November 28, 2016
Generally Speaking, I Love My Husband—Until I Don’t
I am 28 years old and have been married for almost two years. He is a great partner—we laugh together, he supports me in my every endeavor, our families get along, and we have the same interests. Generally speaking, I love him. Except for when I don’t. When I’m down on him, I think I married a pansy; a loser; a negative, high-strung, and paranoid basket case. In these times I’m almost embarrassed—I feel like I was a pretty cool girl who settled for someone way beneath herself. I question whether to even have kids with someone this neurotic, depressed, anxious, and judgmental of others. I go through regular cycles of being head over heels in love with him and cycles where his every move annoys me. Each phase lasts a few weeks and then it suddenly flips 180 degrees. Is this normal? What should I do?
Generally Speaking I Love Him
Dear Generally Speaking I Love Him,
Are you sure your husband is the anxious one? That it is him who is depressed, neurotic, and judgmental? I’m not. Sounds like you’re struggling, too. Maybe the “in sickness and in health” stuff you signed up for when you walked down the aisle two years ago is starting to make you unsettled. Life together forever. Yikes.
It was a whole different story in the beginning, wasn’t it? When you were falling in love and your future was up ahead like a field of flowers. Everything was sparkly and new, just like the ring on your finger. Then the reality of “till death do us part” kicked in. The future-as-a-field-up-ahead is no longer a fantasy; it is right now and it’s actually really hard. Work is wildly stressful. It’s impossible to find the time to wash your sheets, let alone lay in them side by side, spooning.
Falling in love, generally speaking, is a book of empty pages. The story has yet to be written. All you know is that you will do it together and it will be beautiful. You have vowed to fulfill each other’s every dream and need. You will have children and money and endless joy. You will conquer the world. You will always hold hands. But then the story takes a strange turn. The two of you can’t agree on how the next chapter should start. It’s the two of you, stubborn as fuck, stuck at a crossroads. What now?
The easy answer to your question is this: Do nothing. What you’re feeling is totally normal. Men are annoying, they don’t understand nuance, they pee on the toilet seat, the first year of marriage sucks, et cetera, et cetera. You don’t have to bail because of it. Your husband is who he is—neurosis, judgment, and anxiety included. This is who he has always been. You just couldn’t see it when you were falling in love with him; you didn’t want to—you were too busy being blinded by all the bright and shinies. Who could blame you?
But there’s another not-so-easy answer. And it starts with acceptance. You start by accepting that questioning your marriage wasn’t what you signed up for. Accepting your husband on his terms, warts and all. Accepting the cycle of your love for him—that some days it’s “wedded bliss” and other days it’s “what the fuck?” Accepting that he is not going to change.
Now ask yourself, can I handle it?
There’s only one way to know: Change yourself. Pick up a meditation practice. Dedicate yourself to soul-searching, vision questing, The Artist’s Way, all of it. Get a therapist. Get a shaman. Get all New Age and see where it takes you. Time to turn on the light and take a long look in the mirror.
I would guess that all the traits in him you claim to hate are really dark parts in yourself that you’d rather not deal with. Focusing on his flaws is an epic waste of your time; the ultimate distraction from your next right action. It’s time to root around in the nucleus of your own emotional DNA, look for what you love in there, and claim it—then do the work to make the parts of yourself you don’t like go away.
It’s not easy. Well into my 20s, I found myself unprepared for life, having never learned to stick anything out, and I was scared. Then I found yoga. I had dabbled in sports over the years, but I always peaced out once the game got tough. Yoga was different, though. There was no game. It was me and my mat. I returned day after day, month after month.
My practice took me places: to graduate school; to the depths of my soul; to a thatched shanti shack in India where I practiced my series two poses during monsoon season in summer. Suddenly six years had passed and I was still doing the same thing at the same place every single day, only now everything was different. Because I showed up on a stupid rubber mat every day in linty leggings! Literally! I committed. Shut up, showed up, found strength and peace and power. That daily practice dragged me into the light of day, and my world changed because of it.
I wish I could say I’m still practicing yoga at sunrise seven days a week. Only I can’t. Eventually I screwed up my back. I had two kids. Now I do Pilates. But just like my new practice, my life and my relationships are still under constant scrutiny. Does it feel good? Does it hurt? Why am I doing what I’m doing? Is it worth it? Another word of advice: Don’t let anyone tell you you’re too early in your marriage to do couples therapy. It the opposite of bubbles and bling, just two people in two chairs in one room, raw with discomfort, trying their best to wrest the right words. Communication can be such a drag. But it’s essential.
You’ve got to keep reckoning. With your psychic demons, your partner, the spirit of the universe, all of it. Maybe one day you’ll wake up and be like: “I want out.” Maybe one day you’ll wake up, more certain than ever that he’s your soul mate, worth all of the work, and you will devote yourself wholeheartedly to it till the age of 98, when you’re holding his hand at your 70th wedding anniversary celebrating everlasting love and surrounded by gratitude and great-grandchildren. But you won’t know until you start digging deep.
You can have what you ask for, Diane di Prima once said. Ask for everything. And start asking the real questions. One day your heart will tell you how to take the next step. But first: Honor the truth. Get quiet. Get fearless. Get to know who you are.
Originally published on vogue.com, September 6th, 2016