I’ve often been asked why I feel like I am a failure at marriage. My explanations, no matter how carefully worded, always wind up wracking me with guilt, and so I basically just mumble something about being a loner at heart (which is true) and let it go at that.
The problem is that, no matter how much I own my feelings, no matter how much I stipulate that this has nothing at all to do with the Scientist as a person, it still makes me seem like a horrific bitch who hates her spouse. And while the first part may well be true…ok, who are we kidding here? It’s true…the second part isn’t. After three and a half years of therapy, the Scientist has become my best friend again. While I may not be “in love” with him, Cinderella and those wenches are overrated anyhow. And Prince Charming? Eh. Have you ever seen Prince Charming when he wasn’t dressed and acting like a prissy stick-in-the-mud? Nope. I’d rather a guy who can look good in jeans and a shirt, sweaty and dirty from working in the garden with me, thanks.
So, at the risk of having my Facebook friends’ list chopped in half, and whatever miniscule readership I have on here bailing too, I’m going to lay it out in the open and just be honest. Don’t feel bad about it if you’re one of the ones who shakes your head and walks away; I can’t say I blame you. Sometimes I’d rather walk away from me, too.
The short answer is quite simple: I view the concept as a leash. A well intentioned, sometimes beneficial, leash, but a leash nonetheless.
The explanation isn’t quite as easy, and this is where things make me look selfish and mean. Since I was a child, I have had wanderlust in a really bad way. I’m never so happy as when I’m traveling, especially somewhere new. The Scientist doesn’t have it quite as badly, but through me, scuba diving, and Geocaching, he has definitely developed a love for travel and exploration. That being said, I also have other people in my life who love to travel, and with whom I would love to travel. Here’s where we start to get dicey.
The Photographer, for example, is my twin sister from another mother. We’re so alike it’s scary sometimes. Her wanderlust matches mine. She and I have made a promise to each other that has two parts: first, we will go on an African photo safari together, and second, that neither of us will go without the other. I take that seriously. There is truly no one I would rather be with on that trip, and if I had the money to go right now, I wouldn’t do it, simply because I know that for now, she cannot. End of story. Now, in this particular example, if the Scientist were to join in, it wouldn’t bother me at all. I think he’d have fun, he adores the Photographer (and vice versa), and it would be a fun group trek. But if he suddenly wanted to go, just the two of us? No. I wouldn’t go with him because my promise to my twin sister would be the priority. In marriage, prioritizing someone else over your spouse is generally considered to be a huge no-no. But that’s how I feel.
The Trainer and I have discussed, on multiple occasions, two trips in particular. We both want to go to Thailand and to India, and we want to go together. But on those trips? I wouldn’t want the Scientist, or anyone else along with us. Those trips are for us. We’ve talked about them, made little plans here and there of certain things to do, places to see, and that’s our adventure.
Now, let me be perfectly clear about this next part. All, and I mean every single one, of the Scientist’s objections to the idea of me taking off with the Trainer for a week or so, on two separate occasions, to see parts of the world we’ve only dreamed about, are absolutely appropriate, reasonable, and rational. They are ones that any normal person would make at the idea of their spouse going off like this. So please do not think I am trying to make him sound like the problem; he isn’t. I am.
Money is the big one. “Our” money funding “my” trip, one in which he isn’t welcome to join. The next would be if he wanted to see the destination, too. Why should I get to experience that when he’d be left behind? He’s already a bit jealous/upset that I have spent some time with the wild ponies at Assateague and he hasn’t. I cannot even fathom his reaction to, “Bye, Honey, I’ll be back in a week or so. I’m going to Thailand!”
That is a more extreme example, of course, and not one that will come up any time soon. (Seriously…have you looked at the economy lately?) The more basic level concept is, when you’re married, you almost always have to take someone else into consideration. Compromise is vital, and while we have both done it a lot over the years, I freely admit to resenting some of it. Petty? Probably. But fights about anything from naming the kids to paint colors in the new house and everything in between are always occurring. Let’s say you love the color sage green. (No, I don’t love it, but it’s an example. Work with me here, people!) You’ve had the idea for a perfectly decorated living room for your new house, you’ve picked out accent pieces, artwork, whatever. Your spouse, however, hates the color and wants to paint the living room blue. There are three options here. 1. You paint the room sage green and your spouse is pissed off every time he walks into the living room until you sell that house. 2. You let him paint the room blue and you resent it every time you walk into the living room until you sell that house. 3. Neither of you wins, the room gets painted yellow, and you both resent it.
I feel like the last twenty-ish years of my life have been one big compromise. Has he compromised too? Absofreakinlutely. He gets full credit for that. I know it seems like I’m beating the dead horse, but I feel the need to reiterate – this isn’t about him. It’s about me. And I’m tired of compromising. It could be that I chose to have kids so young; when you’re a parent, your life is simply not your own anymore, by definition. My kids are getting to the point where they’ll be off doing their own thing, and I have hit my metaphorical wall when it comes to giving in. I’ve become selfish in my old age (shut up, 41 can be old!), and I want my own life. If I want to blow off cooking for several days because I have more creative things to do, then so be it. If I have time off available and I want to vanish to the coast to breathe the salt air, listen to the oceanic rhythms, then I’ll do so. I want to paint the walls the colors that I like, spend my evenings and weekend however I want without consulting someone else’s schedule. I want to be able to go off on “girls’ weekends” without guilt.
But the marriage leash pulls me back. For now, the benefits outweigh the deficits, but what happens when the kids are out on their own, and we no longer have them as a central focus? The Scientist and I are best friends, but we literally have almost nothing in common. I’m worried about will bind us at that point, because right now, I look around and don’t see a shred of rope, a bit of duct tape, or anything else that will suffice.
And that, boys and girls, is why Mick sucks at marriage.