When I did my first round of questions and answers on instagram I received a few questions on Alex and my relationship. (I answered some). People were curious to know how we got past the previous junk and moved forward. And some, who maybe haven’t been reading my blog as long as many of you guys wanted to know if I had a post on what even happened– about coming back together after single parenting and the splitting and coming together of our relationship and marriage.
The thing is, I don’t have a post that outlines all the hard shit I went through (or we went through) together. The trials of my life aren’t a concrete “how to” post. And I think what was most confusing for me was that it seemed like some people almost expected my life to be this way. Like, instead of a series of real life moments (and journals), that there could be one post that summed up the rise and fall (and rise and fall and rise and fall) and coming together of our entire relationship. There isn’t. The hard stuff wasn’t just one moment in time that I could round-up. The hard stuff was the real struggles and trials of my life, lasting for a few years longer than anyone would want.
This post wont sum up all the all the rise and falls. And it can’t give a concrete answer to how we moved past the hard memories and triggers into a working relationship. There were definitely moments together that were stronger and more defining, but many of them were after the fact. There isn’t one moment or one solution to how we came together and made it work. It happened, like life does: over time.
I was instructed to print and fill out forms after my first phone call with what could be a future therapist for me. Something for her to go over on our first meeting together. Basic questions about who I am and what I feel in my life. A few questions about my personal relationships around me. For her, being able to see if my closet relationships were healthy and thriving was a good indicator of my overall life. Mother? “Good. We talk pretty often, sometimes rocky, but overall, good.” Dad? “Good. A quiet relationship, but I’d travel with him if he wants.” — A positive sign for sure. Brother? “Also quiet, but probably the first person I’d call if I was in trouble and Alex wasn’t around.” Also a good sign. Overall, everyone was good.
And then the question: “How would you rate your marriage on a scale of 1 to 10?”
I thought about our marriage: Where we started and how I felt in the last, very difficult year of struggles.
And I struggled with this question. Not because I was unsure about how I felt about Alex. And not because our relationship is complicated. It is, but it isn’t. I struggled because it’s hard for to truly give any sort of rating to anything. How much do I like your shoes on a scale of 1 to 10? I have no idea. Placing a very specific number on a feeling or even concrete tangible thing is HARD for me. File this under: my underlying intense fear of committing to anything.
Did it need to be a whole number? Could I do a half number? Did it even really matter? And so without over-extending myself and without the ability to give a concrete whole number. I labeled us: 8.5
That’s pretty good. Good for us and our history. Good for any relationship really.
Alex walked in the room moments later. I turned over my questionnaire and looked up at him asking, “What would you rate our marriage on a scale of 1 to 10 right now?”
He looked nervous. “Oh, I’m not sure. That’s sort of tough to rate. Maybe an 8? Or an 8.5? What did you give us? A 6?” He half laughed. Maybe half serious at his question, nervous to have given me an answer without seeing mine first.
I turned over my paper.
In my giant, child like writing: 8.5.
And we both agreed, that’s pretty damn good.
And so here we are now. In a place that’s both comfortable, positive, and very rewarding.
Because there were many times that this thing was not going to work. And straight didn’t work. And times we fell apart. And times where we screamed. And fought. And lied. And broke apart. And many, many times where I just fell out and didn’t want to be in it any more.
We didn’t arrive to an 8.5 over night. And I think a lot of people will tell you that marriage is hard a takes a lot of work. And that’s true and it isn’t. Marriage is hard, until you get through the hard stuff. Until you find yourself and your place in a co-existing relationship. Our marriage isn’t hard anymore. It’s not perfect and some days aren’t as easy as others, but it isn’t hard. And it is not a constant balance of hard and easy for us.
We’re here in this place not only because we wanted to build a working relationship, but because we wanted to better ourselves. And building yourself is half (if not more) of any properly working relationship. Yes, we are here in this place because we both worked hard to build a working relationship, but also because we changed ourselves. I changed. He changed. We both passively and activity changed.
Alex had to stop lying. Alex had to work on many of his own personality flaws. Alex had to work on his healthy and unhealthy relationships and how he affected them and how they affected him. Alex had to work on his overall demeanor and outlook on life. And more.
I had to change too. I had to change my view and false expectations of him (and maybe people as a whole). I had to let go of all the anger and resentment I held. And not use it against him in arguments. I had to learn to more effectively communicate. I had to learn to not run. And more.
It was only a few months before we left for Guatemala that I can say we really started to come together. Much But not all) of beginning mess of our relationship was due to Alex. He knows it. I know it. And the reality is, as much as I said I wanted a family with him in the years in between, I couldn’t ever fully step in either creating a constant tension too. I was scared of being hurt again. I was fed up. And at some point, about a year before our move I became truly indifferent to all of it. Nothing, not love or anger could keep me going.
I had slowly been changing over time. Working on being mindful. Working on letting in the things that would benefit me or I could grow from. And letting go of the things I could not change. It was a slow process of growing. And for myself, I stepped out from all of it. I could not change him. And if he didn’t want to change himself, then I would not fight. I would not argue. I would accept it and move on.
Whether Alex was intentionally working on himself in this time or not, I have no idea. I knew he wanted in. He wanted things to work. So I imagine he aimed to fix the things he could, but I can’t say for certain. And time (maybe a few months) passed of us living in the same home, but separate, with different goals in mind. And in time, without expecting it, I saw changes. Real ones. Drastic ones. After a few weeks (or months or however long it was), it was like a light turned on. And again, I can’t give you a magic answer to how or why things started working. But they did. Little changes. He changed his diet (this created a big crazy change in myself a few years earlier too) and his mood shifted too. He was working on compartmentalizing the issues in his life and how he would approach them vs. how they would affect the other aspects in his life. He was making efforts and changing and for the first time in years his actions matched his words.
Show someone, dont tell them what your relationship means to you.
He was. And slowly, we stepped back in together. Even sitting here, I can’t give you exact moments or days or weeks when we came together, it hardly was a moment in time, but more of a series of actions. But at some point we had both made enough changes where we were stepping back in, not because we felt we had to or needed to, but because we truly wanted to.
And we’ve been passively and actively working on ourselves and our relationship ever since.
I’d say another big turning point (for myself especially) was last years pregnancy and miscarriage. You guys know, I was happy to have one child for a multitude of reasons. But I do think that one big, unspoken reason in not wanting to ever move forward in another pregnancy was: fear. Yes, I’m not sure I trusted Alex enough. But I’m also not sure that I trusted myself enough either. I worried that I would use the past hurt and the painful feelings that could come up (in a future pregnancy) against him. I worried that I would be in a second pregnancy and continually angry and bitter for the first one he missed.
Last years pregnancy proved that wasn’t the case. While only 13 weeks long, and ending in a hard way, our pregnancy was healing for many parts of our relationship. Alex was there, by my side, experiencing so much of what he missed before. And not once did I find anger or hurt in these moments. Did the past disappear? No. The reality of the past was still there, but it wasn’t the focus. The focus was the present and the future. And that said a lot to me (and us) about how we’ve grown– and especially how I’ve grown.
Of course, I would never recommend a pregnancy as a healing tool for a relationship. That’s not typically how that stuff works. We were in a good place when the pregnancy happened… and the experience made it stronger. Had this happened at an earlier point in our relationship, I’m not sure if it would have made us stronger or pulled us apart completely again. I can’t say, but I think it’s better that we never risked a pregnancy sooner.
We do both share pains from last years pregnancy and miscarriage. Alex had a small taste of what he missed out on the first time. And so did I. His pain lies in the deeper reality of how special a pregnancy can be and that he can’t change the past he missed out on. And that still hurts him. My pain lies in the fact that I can’t give him what we almost had– what he and we missed out on.
I can say, with confidence, that I’m not angry about the past anymore. I can’t change it. Of course, I wish it were different. And I’ve certainly cried into Alex’s arms that I can’t change the order in which life unfolds. But I’m not angry at him any more for his past faults and present flaws. We’re both human, flawed, and growing. And on most days, we’re both doing our best. I can’t change the past and I don’t need to.
We’re at an 8.5 right now. And growing.