Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Inside a Marriage After an Emotional Apocolypse

When Dave and I met, he was 22 and I was 27.  We met in one of the most foreign and beautiful countries on earth and we fell in love.  We had fun.  We laughed.  We swam in oceans and ate delightful things.  We sent long emails to each other and talked about life after Japan.

Then we moved together to England.  We had a transitional phase (read, we fought a lot) then we adjusted and grew into each other.  Adjustment gave way to confidence and acceptance and we became engaged.  We travelled to Rome and I discovered Europe.  Again, we ate breathtaking food, walked hand in hand all over the country and met Chuck D.

When we moved up to Scotland, the ease that had accompanied us in our preceding 3 years together disappeared and tension was a more constant companion.  He hated his job, I didn't like mine.  We lived in a good flat in a bad part of town.  I commuted 3 hours a day and hated it.  But the love was still there and while we had no social life, we loved our time together.  We planned a beautiful wedding and had a mini-moon.  But our hearts were not as happy as they had been.  Despite this, we planned for a baby.  Perhaps it wasn't the best of times, but it worked like a charm and we looked forward to her while being sick of life in the town where Dave was born.

Then she died.

And we've been tripping over our feet ever since.

The last 15 months since we lost Isla have been so indescribably difficult from an emotional, physical and psychological point of view. In regards to our marriage, we never dreamed of being where we are when we sunned on rocks by the river in rural Japan.  There have been times over the last year where we have been sick of each other.  That connection we felt so sure of has been strained by our grief.  It's a strange thing - to be simultaneously comforted by the person who understands you and your loss better than anyone else in the world and also want to be as far away from them as humanely possible.

The old us have gone.  We are completely different people.  There are shadows of our former personalities we can illuminate when we need to, but fundamentally, we are strangers to ourselves and to each other.  We have had some raw discussions, words and feelings that feel like bare-knuckled hits to our hearts.  Dave's eyes are no longer as shiny as they used to be.  My self-confidence ebbs at a low level and consequently, I need him to prop up my ego in a way that embarrasses me.

Marriage is hard, yo.  People say it all the time.  It's true.  It's about give and take, being high when he's low.  Watching your words.  Being kind even when you want to choke each other.  It's about thinking about the other person all the time and loving him all the time (liking him all the time is optional).

We're not going to get a divorce.  That's simply not an option nor has it ever been a consideration.  We're just starting over.  We've been together in Toronto now for 4 months.  We've transitioned for the last time.  There is no talk of "when this happens" or "when that happens".  It's just now.  We're working on ourselves and our relationship because it's the most important thing to us right now.

I finally read "The Happiness Project"as per Anna's recommendation and because my boss had a copy.  I didn't love it  because the author was already happy; she just wanted to be happier.  I think I'd be more pleased if it had been written by a person who had been devastated then learned a few things to be happy again.  I did, however, take away a few tenets that I've moulded to fit my life now:
1) Be brave.
2) Be kind.
3) Cut people slack.
4) Be selfish when you need to be.
5) Breathe.

I have been trying to remember and applying these things every time I talk to my husband.  He in turn is relaxing more which makes me relaxed.  We hug each other longer and sit closer together on the couch.  I'm listening to him more.  He's the father of my daughter and my partner in life.  I vowed to always save him the big piece of chicken and to be his safe place, and he vowed to unball his socks before throwing them in the laundry basket and to love me always and forever.  I love him more than anything.  I've decided to add his last name to my own.  We are a family.  I couldn't imagine going through all this with anyone else in spite it all. 


  1. Thanks for being so open. I'm glad that you guys are sticking together. Hm... Reading this helped me today. Thanks.

  2. I also think its great that you are being so open and working through your emotions. Its amazing that you two are sticking together through all of this. I think that's what marriage is all about. My husband and I are reading a book right now called "The Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman and we're finding it quite good so far. I recommend it if you're up for reading another book. If you end up checking it out, let me know what you think. Keep writing :)

  3. This was probably the most raw and real post I have read in a long time. It ain't all roses and this is life for a good many of people all around the world. God's blessings to you all.

  4. This week was hard for us in that, we were more open about our life after our son's death... We've been living in a new city for 4 weeks and my husb has been in law school for 2 weeks. Stress is all around.
    I know we are processing differently, I'm extroverted and husb is introverted. I know this. It is hard to accept though. It is hard for me to feel ok talking about our son when my dear, sweet heart-broken husb gets a weird look on his face when I bring up our Atticus. My mouth feels silenced.
    I went to sleep angry and hurt over 100 different things. The next day we re-entered the conversation from a place of respect and compromise and he shared a letter he had written to our son after I'd fallen asleep.
    In it, he told Atticus that we were stuck. That we'd spent all this time and energy and love building a home for him and without him here... we didn't know how to leave or if we should leave. That we can't bear to leave him behind, even knowing he is always with us. And in so doing, we're jabby and disgruntled and unsure. We love one another deeply, but we're frustrated with reality. We feel torn down at times. It was so easy before... Easy to imagine being together forever. Easy to imagine our dream would continue infinitely. And now, it is hard. And it is work with some teaspoons of sweetness. Like tectonic plates edging by one another...
    I know we aren't in line for divorce. We're together. We're a team. Just a team that rolls their eyes a lot more than we used to...

  5. Your profile picture captures your strength, courage, beauty and tender soul. It is not an easy path this one we tread and I understand the raw pain you feel like it was yesterday. Every new day you are making a little headway, although it's often hard to believe. Sending you a huge star to guide you through the good and bad times and know that Isla is in every breath that you take. With love Xxx

  6. You are so courageous to write so close to the bone. And your wisdom is a gift. We may cross paths on the streets of Toronto and I'll nod in thanks.

  7. Really happy you wrote this Kaki, for yourself, and for us readers who also struggle in our marriages. You are so right, it's freaking hard. And terribly ironic at times. But we must prevail, live in the present moment, and try not to be a bitch (not easy).

    Would love to catch up over the phone soon.

  8. Thanks for all your kind words. They help me remember the love in the world and that I'm worthy of it.

  9. thank you for expressing your thoughts so openly. i just got engaged and it's so good to hear that other couples struggle, but are committed to making it work. take care.