This very moment, my husband and I are in the thick of (what I deem) a marital crisis. This won't come as a shock to him, as we've been fighting through some things for some time now. After 13 years together, I've learned there will always be moments when marriage will feel harder than labor and delivery, but it's how we work through them that determines where we'll end up. To me, marriage means whatever we put in it is what we get out of it. Sadly, that's not always a good thing. A harsh, often times sobering realization that there are far too many things wrong, or different, between us than right.
My husband and I met soon after I'd left my first husband — the high school sweetheart whom I'd married right out of school — so, at the time, I wasn't looking for anything remotely serious or intense. Actually, because I'd been dating since I turned 14 (pretty much), I wanted to be free and figure out who I was and what I wanted out of life. I was young, confused about my purpose, and, with everyone I knew doing that exact thing, felt I had more things against me because I'd already been married once. I lost out on key memories like college, late night study sessions, and casual dating. It was hard to know what I liked and didn't, having missed so much of the process of growing up.
Instead, I met my (current) husband. It was fast and furious like most other decisions I made back then. Things felt right so we moved in together, eventually had a baby, and eventually got married. We had a passionate relationship early, but with a lot of complications. There'd always been a communication gap and we'd come from two very different upbringings. Still, and in the end, we wanted to be together.
Now, 13 years and two kids later, we're feeling some of those complications rising up again and again (and again). It's not that we love each other any less — we've grown so much together, I'd argue our love has grown exponentially. However, love isn't enough to survive "'til death do us part'." We're working on us, but some days I'd trade the emotionally exhausting drain of "figuring things out" for the physical pain of labor and delivery. With that kind of pain you know it's short term, and at the end of it, there's a gift — a baby. With emotions (and my heart on the line), who knows when it will feel better and, in the end, what will be left of us. Here are some of the struggles we've faced that, to me, are so much harder than giving birth:
When The Kids Have Exhausted Us
Kids are work, man. I knew this going into the whole "mom" thing but not really. You can't actually understand this level of fatigue until you're living it. Of course I love my kids, would do anything for them, and can't imagine a life without them, but it doesn't make every day any less taxing. From the moment I wake until they're safe in bed at night, there's no down time from being a parent (even asleep, I dream about them).
With that, it takes its toll on the relationship I have with my husband. When I'm tired from taking care of the kids all day, being close to this man I've chosen to spend my life with feels like one more thing to do. The sad thing is, I know he sometimes feels the same. Maintaining a relationship as long as we have, with kids, takes so much work it's hard not to wonder when it will feel "easy" again. Or really, if it ever will.
When Money Is Tight
Money is truly the root of all evil, especially when it's a dividing factor within a marriage. For the first few years of our unity, I was the stay-at-home parent, struggling with getting freelance jobs to help contribute to bills while my husband worked full-time. It was (eventually) a mutual decision, though it put us in a difficult spot financially.
Once we recovered a bit with budgets and paying off bills, and I started making steady money, things between us didn't exactly improve. Having my own money meant I could support myself, and our kids. It became another reason we didn't need to be together, especially if it was such a struggle all the time. Working through money issues has been hard. Not knowing if all the work is worth it? Even harder.
When We're Both Overwhelmed From Being Adults
Much like with money, there's a lot we're responsible for: kids, bills, our relationship, life. It's sometimes too much and definitely reflects back onto our relationship when we're consumed by them. When I've had a bad day full of utter crap and I'm stressed beyond reason, it affects the way I turn to my partner. I can't help it; it's just the way things evolve. After all this time together, being overwhelmed is a wedge that's real damn hard to remove once it's there.
When I Can't Remember The Last Date We Had
With kids and little resource for babysitters, the truth is, my husband and I don't "date" much. We used to and I wish we still could. Back when we were young kids in love, we couldn't keep our hands off each other. I miss those days. A lot. Dating is important for staying close and keeping the love life fresh. When we go weeks, and months without alone time to reconnect, marriage feels pointless. Like, what are we exactly? Just roommates who parent together? I hate feeling lonely and I'm sure my partner feels the same. These are the times it's hard to stay married and when we start to wonder what life would be alike apart. I've heard it's normal, but nonetheless, not easy.
When Sex Is Weird
I'm the kind of woman that needs to feel close to my partner before the walls come down and sex is a possibility. It stems from sexual traumas and trust issues and, unfortunately, will always be part of me. My husband understands and has never been anything but compassionate and supportive.
However, that does make some of our "personal time" weird. When it's good it's fantastic, but when we're going through rough times we'd be better off just, you know, not. Those are the times marriage feels so difficult, and I wonder if I'll ever get it figure out. I want to be close, just as my husband does, but how do we get from A to B when so much is lacking? No, seriously?
When We Can't Agree On Big Picture Things
For the most part, my husband and I have been on the same page about things — until recently. With politics heated this time around, we found ourselves on opposing platforms. It was off-putting and confusing to realize the man I vowed to spend my life with had views that shifted under the radar. Still, we're not sure how to navigate so to find a common ground. With children — particularly an impressionable daughter looking to us — politics go beyond black and white for me.
For me, I'm looking at the big picture which is inclusive and equal for all. While we've tried hashing it out to better understand each other's views, there's been no time more than now that our relationship has been tested to the nth degree. If we aren't on the same page about our fundamental beliefs, how can we possible make it?
When We Have Opposing Ideas On How To Parent
I'm the primary caregiver. I'm with our children all the time because I work from home. I don't assume I get the final say in the way things are done around here, but I like to think my influence and direction are largely why our kids are so great. I mean, I'm the one who's here doing the hard work, all the time! I wish we could parent on a 50/50 basis but it's just not so. Even if my husband were home, I don't know how things would be run but it might take some of the pressure of me.
We parent differently, and that's OK. If things were more equal, and I didn't feel like a failure when something goes wrong with the kids, maybe our relationship would be stronger. Because I'd feel like I had a partner in love and in life.
When I'm Not Sure If I'm "In Love" Anymore
I miss being "in love." Every now and then, I get butterflies like I used to, but it's become a rarity. I realize that's part of evolving, especially when we've been together so long, but if we're going to get through the rest of our lives, I'd like to think there should be more butterflies, more effort, more everything. If we're not in love, we need to find a way back and before it's too late.
I won't sugarcoat the obvious: marriage is freakin' hard. When I used to think of getting married, I (sort of) believed in fairy tales because I wanted to believe there could be a happy ending for me. Reality was different, so it's no wonder I was disappointed. Now that I've lived and learned, I see that, yes, all relationships are hard and a lot of work. And sometimes, they don't feel worth the effort, and maybe I'd rather go through the physical pain of labor and delivery instead. Are we worth fighting for? Sometimes, I'm not so sure. Then, I look at my husband where the little lines crease around his eyes from aging and longing smiles and it hits me: I can't imagine my life without him. I just can't. So if it takes going through all of this over and over to find our way I'll do it. As long as we're in it, together.