Joining up with Seth and Amber for this week’s Marriage Letters: Enduring Loss Together. I always feel self-conscious writing about my marriage in such a public space, but reading others’ heartfelt efforts to prioritize their marriages reminds me that we were never meant to live out our most important relationships in seclusion. Honesty leading to encouragement—this is community, yes? Here’s my contribution to it:
Today is a wild, wooly kind of day—rain flung sideways by the handful and winds to rival those which flattened our tent in the Highlands two summers ago. I remember the girls chasing sheep on Glenbrittle Beach that same evening and the absurdity of lumpy farm animals dashing along the waves like William Wallace’s ghost was after them. Of course, come to think of it, he might have been. The storm which roared up that night seemed to have intention in its fury, and we only lasted until first light—dim and rain-lashed as it may have been—before abandoning our plans for the week and fleeing toward the nearest source of hot breakfast.
We’ve had to be flexible in our life together, you and I. Every version of normality we’ve tried constructing for ourselves over the years has ended up as an unfinished roadside attraction, and rained-out camping trips are the least of the sudden losses we’ve had to navigate. We’ve lost jobs, friendships, relatives, and pay-outs. We’ve watched the sure path of our future disappear in an afternoon. Even this morning, unforeseen circumstances came down swift and heavy, and we’re left with a blueprint of rubble, rehearsing again how to let our plans go and move past them together.
I hold that last phrase dear though because of all that’s implied in doing this again, together. We have our own history of upheaval and, though it all, each other’s hand held tightly. Simply knowing that we’re on the same team when the sky falls down turns my anxiety outward, away from me, away from us, and eventually just away. Having you as my teammate, especially when everything else seems to be slipping through my grasp, is one of the greatest gifts of my life. And when the ghosts are placated and the storms settled and the uncompleted plans put to rest, I love you all the more for what we have weathered together.
You’re probably not expecting another marriage post this week given our stalemate conversations over the past few days, and honestly, I wasn’t planning to write this either. Our decade together has been one long series of transitions, yes, but this, learning how to share an office as two dream-chasing freelancers, is a big one. It remaps our individual orbits, and the gravity of being so near each other so much of the time pulls issues out from under the tide-pools. We knew it would be like this, but we’re still taken by surprise when conversations take a nosedive into territory neither of us particularly wants to visit. When we’re down there, neck-deep in brambles, it’s hard to see what we’re doing as progress.
But do you remember all those hours we used to talk perched on the dryers at our university laundromat, and how one evening, you looked at me across the low rumble and I knew? You caught it in my eyes too, weeks later across a tiny restaurant booth, and I didn’t need to say anything. We loved each other, and we knew it.
Yesterday, when you walked in with bits of sky still reflected in your eyes, and I was head to toe in flour rolling gnocchi as a peace offering, we knew it again. Everything shifts when love is the perspective, doesn’t it? With one look, we remember that we’re teammates on the bramble-clearing squad and that this hard work is all part of landscaping our future. We love each other still, and knowing it helps us sweep the stalemate off the board and plop down on it to continue our conversation.
The dryers might have been comfier, but I’d rather be here, now.
I couldn’t help joining up with Seth and Amber Haines another week for Marriage Letters: My Job–Your Job. It’s a beautiful way to prioritize my marriage, even if I did growl at Daniel when I thought he was trying to read the letter over my shoulder. At least I growled with renewed admiration and lovingkindness, right dear?
Eight years after tossing my graduation cap in the air, and I still want to protest that I did not attend university to earn an MRS degree. I was already weaving my plans for world travel when we met my junior year, but I’m not sure anyone was buying that. Possibly because I couldn’t wait a full eight months before marrying you, and possibly because… well, nobody studies English for the lucrative career opportunities.
All the same, I loved the interplay of words enough to hang my résumé on it, and this year, I’ve traded in a paycheck for one-time contracts with page counts. It’s slow work, but it stirs up sparks, warms me from the inside out.
Your work warms you too. I roam our bedroom-office throughout the day, tracking inspiration from my desk to the rocking chair to our bed, while you remain solid and engaged at your own workspace. It’s hard to drag you to meals sometimes, but I know you remember plenty of nights when I’ve foregone dinner for dialogues. We understand each other in this. You research the latest in biomechanical technology and set up training sessions with clients, and I stare out the window looking for sentences among the olive leaves, and our smiles meet halfway across the room.
Pay scales haven’t changed too much though, and unless I dream up the next Harry Potter, it’s unlikely that my writing will ever pull the same financial weight as your engineering. I confess, I often let the thought that your job is more important than my job (which it is, in a putting food on the table sense) morph into dissatisfaction with myself. How many times now have I wailed to you that I am going to stop writing forevermore and devote the rest of my life to scrubbing the ground you walk on with a toothbrush because at least then I’d be accomplishing something useful? (Yes, our girls come by their dramatic streaks honestly.)
Every one of those times in which I despair at the inferiority of my work, I expect you to sigh in relief that finally I’m going to stop wasting all of our time and then request that I just go ahead and tie your shoes while I’m down there. Every time, though, you exceed my expectations by pulling me up, prying the toothbrush out of my fingers, and offering some way you can help me more than you already do. It kills, in a gorgeous, humbling way.
I guess what I have to say about it all is thank you—for giving equal importance to our jobs despite the income disparity, for making my fulfillment in life your own priority, and especially for letting me display my MRS diploma proudly above my B.A.
It was the best career choice I could have made.
You can read last week’s letter here.
Seth and Amber Haines have been sharing letters to each other for the last few weeks, hanging the hard work of marriage up as art, and their love story never fails to inspire the writing of my own. This week, patience:
You don’t know this, but I spent half an hour on my hair this morning. If any day of the year is worth the extra effort to look sexy and glamorous, it’s Valentine’s Day, right? I knew I was ridiculous for pulling out the ruby-tinted lip gloss before breakfast, but date night was already smoldering on my mind, and you know well after nine years that my whimsy is nothing if not ridiculous. It also has good taste in lip gloss.
By 8:30 a.m., all signs were pointing a hot lovin’ kind of day. Only, when I walked out of the bathroom, you said, “I’ll wait to make the coffee until you’re done getting ready.”
“I mean, since your hair is still pinned on top of your head from doing your make up.”
I suddenly felt very slow. “So… you don’t like how I fixed it?”
Oh, my dear one. I could hear your face buckling from the impact of the realization, and you scrambled to salvage an unsalvageable situation. “It, uh… it looks very pretty… in the back… I mean…”
I’d seen that expression once before, on the face of a friend’s fiancé who had just asked me when my third child was due. It’s the look of a man without a time machine.
I don’t make these things easy on you, I know. I retreat from hurt feelings as instinctively as I do from conflict and controversy and furniture placement decisions. For a man who connects best through brave words and open eyes, it must be especially difficult navigating marriage with an emotional turtle.
Yet you do it so well, husband of mine. You have never tiptoed around the dark parts of our relationship, but you don’t take them by force either; you wait until I’m ready to talk, and then we march into the dark together. It is this willingness to hold out for together, this inexhaustible patience, that has turned me into a woman who comes out of hiding. You make me brave.
Brave enough to grin as I shake out the hair pins (loose hair is its own kind of sexy and glamorous, yes?) and let your intentions speak louder than words. Brave enough to reapply ruby lip gloss after my coffee. Brave enough to go out this evening with open eyes and unhidden words for the man whose patience won me over a long time ago.
It’s going to be a good date night.