiring. We’ve got these two young kids and it’s a challenge trying to connect in meaningful ways. Sometimes I feel that if we could just get a moment, it would be so helpful but we just don’t have it. We’re stuck in the knitty-gritty of trying to survive and take care of our kids. Thanks so much for sharing so honestly and openly. I don’t know about anyone else, but I needed to hear this precisely because there is no group of women to talk to.

  2. Sweet, I agree consistent quality time is a good place to get to. I think because we are together like 90% of the time due to our work, its gotten hard to discern what is quality time versus time. But we are working on actively changing that and while frugality is an issue for us, we are realizing that sometimes to get the time we need we need to spend some money. Being frugal does us no good if we end up separating which would cost more in the long run.

    Ann, yes I am very familiar with Dave Ramsey. But the truth is where we are financially his stuff is not all that helpful for us. We are not huge spenders, but with a pile of debt and a kid in college, my reality is I need to change jobs since that is what weighs us down financially. My job is meaningful but pays jack and there is no amount of saving or not spending is going to reduce my student debt load until I change jobs.

    Claudia, I hear ya…;-)

  3. I’m sorry to hear that you’re struggling but I have to believe that if you have enough clarity to write about it publicly, you two will be on the road to a forest fire in no time. Consistent quality time alone w/dh really made a huge difference in my marriage over the past 2 years. We have tried so many new things together and that is also key- building endorphins by sharing new experiences apparently has shown to lead to long and happy marriages- I swear I saw a couple who wrote a book about this, but I can’t remember their names. Best of luck!

  4. So, sorry to hear the two of you are having issues. It sounds as if you two need some me time together…alone. I bought the movie Julie and Juliet; I think that would be a good couples movie. Remember you two have each other.

    Have you heard of Dave Ramsey? He is a financial radio personaility. Dave usually broadcasts at 12 midnight, google him. I think his knowledge about money and savings can help the two of you.
    LOL, Slow down on the spending.

    I wish the two of you well.

  5. Its a struggle surviving on two incomes – remember what it was like surviving on one fourteen years ago – well its about five times harder than that today. Marriage is a roller coaster you have been in it long enough to know that. Hang on for the ride it will go back up the hill.

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