I haven’t written much about my marriage lately.
My friend, Antoinette, and her three children came to visit a few weeks ago and when I mentioned Gil in conversation, she timidly asked, “So…how are you guys?”
I took a deep breath and attempted to center myself before answering. I can be joltingly transparent and don’t like withholding even highly personal information from my friends, but this marriage-trouble stuff is a beast I’ve never wrestled. My gut is telling me to tread lightly and share minimally — especially in a wide-open public space with our children in earshot.
Piers and Wallace know that lately things aren’t all roses and sunshine between Mom and Dad. I’ve told them that we love them and are committed to being the best parents we can be and that we’re trying to figure out the best solution for all of us. I’m partial to honesty, and their well-being and helping them through this transition is my biggest priority. It’s tricky and not ideal, but we’re all doing the best we can as we navigate this unconventional co-existence.
Gil, on the other hand, says nothing but has been short on patience of late. He works a lot, takes the kids to the trampoline park, the pool, and anywhere else that’s fun and active when he’s around, and avoids any conversation resembling the touchy-feelies that make him squirm in his seat.
What the kids don’t know is that Mom and Dad’s money is all tied up in two houses and there’s no way in hell that we can afford a third residence. If that were an option, Dad would not be living here.
They don’t know that we’re going to lose a great deal of money on our house when we do sell it because the market in that area is not great, which means we likely won’t be in a position to afford two residences for some time. What we’re doing now is managing (thankfully), but money’s not exactly popping up on the magnolia out front.
They don’t know that their father is a bit impulsive and self-destructive and that the concept of a budget is lost on him, so the little amount of money that I bring home is typically used up paying for long-past spending sprees. Gil and I also have different interpretations of needs and wants. Neither of us is especially stellar with finances, though we’ve both come a long way. Point being: we’ll likely have to live together for awhile if we want to stay in Savannah (we do.)
I’m pretty close to having Piers and Wallace go back to sharing a bedroom because if I don’t get some decent sleep and a better setup for my office, then I sure as heck won’t be able to bring more money in, and we’ll be living together forever.
But I wasn’t ready to get into the hairy details with Antoinette at the neighborhood pool, so I responded to her question with a vague yet relevant reply:
“We’re in a holding pattern.”
Antoinette is one of my more thoughtful and pensive friends, far from a chatty-Cathy. She uses language sparingly which makes her remarkably poignant. She got that soulful look on her face which let me know she got it and wouldn’t press me further for details. She’s awesome like that.
“Huh…that’s an exellent way to put it. I’d gander that lots of marriages are in a holding pattern right along with you guys.”
As I thought about it further, I mentally acknowledged the accuracy of that metaphor.
We can’t go anywhere, but we can’t land this jet due to circumstances outside our control, so we continue to circle…waiting for clearance. The only problem is that some days I feel like this plane is quickly running out of fuel.
One of the most frustrating parts I’m finding about splitting up when there are kids involved is that you never know how anyone is going to react — even your closest friends. You withhold the most pertinent details fearing judgment like never before — at least that’s been my experience. Judge me all you want, but it’s much harder when my parenting is questioned.
It might be better for you, but is it really best for your children? People say or seem to say.
And really, let’s face it; nobody goes into marriage thinking they’re gonna split up — okay, some do I suppose, but the majority of people, I like to believe, expect that things will work out.
I certainly believed Gil and I would be together til death did us part, when we joined together in holy matrimony on that sweltering summer day that now feels like a million moons ago.
The two of us are unconventional and I, especially, balk all things traditional — all that holy matrimony business was a formality to pacify our more religious relatives. Chalk that on up to things you do when you’re twenty-five and have a lot of growing up to do. That’s not the case for all youngsters, but it certainly applied to me. And even though I didn’t need a huge ceremony and all the formalities, I truly believed that we were a perfect fit and would sail smoothly into a life together.
Even still, when you strip everything away except for the two of us, there’s a lot of love left, which likely explains the deep, aching sadness buried deep inside my soul.
In some ways I think Gil and I are too much a like. We’re offbeat and lovable, and while many people don’t understand us, they pulled for us — the cute, quirky misfits who found a home in each other and made it work until it just couldn’t for another minute, likely because we’re more individually broken than we let on.
As far as my explanation to Antoinette, I never offered one. She assumed that in regards to the holding pattern, I simply meant that Gil and I were in a phase of life where there was no time to focus on our marriage — we were plowing through, and once most of the career-building and raising of head-strong children steadied, we’d land the plane and move forward happily, stronger than ever perhaps.
I couldn’t help but ponder her notions, albeit briefly.
Is that what’s going on with us?
Yes, but there’s much more to it. Relationships are complicated. The circumstances surrounding life are murky, and we long for clarity.
Viewing my current reality, marriage issues and other, as a holding pattern, has been strangely comforting and works for a number of life situations.
Our house will sell, and we won’t be wedged in this too-small space forever.
As for how to tell people, well, I’m dipping my toe in gradually, and my approach is case by case, but I no longer feel this dire need for some grand announcement.
There’s more to say — isn’t there always? But I’m emotionally spent and need to stop.
I like talking about it here. It’s semi-private and something about the blogging community feels supportive in a heathy but detached way — it’s like my readers are sitting with my pain and holding space for me and my abundant and complicated emotions.
I started this post talking about kombucha, and it’s evolved into something else altogether. I guess I needed to give words to some heavy stuff I’ve been carrying.
I’m deeply grateful for this space.