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.

Defining our needs

Its probably pretty obvious from many of my recent postings that I have been thinking a lot about money lately. Then again when faced with far more bills than money, its not hard to think about money and as a Type A worry wart, the money thing  is on my mind a lot.

So its probably no surprise to hear that I spend a lot of time reading finance books and searching out online information related to money management. This weekend I found myself at a forum where a poster spoke of having major financial woes and folks took the poster to task for mentioning she needed contact lenses and told her that just having Internet access at home is wasteful.

For some reason as someone who wears contacts and does indeed have internet at home, this point really stuck with me, so I am sharing it with you. Besides its Monday and there isn’t much else on my mind.

Now we do have internet at home but since the Spousal Unit works from home, (as in it’s really his job from 9-5 complete with a home office like a traditional office aside from the kiddie corner for girl child) not having internet is not an option. His clients are all over the country and he communicates and transmits work using the internet, so clearly not having internet is not an option. Even my own job allows for working at home and I need the internet. In our case its a legitimate business expense.

That said, I found myself think about would we have internet access at home if we had traditional jobs that did not require it and I have to say the answer is yes. While internet may not have been a need 15-20 years ago and I am old enough to remember quite well the world before the internet, that world does not exist anymore. Even my father who hates computers has started using email.

In fact one could say that folks without any reliable regular access to the internet are at a disadvantage. In super frugal circles, folks always say get rid of the internet, use the library, a cafe, etc. Well at least in my part of the world, while many cafes offer wi-fi, you still need to bring your own laptop to access it and over the years when I traveled, using a internet cafe is far from cheap. Now my library offers internet access but its limited to 20 minutes and there is always a wait.

Let’s be honest, just checking email and responding to email can take 20 minutes, what do you do if you are looking for a job? See my point? Now my best friend does not have internet or cable at his house but he works in media and has access to the internet daily through his job and lives in a large city where its easier to tap into the internet.

Considering we are living in a time where newspapers are going under, soon yours news may only be available online…when you look at it that way, it would seem that having internet could be more than just a frivolous luxury.

Now lets look at contacts, for years I only wore glasses and hated them, then about 10-11 years ago I made the switch to contacts and have been wearing them ever since. Until recently my two week lenses often were worn for months on end but it seems my eyes don’t care for that anymore.

I know that technically glasses are cheaper but they often require more cash upfront compared to contacts, but I am still not sure I would call them a luxury item…maybe that’s just me.

Its easy to say that we only need food, shelter, medical care and transportation but lets be honest it is sometimes the small extras that add value to our lives. The ice cream cone on a hot day with the kids, the desire for a brand new pair of shoes versus thrift store shoes…not needs but simple things that make us smile.

Last night I was talking with my brother about how years of living tight is really starting to fuck with me on a mental level, I should say that our basics get covered (though health insurance has been intermittent for the past two years) but rarely is there enough left for wants. I do eek out enough for the ice cream cone and the shoes but taking care of things like my hair (that’s another topic for another day and its coming soon), trips to visit family (haven’t seem em in years and would like girl child to know she has more family than us) these are the things that elude me and have done so for a while.

Part of me feels like a whiner but honestly its hard to work day in and day out knowing you still won’t be able to take a trip to see family…not a vacation around the world, a trip to see family. You know those folks who you arehappy to see the first day and on day three you are ready to leave.

Nope, seeing family is not a need in the strictest sense but I do think its some of these types of wants that when fulfilled can nourish our soul on a deeper level.

So what about you? How do you define your needs? What do you need to be happy? Are the basics enough or are there other things that seem frivolous yet you need them?