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