Marrying the Sh*t Out of Myself

It’s funny how things just haven’t turned out quite as we’d hoped when we got married. Sure, we knew that life is nothing if not one big gamble, but had you asked me on my wedding day over three years ago what state I really thought our marriage might be in were we to find ourselves apparently infertile but longing for children, with one of us unwillingly unemployed, while being forced to live apart indefinitely all at the same time, I’d probably have raised an eyebrow and said something eloquent and erudite along the lines of “Royally F*cked”.

Which is why it’s somewhat surprising that one Monday morning a couple months ago, I declared to some close friends, “Today feels like my wedding day. I feel like I found my true self again, then married the shit out of her.” That was the morning of the day I officially became formally unemployed, sealing the deal on our triple whammy of an ordeal, and the furthest thing conceptually from the ecstatic and transformative day to which it was being compared. And yet, that comparison could not have been more apt.

Of course, it was hard work getting to that hopeful place through a seemingly never-ending deluge of crap. Physically, emotionally, financially, socially—we’ve both taken significant blows over the past couple years as things have spiralled to their current position. I have failed exams, and failed to impress sufficiently at interviews, after a lifetime of seemingly effortless, high-flying achievement. He has lived in a hideous room in a horrible shared flat while working more hours than either of us likes to count, because it’s just what needs must, at least for now.

Friendships have been neglected outright as precious, fleeting weekend and holiday time is devoted to reconnecting with each other. I’ve gained, and lost, and gained, and lost again somewhere in the region of 20 pounds over and above what was a previously irritatingly stable, healthy adult weight, the fluctuations of my body mirroring those in my mind. He’s grown worryingly thin. We’ve both visibly aged—in pictures of us from just 5 years ago we look like children. So relaxed, so naive, so free from lined, careworn brows and tired, heavily encircled eyes. And yet…

And yet. Somehow, despite enduring multiple challenges, each of which may well be legitimately considered a potential deal-breaker, our marriage is not Royally F*cked. It is, indeed, Just Fine. Robust, healthy, and thriving in fact. So much so, that when I asked my husband, following a recent APW post advocating therapy for relationships in difficulty, “If our marriage was ever in trouble, would you really be OK with us having couples’ counselling to try to fix things?” he only half-jokingly replied, “But our marriage is never going to be in trouble.” You know what? We may both be deluded, but I believe him.

While our marriage may have carried on unfalteringly through all that has transpired for us, mostly thanks to a healthy communication style and a lot of dark humour, but also in no small part I am sure to that absolute belief in The Power of Us, individually, we most certainly have not. My husband’s story is not mine to tell, but somewhere between all of the heartbreak and the anxiety and the loneliness of the last couple years, compounding difficulties with which I’d been struggling for some time prior, I lost sight of certain essential parts of myself, burying them under a whole variety of unhelpful and unhealthy coping (or more accurately, problem-avoiding) mechanisms.

In ways, I became almost unrecognisable, at least internally. To such an extent, that at times I couldn’t help but lose faith and wonder whether our marriage really could last, or whether my husband would want it to, the woman he married for the most part seeming pretty long gone in my view.

But with the patient, unerring, often silent but always staunch support of him and our marriage, I have been able, and been gently encouraged, to slowly, reluctantly, and painfully work my way back to my true self again, the one I comfortably embodied when we first met, and who was still mostly around by the time we embarked on our new life together. It has been a process that I seriously doubt I’d have managed alone. But it brought me to the place that allowed me to fully rediscover myself on the day that our misery supposedly reached its zenith. A self that I joyously reclaimed and vowed firmly not to lose sight of again, with the same zeal applied to the wedding vows with which my husband and I married the shit out of each other. A self whose reintegration has thus far proven entirely transformative, allowing me to turn what could have been an epic disaster of a time into a rather glorious opportunity. You see, I was not wrong in my somewhat peculiar declaration of a couple months ago. It really was a wedding day of a most singular kind.

As wonderful as that all sounds, there is no happy ending to this story—such is life. I wish it could have been rounded off with a cheery conclusion: I got the dream job! We had the baby! We finally moved back in together! Although I still wish for those things with all my heart, that isn’t yet the case—uncertainty still reigns. But we’re fine, and I’m fine, and despite everything we’re increasingly hopeful that things will only get better. In fact, we believe that. You know what? We may both be deluded, but that’s absolutely fine with us.

Photo by: Jesse Holland

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  • Wow.

    If we and our marriage can deal with half as much as you and yours, and we would even be half as wise about it as you, I would consider it one hell of an achievement.

    I don’t know who you are (obviously), but I hope you’ll continue to be awesome and will soon see the winds change in your favour.

  • Thanks so much for sharing. Here is sending you all the best wishes and energy. I am certain both of you will make it. We are also dealing with similar stuff… the apparent infertility and me not having the job I was supposed to have after studying for sooo long and accepting to live with that and be happy in spite of that…

    • And I really really hope that you will be able to move in together soon.

  • PA

    “But with the patient, unerring, often silent but always staunch support of him and our marriage, I have been able, and been gently encouraged, to slowly, reluctantly, and painfully work my way back to my true self again, the one I comfortably embodied when we first met, and who was still mostly around by the time we embarked on our new life together. It has been a process that I seriously doubt I’d have managed alone.”

    Being our truest self opens doors to incredible things, but it also opens us up to heartbreak and pain unimaginable. A relationship like the one you describe with your husband can lend the courage to keep being your truest self in the face of roadblocks and stumbling points, can help you pick up and move on more quickly, can help you heal into a stronger person. That’s one of the great beauties of marriage.

    I have great admiration for your courage! I hope, as much as the dark days have made you and your relationship stronger, that you are able to settle into some calmer days together soon!

  • <3

    All shall be well, all shall be well and all matter of things shall be well.

  • Alison

    Wow. I am getting married in 6 months, and I hope and pray that my marriage will be as strong as yours and your husband’s. I applaud you for your honesty and bravery, and you are an inspiration to me that when things are “rough” in a relationship, that even if it takes mild delusion (I don’t think you’re deluded, btw) that we can tough it out, even when it sucks and is icky and indeterminate.

    Sending good thoughts towards you and hoping that life starts on an upswing for you both.


  • melissa

    I have a feeling that you’ll get all those things as well. :)

  • I am so happy that you have such a strong, unfaltering support– and that the two of you are working through these challenges together. My wife and I have had a desperately hard year and a half with deaths in our family, unemployment/underemployment, health problems and debt, and sometimes it’s a very lonely and hard place to be in together. This is filled with hope, though. Thank you for this post, and best of luck with everything.

  • ChCh

    What you’ve written is very brave and also very helpful to me. Over the past two years, I also have “failed exams, failed to impress sufficiently at interviews, after a lifetime of seemingly effortless, high-flying achievement.” I am, as well, currently nonvoluntarily unemployed. I’ve also gained and lost weight, and gone to a place internally that made me feel unrecognizable to myself.

    My boyfriend and I are about to get married this summer. There have definitely been times when I’ve wondered what he’s thinking – when we met I was more “myself,” as I see me. (Heck – I had a job!) This new me is less impressive to me, and I can’t help but think he must be less impressed, too.

    I’m still midway through the process of what you describe when you say “But with the patient, unerring, often silent but always staunch support of him and our marriage, I have been able, and been gently encouraged, to slowly, reluctantly, and painfully work my way back to my true self again, the one I comfortably embodied when we first met….” That said, it is in no small part his support and the solidity of our relationship that has led me to wanting to marry this man. He tells me that from his perspective, it’s in no small part my keeping on keeping on that has led him to want to marry me.

    It’s so hard sometimes though. Thank you for writing this. And I wish you so much good. (The sooner the better. :))

    • anon today

      I went through a similar time where I felt like someone else was living in my body as a result of various changes. My husband and I were very recently married and instead of taking the easy route of running away from the challenge my husband pushed me to fight – to find happiness and to bring myself back. It was a tough time, and like you said I thought why did he marry me? Sometimes just thinking that made me realize oh yeah, cause I’m pretty sweet, some things are just kicking my ass right now and I need to push through. Partners are there through good and bad, just remember it’s all termporary. Keep your sights far ahead and let your partner push you through when you feel like you have nothing left. Best wishes during a difficult time!

  • <3. I know you're going to get all of those things too. I wish it weren't such hard times right now, but it's going to get better. The fact that you guys have never doubted your marriage through all of this is incredible, and says a lot about you two. You are too wonderful a person not to have wonderful things coming your way – & I still believe that they are coming soon! xx

  • Just yesterday we were discussing how difficult it would be to have a marriage where someone was on the road frequently…I can’t imagine truly living apart for long periods of time. Your hope in the face of such struggles is really amazing.

  • It sounds like you two have a great perspective and support system for each other there. And I really hope that life starts throwing some good twists and turns your way soon.

    It’s hard living through even one of those things, let alone all three. My fiance and I are dealing with some of our own cr*p and as much as the cr*p sucks, we’ve learned a lot about ourselves and our relationships from it.

  • suzanna

    I love APW this week!

  • the one wot wrote it

    Thank you for your kind comments and good wishes, wonderful people of APW. The day we lose hope will be the day things fall apart, I reckon. It underpins everything.

    I’m only sorry I had to submit this anonymously for professional reasons – I think openly having authentic conversations about the hard parts of married life is crucial. That said, looking at the ‘more conversations’ links under the post, it’s not so hard to work out who I am, which you might have well done anyway if you’ve been around here a while. And I’m not at all displeased about that.

    • I must spend too much time in this corner of the interwebs, because I figured it out part way though the second sentence. :)

      I’m so happy that despite all the setbacks and hard stuff, that the two of you are so solid. An inspiration, to be sure!

  • Claire

    This essay sort of blew me away and I’m struggling to compose a coherent response. I’m so inspired that you have done the hard work to get to this hopeful place despite the shitstorm of the past year. Cheers to you and your partner for not allowing the difficult circumstances to pull you apart. Despite all The Hard Stuff you have endured, your optimism shines through and your post still has a tone of hope and joy. And kudos for having the personal strength to rediscover your true self and committing to her. ‘Cause clearly she rocks.

  • Airplane Rachel

    This is such an amazing post; I got lost in the beauty of it. You are such a great writer, eloquent and wise. You and your husband are quite the pair. From what you have said, the two of you make a great marriage.

    “But our marriage is never going to be in trouble.” My guy and I agree and talk about the same thing. It makes me/us wonder if we too are crazy (deluded) for saying it. Big things happen, life gets in the way, things go wrong and we accept that, but we still feel that we can do anything together. Call is crazy in love, we admit that we are. Maybe the reason is we are confident in what we each bring to our relationship and how we work together, knowing we will do everything we can before we get into trouble. I’m curious if anyone has ever thought the same thing and it turned out they still got into (big) trouble. What could have been done differently? The reason I ask is because it doesn’t seem someone could be SO incredibly lucky to find someone they love so much and be loved right back just the same, only to never have “big” problems.

    I hope you can contine to hold on to the lessons you have learned of yourself and your mate and remember your thoughts for all of time. Best of luck to you both! I’m truly excited for you.

  • kayakgirl73

    Great post. I wish you all the best. As a follow IF suffer, I know how bad IF sucks. Hugs.

  • You two are kind of inspiring, you know that? x

  • Lturtle

    This is amazingly positive in the face of true difficulty, but sometimes that’s all you can do. Look at the shitstorm around you and acknowledge “this sucks, but it will get better.” At least that’s how I see it.
    We have spent the last couple years dealing with unemployment/underemployment, illness/disability and a troubled, sometimes violent, child. But we tell each other that we know things will be ok, because if we can make it through this we can make it through anything life throws at us.

  • Estrella

    Thanks for posting this. I so admire your courage and resilience. And I completely understand what you’re saying. The first time I felt truly married was a year and a half after the *big day*. The look in my husband’s eyes as he held my hand while undergoing a DNC after loosing the heartbeat on our babe was enough to reassure me that yep, everything was going to be just fine. In that moment, everything shifted. Doesn’t mean the hard stuff won’t keep coming, but I know that we can handle it and can come out loving each other even more in the process. The two of you have been through a crap load of suckage and wow, your hope and belief in yourself and each other is truly inspiring. Here’s to all the awesome APW vibes being sent your way!

  • I really hope that you are now together. Thanks for sharing this with us.