“Can two people be in love forever?”

by renegademama

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“Can two people be in love forever?” – CL

 

Dear CL,

First, I don’t know shit about marriage.

Second, I somehow ended up in a happy one.

Overall. Generally speaking. Mostly.

As you may have observed, cohabitating with one human is never fun all the time and anyone who says it is is definitely lying. I realize these fabricators seem real on Instagram with their sun-kissed beach photos, but All-the-Time-Blissful Marriage is not a fucking thing.

Generally Happy with your Life Partner, though, IS a thing.

And that’s the thing I have.

 

I’m not sure how or why we ended up here, and while I’d like to say we fell in love got married bought a house and built a life in some organized trajectory of soul-mate goal-setting, the truth is we did everything wrong.IMG_8045

Well, apparently not everything. I mean, look at George. >>>

We met too soon, had a kid too early, and separated for a year or two, here and there. And yet, on December 19 we will celebrate our 14th anniversary, and I will probably think “Well I’ll be damned, I’m happy,” and I love him, a lot, even more than 14 years ago, which surprises me, and feels odd.

Sometimes, I want to kick him in the shins because he drives me around the bend. But I don’t want him gone. And I never think of my life without him because I don’t want it. At the last, he’s my best friend, and I like hanging out with him, and I like the life we’ve got going together, and that’s enough for me.

So I don’t know if people can be in love forever. I don’t know much about marriage or love, but I’ll tell you everything I’ve learned so far.

 

I think we’re sold a lie about marriage and romance. I think it starts with romantic comedies. I think we grow to believe “real love” looks like the first 6 months of a relationship extended over a lifetime.

I think that’s bullshit.

I think we’re told that if our love doesn’t look like the end of a Meg Ryan movie, all the time, even 7 years into it, there’s something wrong with our relationship, when actually nobody’s love looks like that. So in other words, YES, there is in fact something wrong with it.

There is always something wrong with it. The point is to get okay with the shit that’s wrong, or leave. We spend so much time trying to “fix” what’s wrong. What about asking ourselves “Can I live with what’s wrong?” And if the answer is “no,” then I guess we work like hell to get better, or we leave.

But often, I’ve found, the answer is “yes.” I can live with that. It’s not perfect, but it’s okay. It’s not a deal-breaker.

I think a lot of Happy Marriage rests in letting shit go that doesn’t matter, even though our egos may tell us it super dupes matters. And this extends to personality flaws. Sometimes giant ones. For example, my tendency to yell and swear-off our marriage altogether at least twice a year, and his, well, flaws. I’m sure they’re there.

I jest. He’s not perfect. But I don’t feel compelled to put Mac up here on the chopping block since he can’t defend himself. I will say, “He will never be the man who straightens the fringe on the carpet” (we have no carpet with fringe but I’m using that as a metaphor people). He will never be the one carefully planning shit in our lives (wait. I don’t do that either. WHERE IS OUR FAMILY PLANNER? Oh right. Ava.) He will probably never organize the garage. He will definitely always forget to put the kids to bed on time.

He will never have the Type A, assertive, GET ER DONE attitude that say, his wife has, and that annoys me sometimes because I can’t do everything! But then again now that I think about it you’re totally going to do it wrong so please just let me do it.

For example, he lives with that. And I live with his tendency to leave giant metal objects on our front lawn. No, leaning against our house. He’s moved on from the lawn.

Improvement!

 

No but seriously, we have some differences in communication (in short, I move IN YOUR FACE and he moves IN HIS SHELL) that are tough, and sometimes we go months in this push-pull thing of me demanding WE ADDRESS SHIT and him pretending I’m not there.

But eventually, we come around. Both of us. He talks to me and I remember I’m sane and the truth surfaces and we end up together, maybe in tears, maybe holding hands or hugging, but for sure remembering who and what and why we’re here, and that we fucking like each other and our kids as a little unit and would rather have each other than not have each other. And that’s our Meg Ryan movie.

We know we will get okay again, and that it will be enough.
I think we’re told our partners need to “fulfill” us. I think this is bullshit. I think we “fulfill” ourselves and bring that to the motherfucking table, as a service to our partner, and ourselves. I don’t want to be responsible for “fulfilling” anybody. I’m a broke-ass broke down human. I can support the shit out of you, and tell you the truth, and be your friend and kiss your lovely lips, but I don’t want your identity on my shoulders. I can hardly handle my own thankyouverymuch.

Nobody can fill the gaping hole in me because they’re too busy running around trying to fill the gaping hole in them and we’re all just pathetic little humans full of fear and wonder and selfishness and I will absolutely let you down. I gotta fill my own shit. I gotta get okay with the tragedy and beauty of my own gut situation before I can look at you, be your friend, your lover, your anything.

I think this is a truth nobody talks about but we should teach in schools: If you want your life to change, look within.

It’s not fun. It’s much more fun to blame everybody us, but in my experience I am pretty much always the problem. Even if I’m in a genuinely fucked-up situation, one may ask “Um, okay Janelle, sure this situation sucks donkey balls, but what got you here in the first place?”

Or, my personal favorite: “Why, pray tell, are you still here if you hate it so much?”

OH FUCK YOU VOICES.

Then again, sometimes things happen for no reason other than because life is a torturous bitch. One IMG_8316day she’s got three of your kids watering the Christmas tree under the light of your son’s headlamp. The next day she’s taking your friend in a car accident. That actually happened. RIP, beautiful Vanessa.

These are times I need you. And you need me. Let’s be there. That matters. That’s friendship and support, not existential fulfillment.

There’s a difference.

 

I spent a long time analyzing Mac’s faults. I spent a long time trying to fix him to meet my expectations, mold him into my vision of Perfect Fulfilling Life Partner. I spent so much time focused on that I failed to see him for what and who he is: A damn good, loving, loyal and kind father and husband. Things started to change when I got so desperate I stopped looking to him to “make me feel good” or “make my life meaningful.” I said “Fuck it. Fuck everything I know about ‘love.’ Fuck the Hallmark cards and Meg Ryan movies. I guess this is it.” I decided to focus more on what I could give than what I could take.

And I finally felt in love. This was weird. I did not understand this.

I think we misunderstand love. We think it flows from outside into us, which is true, we feel it from others, but mostly in my experience if flows from me outward but the effect is the same and I can only see clearly without resentment and expectations and fear. And love is the only thing that gets rid of resentment and expectations and fear. It seems very active to me. Like a choice, not a thing that merely exists or doesn’t exist between two people. It’s not passive. It moves. It lives.

I guess I learned that my ability to love comes from me. Not him.

Love flows out. And then it flows in. Can that last forever? Maybe. I don’t know.

But I think it’s enough for today.

 

I think sometimes we give up too soon. I think sometimes we stay too long. I think it’s hard to face the truth. I think mistakes can end up in beauty. I think sometimes our love gets buried beneath so much fear and resentment we can’t see which fucking way is up. I think sometimes love goes underground and we have to just keep showing up until it pops up again and I think over the years love changes from gazing into each other’s eyes to seeing your whole history in somebody’s eyes and that transition isn’t expected.

One day you look at a man and realize they’ve been with you since you were 21, and damn near all your memories hold their face and rather than a fiery romance of hot sex on the couch your love becomes steadily burning flames in the old woodstove nobody notices, but realize it’s just as powerful and hop in the fucking sack at year 14 of marriage, 4 kids, 2 people, taking it easy in a bit of love.

Can that last forever?

Who the fuck knows. I don’t know about forever. I only know I’m happy to meet him today for falafel, with my other dear friend Sarah.

And that’s enough for now. And old Emily Dickinson says “forever is composed of nows.”

Oh god, I’m quoting poetry. Way to make me soft, CL.

Love,
Janelle

 

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Heyyyyy, there are only 5 spots left in  my January writing workshop.

You should probably grab one of them. Or all five. TELL YOUR FRIENDS.

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more stuff I shouldn't have said out loud:

34 Comments | Posted in Ask Janelle, cohabitating with a man. | December 10, 2015
  • Jessica

    I needed this today. Thanks for being raw like usual.

  • Daddy Scratches

    Kinda needed this. Thanks for writing it.

  • Briana

    Oh thank you so much. I was trying to explain this to a friend the other day, and I just couldn’t. I couldn’t explain how it’s so much of a choice and it all starts with yourself. I just turned 27, and we’ve been together since I was 18. It’s been a crazy ride, but my entire adult life has existed with my husband in it. I am so grateful for the good and bad. The bad forces you to reflect and look inward (growth hurts like a bitch most of the time) and the good, damn it’s just so good.

    And I knew Vanessa. We were friends. We went to Cal together, and I am so sad. I’m applying to graduate school and it doesn’t seem fair. Sending love to all who knew her.

  • katha

    Janelle,
    Thanks for saving my sanity one blog post at a time
    I needed this one.

  • Katrina

    This really resonated with me, thank you so much for sharing! Some days it is really hard to remember.

  • Lucy

    perfect. Shared.

    thank you 🙂

  • Christina

    I love your writing! I WISH I could take your workshop. I teach writing as well, and it would be wonderful to learn from a fellow teacher. Sad to miss out on the workshop….living paycheck to paycheck to put food on the table kinda sucks sometimes.

    Thanks for being you! Rock on!

  • Christina

    I mention your blog on my blog….letsgostreaking.com
    Hope you can check out my blog too sometime.

  • Heidi

    Tragedy and BEAUTY! Thank you, Friend! Happy Anniversary and Merry Christmas!

  • Marianne

    I totally could have written this if I knew how (probably should sign up for your workshop). Married for almost 25 years and I’m finally IN LOVE with my husband now that I’ve let go of fear, resentment, and expectations. Fuck the makers of rom-coms. Love you, Janelle!

  • Diana

    Thanks so much for this post, Janelle!!

  • Joodz

    I’ve been married twice as long as you have. We have survived addictions and alcoholism (his), four kids (plus one more from my previous experiment), being broke and being not broke, the death of my parents and my depression. And a lot more shit. But here we are, still married, still mostly liking each other, and I can’t imagine a world without him.

  • Rita Arens

    My husband and I have been married for 14 years, too, but I’m so much older than you we wouldn’t have been in high school together. It doesn’t matter, because I’m all down with this: “I think over the years love changes from gazing into each other’s eyes to seeing your whole history in somebody’s eyes and that transition isn’t expected.”

    #NailedIt

  • Tessa

    My long time love has always said “they’re all love stories”. Are .

  • Bettie

    George makes it all real. Be yourself. Love yourself.

  • Miriamx

    God, you just get it ….I’m keeping this for my sons when they grow up . Thank you

  • Jennifer

    Yes. My spouse of 12 years (friend-with-benefits of 20 years) and I never had a Meg Ryan movie type of love. Ever. Well maybe when we were drunk one time and held hands in the park. We’re pretty content, 3 kids, house, cat, minivan, later.

  • Karyn

    Thank you again, again and again for your honesty. It always cuts through the bullshit. I don’t have the energy for all that anymore. Xx

  • Elle

    My favourite post yet. I did a lot of reflecting on my relationship at the 2 year-ish mark and read a lot of self-help books- all of which echo everything you just wrote; its about fixing yourself. My needs, my expectations, the pressures I put on him to do better, to know when and how to be there and do the right thing all the time was super unfair and super unrealistic. Even though we were in our late 20’s neither of us had ever settled down and both came from a broken home so we had no idea what we were doing. Those books taught me a lot, mostly about myself. I learned to relax and once again be so grateful that I have this incredibly hilarious, handsome, ambitious man who cares first and foremost about my happiness even though I was so selfish at one point that I couldn’t see that. I had my own issues and I needed to stop projecting them on our relationship and expecting him to fix shield me. Thankfully, he weathered the storm that I was. And no he is not perfect eiher. A love wih hanging on to, needs compromise, and there is a magic in the ability to grow from, and in your relationships. I am so happy we have spent six more years since that questionable time growing together rather than apart. I feel more in love with him all the time. So bloody blessed! And though it’s only been 8 short years, it feels like a lifetime of amazingness.

  • Ellen

    Just simply yes. And Beautiful.

  • C

    Thanks for this. I’m approaching our 10th anniversary but we spent half the year separated, preparing divorce papers, but moved back together over Thanksgiving. I’m happy we’re back but it’s not the crazy wild weeee of getting married or a new bf. It’s going home in more ways than one.

  • Evie

    Well said! .. or i mean typed …. or blogged.. or whatever! Very good! 🙂

  • Lalotus

    I’ve been told the best advice is to just not get divorced. And I’m OK with that many days.

  • Erin

    I’ve come to think over the years that true love is when a person clearly sees all of your flaws and broken parts (the ones you’re too scared to show anyone else) and still chooses, every day, to stay by your side and believe in you. If additionally you get someone who gives you a mother’s day card that reads “I childproofed the house, but they still get in”–well, then you *definitely* know you’ve got a keeper.

  • marjore

    Sigh… you are so damn good. You never fail to dig up the deep stuff in such a real way. I love the idea of love moving outward. What a nice way to go through the (sometimes sucky) world.

    Your post reminded me of Rilke and his glorious view on the subject:

    “The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.”

    And also this:

    “For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation. I hold this to be the highest task for a bond between two people: that each protects the solitude of the other.
This is the miracle that happens every time to those who really love: the more they give, the more they possess.”

    Condolences on the loss of your friend, and many, many thanks for putting yourself out there for us.

  • Kari

    It works for you two and that is all that matters.

  • Mel

    Thanks for this. I needed this reminder and you said it beautifully. We’re approaching 10 years. And sometimes, things suck but so often I’m the one who needs to change not my husband. He’s not perfect, but he’s my best friend and I can’t imagine life without him.

  • Mary

    This is just about the most beautiful and honest things I have read about love, ever. (my apologies to Yeats).
    There are far too many poignant phrases in this for me to pick just one, but I my breath left me at each. Thank you.

  • Airie

    I was telling my friends about this the other day – don’t pick a man based on some wish list of awesomeness…just find a guy without any of your deal-breakers, make sure you don’t possess any of his deal-breakers, and work together. I am going to send them your blog as the evidence to support my claim :0) Thank you for having my back!

  • Lacey

    Please, please, please, never stop telling your truth, because despite what you think, you know a whole lot more than I do.

  • Sherry

    Love me some Georgie.

    And, as usual, you are spot on. 33 years in April – worth every damn minute.

    Sherry

  • Christie

    Love that you tell it as it is…been through tons with my hubby of 12 years and still willing to work hard to make it last. some people just don’t understand. you are amazing

  • Julia

    I kind of want to share this, well, most of your posts, but not in the ‘traditional facebook’ way. I literally want to print it out and (kindly) shove it in people’s actual faces. This! Read This!

  • Emily

    From where I am, I feel (cautiously) like happy marriage is where you generally don’t try to judge it on anything particularly probing and more on the level of asking in the morning, “How would I feel about facing today without him/her/thon?” Like, it’s the beginning of a new day. You could leave right now and not even deal with the logistics until later. What’s your reaction?* I know I’m in the right-ish place because my instinctual reaction is that I would need to have my husband by my side just to face a day where he wasn’t a part of my life, because fuck that shit.

    Unless there’s abuse and damage happening. In that case, even if your gut is telling you to stay, leave until you remember how to cherish not being torn down. But I feel like that reaction in the morning light would still be telling you that, deep down.