How Marriage Changes Over The Years and How Our Language Doesn’t Always Help Us Define Then Roles We Inhabit in Our Lives

So, I’ve written several posts about my marriage and its current state.

In yesterday’s post, I was ready to cast off my marriage. My husband knows how I feel about our marriage. He has known for a while, since June 2022, that the marriage itself will not last. We’ve laid our cards on the table regarding how we both feel and what has happened to us and to each other individually over the years to know that the marriage is irrepairable. 

When I say I want the marriage over, it’s not a revelation I’m just coming to.

But something shifted in me yesterday.

I went downstairs after I was done journaling and then writing my blog post. I was writing and synthesizing my experiences for 6 hours yesterday. I thought I had it all worked out. I was going to cast off both my husband and my marriage.

He convinced me otherwise.

We talked, again.

Sometimes it seems like we talk so much and say change is coming and we end up in the same place in about 6-8 weeks: angry at one another and me expressing my frustrations with him and him saying he’ll change and then he changes a little and we are right back to where we are.

Yesterday was different.

I told him that I thought we should do things separately now, and live our lives separately while we continue to live in the same house as we pay down debt and get things in order for when we do divorce and separate our lives.

This wasn’t news to him about the impending divorce of a legal marriage between two people. We know we will move on from one another. 

But something was different. Yesterday he expressed how he was feeling and asked for what he wanted. 

He was fighting for me.

He’s a very emotionally unavailable man. He doesn’t express his emotions hardly ever. He pushes his feelings down and doesn’t deal with them or express them. 

I tried to push him away and cast him out of my life because sometimes it’s just too much and in moments of anger and rage, all I can see is my anger and rage. I don’t often see the friendship we have or the love that we do have for one another. The mutual respect and admiration we have for one another that has evolved over the years.

He does see that more clearly than I can see it sometimes.

There’s an 11 year age gap between us, in case you haven’t read my other posts. That age gap matters here. He has more life experience than me, and his wisdom benefitted us both yesterday when I was ready to throw it all away because all I could see was my anger and rage, and his wisdom won me over. 

He said, “I know the marriage is over. I used to hope it would come back, but I know it’s over and that one day you will leave and probably move out of the country. But that doesn’t mean we have to lose each other as friends. We’ve become one another’s best friend. I like doing activities with you now, and I don’t want to lose that. I don’t want to lose you. I don’t want that. I don’t want to live in this house with you and not speak to one another.”

He’s never fought for me like that or spoken quite that emphatically before. 

I think my age, even though I often identify as an old soul, holds me back in our friendship and relationship, and I can’t always see what he sees because I haven’t lived as long as he has lived. I don’t have the gift of that much perspective in life to see what REALLY matters at the end of the day. He can see beyond his anger at me in a way I can’t always see things.

I’m grateful that he brought it to my attention yesterday. He talked me off of the cliff of throwing everything we’ve built over the years and our friendship out of my life. At the end of the day I apologized to him for treating him like crap and for wanting to just chuck him out of my life like that. I apologized for being so mean and thanked him for his perspective. 

Being in recovery and going through it together is an emotional roller coaster at times. Sometimes there are moments of great anger. Other times there are moments where you feel like you’re getting so much better, making so much progress and you’re never going backwards in time to your old ways again. Sometimes there are hiccups and you bounce back to your old life and ways of behaving that used to serve you but you don’t stay there as long as you used to because it doesn’t serve you or control you anymore. 

So, he asked me if we could keep trying. When he stated he didn’t want to lose me, I could see that I mattered to him in a way I hadn’t seen before. He’d never expressed his feelings to me of not wanting to lose me. I didn’t believe I mattered or our friendship mattered that much to him. I didn’t realize how much he enjoyed our time that we do spend together as friends.

We enjoy each other more now and we spend more time together. We’ve settled into being companions and each other’s best friend. We both know the marriage we had isn’t coming back. 

I was watching Brenè Brown’s Atlas of the Heart show on HBOMax. I’ve seen it before, but I wanted to go back and rewatch it. There are multi-language speakers in the audience of her show that talk about how language affects the words of emotion and how the English language lacks words for emotions. Like, when I say my husband and I love each other, it’s a different kind of love than we had when we first met and when we got married 10 years ago in April 2012. The love we have for one another now has evolved to a friendship-type of love, but it goes deeper than that. It’s not romantic love anymore. It goes deeper than friendship-love, yet all we have to describe it is the word love in the English language. There are other languages that have many words in their vocabulary to describe the different kinds of love. But English is pretty limited. One word like love can have so many different meanings. Without the right language, how do we communicate our emotions properly?

I think I get confused in my own marriage about love. The word marriage, or union or partner. That is confusing to me too. Another example is marriage or wife or husband. The language around those words has changed in meaning over the years. The original Minimalists, Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus both have life partners that they refer to as their wives or spouses, yet, they always say they aren’t legally married to their chosen life partners. They always use the words wife or spouse to refer to their partners because it’s easier than saying my fiancé or my girlfriend. 

It changes the way I think about the word wife, husband, partner, friend and marriage. My husband and I were the same way as Josh and Ryan and their partners/spouse/wives. We’ve been legally “married” for 10 years, but we’ve been truly “married”, or together as partners, for 18 years and have never been apart for more than a few months of separation in 2010. We called one another boyfriend and girlfriend, then fiancé, then exes, then friends, then fiancé again, then spouses, but now what? Married but friends? The words we have available to us don’t really help to define what we’ve become to one another. Even when we do divorce, we COULD still live together and have it be like we are still married. So, what would be the point in divorcing?It’s so odd. We are more than surface-level friends, but not lovers. We are best friends, but our love for one another goes deeper than that. I guess you could call us companions. Yet none of those words really describe our situation, our “marriage” or present situation, as to whatever the word “marriage” is defined as these days. There must be another word for two people who deeply admire each other but aren’t romantically involved anymore. What’s the word for that? It makes it hard to define, and sometimes can be really confusing when you’re the one struggling to come up with words to make sense of what your relationship has evolved into now and you don’t have the right words to express it because there isn’t a word to help you label your situation and say, “ok, this is what I have with this person now.”

The words may not matter in every situation, but when you’re looking for answers and trying to express how you feel and what’s coming up for you, words DO matter. The right words matter when you’re communicating how you feel to another person.

So, we told one another how we both felt as best we could. We agreed to keep going on as “best friends”. We are going to keep figuring things out and spending time together. As much as I want to cast the fighting and the old marriage out of my life, I can’t cast out my feelings for my best friend.

If you read my post about Monster and dogs and how they love you unconditionally and how I haven’t found that in people yet, I was wrong. I did find that in a person. I found it with my husband. No matter what, this man accepts me for who I am, purple hair and all. He accepts I’m shy and quiet and he’s never tried to change me at my core. Same is true for me with him. He drives me crazy, but I’ve never tried to change the person he is at his core. I may not love his need to hold onto everything he owns, but I’ve also never given him an ultimatum to get rid of his stuff or just disrespected his wishes and gotten rid of his stuff that I see little value in. I accept him for who he is, stuff and all. 

Sometimes my anger and rage and the age difference we have gets in the way. Yesterday his wisdom saved us. He got me to see past my anger and rage and he showed me I mattered to him and that he didn’t want to see what our relationship has evolved into end. While we don’t have words to describe exactly where our relationship is right now, it is still a relationship even though it’s not the proper definition of the word. 

I laid down my anger and rage yesterday. We went out for a hike. We came back laughing, happy and regulated. Nature always helps us out. Movement helps soothe us, align us and reset and re-sync us. We go from dysregulated and dysfunctional and move back to happy and best friends. 

Recovery has been filled with highs and lows. Sometimes I feel like I’m going crazy with rage and other times it leaves me feeling crazy with happiness and high on life.

And so, I’ll let it be. Whatever it is that we have now vs. what we had in the past and how it’s evolved and though I don’t have the right words for it, I’ll just let whatever “it’ is be.