Thursday, June 14, 2012

Fabulous Friday: Four Fantastic Years

Yesterday marked our four year wedding anniversary. Though we've been married for four years, we have been a couple for a little over eleven, and it wasn't always smooth sailing as any of you reading who knew us in college will attest. But, we're here. And we made it. And frankly, I wish I could have known and understood when we were figuring out those rough patches how time ages relationships in a beautiful way that I couldn't anticipate; my love now is so much deeper, and stronger, and more complex than my love was eleven, or six, or even four year ago. I thought that it would be interesting to reflect on where we were two years ago, the most difficult year of our marriage, so if you are intrigued, check out the essay I wrote after the jump.

But, as for where we are now... well, obviously, we live together in San Francisco, and this weekend  we are heading to Monterey, Carmel, and Big Sur to bask in our sometimes saccharine, silly, complicated, romantic, frustrating, can't live without it love. And I plan to enjoy every fabulous minute of it.

On June 16th my husband left me. It was two days after our anniversary. I drove him to New York and watched him get on a plane to California.  Leading up to that day, I had been a mess, but when the time came to watch him go, I was eerily calm. On the way home, I decided that I would distract myself with a little shopping. But, I ended up at the wrong mall, the un-posh mall. After a very close encounter with a panic attack and an assault of deep resentment that J. had given me bad directions (this last act before his departure), I realized that I actually possessed the capability to remedy the situation on my own with the help of my trusty iPhone and GPS.  Half- an-hour later, I found the “right” mall, serenely walked though the rows of cosmetics in Neiman Marcus, and proceeded to buy J. four new shirts, which was funny considering that he had just left.

We had discussed his departure for months, and I suppose, somewhere along the way, I had agreed to the deal. Nonetheless, I made him pay. I made him pay for abandoning me, for inappropriately prioritizing his life, and ultimately for cheating. My moods vacillated between desperation, anger, and using everything I had learned about passive aggressiveness from my father who has always had that nuclear weapon in his arsenal. Living with me during those months required superhuman patience Luckily, my husband possesses this quality. But he also has a lot of other qualities that led to our split. He is focused, single- minded at times, ambitious, and duplicitous. Hence the cheating.
During this time the very public separation was happening between Tipper and Al Gore, and I read in a magazine that they felt their passions had diverged over the years. It made me laugh. J. hates writing, finds it tedious, painful, and extremely taxing. He doesn’t read fiction.  He loves numbers, computers, esoteric things like “sensor networks”. He likes taking professional risks. I love to be stationary, stable, and in control of exactly what is coming next. I do not like surprises, uncertainty, or change. He is crazy about sports, which I don’t even pretend to like. I am fanatic about home decorating. It drives him crazy.  I try to avoid excessive inter-personal interaction. He has masses of friends. So, I was not waiting for the day when our passions diverged for us to contemplate the idea of a split. They were divergent when we got into this thing.
J. didn’t leave me for another woman. And no, it wasn’t another man either. His affair was of a different sort. Not tawdry, but still heartbreaking. The other love of his life, the only thing that has really come between us, is his work. He loves it and is committed to it like he is to me. His ability to commit to something and see it through is probably how we’ve managed to be together since high school, through college, through graduate school, and through living on two separate coasts once already.
He is an entrepreneur. He started a business when he finished graduate school and found some professional success, but it wasn’t his dream. So, even though the bills were getting paid and we were happily cohabitating (see stability-something I very much enjoy), he decided to change it up (see chasing the dream, going after the next big thing-both things that make me queasy). He shut down that very functional, bill-paying business, for a creative endeavor that would mean working entirely for himself, creating a product that he believes in, and living in San Francisco.
We live in Millbrook, New York. It is a tiny town in Dutchess County where Manhattanites come for the weekend to ride horses, gallivant around in “country” apparel, and call everything “quaint”. We reside there permanently. So, I now live hours from the nearest airport with most of my neighbors being of the bovine and equine variety, and my husband has packed up his business and taken off to San Francisco. This, of course, begs the question, why didn’t I go with him? In fact, on that fateful day at JFK, J. even asked me, “Why did we think this was a good idea?” I could have punched him.
I didn’t go with him because that wasn’t my dream. Because I too am chasing a dream. And I am trying to get a graduate degree. On the East coast. And I happen to be half-way finished. And the degree happens to be paid for (and by paid for, I mean not by us). That, and I also know that my husband’s other lover would get in the way of our marriage, and I thought it best to stay out of it.
When he works on anything, but particularly a new idea, he is relentless. I knew this about him when I married him. And, I admire him for it. I admire, although I also cringe and bemoan, the fact that he was willing to take a risk and a large cut in pay to pursue an idea he believes in. I admire that he has taken practical steps order to make this happen. Every day that I made his life miserable, I also was thankful that I had a husband who encouraged me to follow my own passions instead of him and his. As he decided to go, I decided to stay. And that was just fine with him. Instead of marking a point of rupture in our relationship, maybe this is what it takes to have a truly functional modern marriage. We got married young by today’s standards, and we understood that meant there were a lot of things we still had to do. Without articulating it, we also understood that there might be things that we even had to do on our own.
Many people, some in my own family, think that being married means being together, means aligning goals, and putting one another above all else. And to those people, I say that if it works for them, great. But, it wasn’t going to work for us. Growing up, I watched my parents navigate a commuter marriage, and they are still happily married. That being said, I swore when I got married I wouldn’t have the marriage my parents do. I wanted to experience the quotidian with someone. I wanted to know if my husband was in a bad mood from the way that he was quiet around the house, or because he closed the bedroom door when I was watching TV instead of coming to sit on the couch with me. With him gone, those moments are lost. I have to hope that he will tell me if he is having a good day or a bad one because through all the miles, I cannot sense it. And that changes things. Neither he nor I deny that. But, something that has taken me a lifetime to begin to believe is that not all change is destructive. My relationship which was once beautifully comfortable has now become exhilaratingly fraught with anticipation.
Our separation was met with anxiety, misery, and plain pain-in-the-assery on my part, which I now see as my attempt to part on less than amiable terms in order to make the situation more bearable.  It didn’t work. Sharing your husband is never bearable unless you don’t care about him in the first place. But, in the aftermath of what I thought was going to be the first tragedy that had befallen our marriage, I do feel hopeful. If we do not accomplish the things we set out to pursue, will it mean that we have suffered the distance and the severing of a happy home in vain? In my best moments, I say no.
When I married J. two years ago, we made a commitment; we promised each other that we did not believe in divorce. In my moments of greatest anger, I threatened that this decision to move away would ultimately destroy us. But, in reality, these are the kind of decisions that will sustain us even if our personal endeavors ultimately fail. Because of our belief in each other, our belief that we are strong enough to live, and work, and find directions to the posh mall on our own, I know that I will wake up in many years next to my husband, the same one, the one who left me two days after our anniversary, and say that we had a good life, and that though our passions always diverged, the roads we followed always lead back to one another.

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