I am officially tired of people talking about “love” as the glue that seals a marriage. You know, the “all you need is love” mentality. Like if you “love” each other enough, things will stay cool. If your “love” is strong enough you will end up together in 59 years, rocking in old oak chairs on the porch of the home where your family was raised.
This all sounds nice in theory, and it sure looks good in Meg Ryan movies, but there is one [rather enormous] problem with this approach: When your marriage is really, really in trouble – when it’s actually at risk of disintegrating – the last thing you fucking feel is “love.”
Profound irritation? Yes.
Desperation? For sure.
Loathing? (Did I say that?)
Boredom, disillusion and a profound sense of regret? Good chance.
But love? Nah. That’s something you wish you could remember from those early days when it still seemed a possibility. It’s that elusive thing you think will fix your marriage, if you could only get a hold of the slippery little bastard.
You see it around every corner: Your annoying little sister and her new wife. The love songs. The movies. The Hallmark cards. Damn. The adoration is palpable. It’s so believable, so seductive. That feeling you had with your first love in high school – what if I could have that again? I deserve that! Why don’t I have that anymore?
You remember those first few months or year or two you spent with the person you married – that feeling of falling home in their arms – when “soul mate” made sense to you and “you complete me” actually resonated.
What the hell happened? What exactly is this pile of shit I’m living in now?
Damn. If you could just “fall in love again.” If you could just “rekindle the old spark.”
Find that lost love.
But while you ache for the love that’s gone, there’s this man (or woman), in the house, annoying the shit out of you. He’s like all human. Excessively flawed. It’s not hot. It’s not interesting. And it’s certainly not love-inducing. You’ve become the worst of yourself and you know it. You can’t communicate with this person. He’s a stranger you know everything about, so you’re not just irritated, you’re BORED. You walk around raw, in a state of isolation surrounded by your family. Falling into a pit of “I can’t believe this has become my life,” you sink deeper in the surety that you made a huge, terrible mistake.
I guess you never loved him. Or maybe he never loved you.
It feels that way to the depths of your bones. It becomes like air to you. You grieve, but eventually you’re done fighting and you grow numb. There’s a chance you don’t care anymore. You just want peace. You just want things to change.
In that moment you make a choice: Stay or go. Drop the bastard like a bad habit or settle for a shit life with a subpar human.
And in my experience, “love” is not the determining factor of that decision.
Why? Because in that moment I can’t feel “love,” so how the hell can it help me?
How can something I can’t feel have any effect on my life? How can something that doesn’t exist guide my choices like some sort of shining beacon of hope?
That’s right. IT CAN’T.
My husband and I have had some dark times. We separated for two years once. I was sure we were done. He reached a point where he agreed. And yet, on December 19 we celebrated 12 years of marriage. (Of course I’m using that term “celebrated” rather loosely. We were actually fighting all day and didn’t “make up” until it was too late to “celebrate,” but whatevs.)
You know what’s kept my marriage together? You know what’s kept us from pulling the plug permanently?
Just work. Sweat and blood and grime. Nasty, dirty WORK. The super ugly kind. The kind that covers you with black dust of unknown origin and clogs your nostrils and nearly stops your breath from exhaustion.
If that’s “romance,” well then shit, romance saved our marriage.
But it’s not. It’s not romance, not a rediscovery of sparks or whatever the fuck. Not a renewed commitment to love. Just work, fueled by a relentless, slightly irrational refusal to give up.
As in, I gritted my teeth, screamed “FUCK IT” into the universe and held on for dear life.
Because I could not stomach the alternative.
Another woman around my kids, co-parenting, the kids darting back and forth between houses the way I did when I was young, shared holidays, the fact that I would have to go through this same damn process with another man. SO yeah. That’s why I stayed. Isn’t that sweet?
No. It’s not sweet. It’s desperate. I couldn’t win. If I left, I faced a life I didn’t want. If I stayed, I faced a life I didn’t want.
And friends, I had some solid evidence for the “this whole thing was a mistake” theory. Most of you know this, but I’ll repeat anyway: My husband and I met in a drunken stupor at the ages of 19 (him) and 21 (me). I knew him for three months when I found out I was pregnant. We were both drunk for the majority of our three-month “courtship.” Though I was “sure: I “loved him” and there was something in him I had never seen before in a man, the truth is we were kids who married and had a kid. We “got to know each other” while engaging in the work of pregnancy and child-rearing. We had no business doing either. (Incidentally, I’m still shocked that baby has grown into a totally decent kid, which furthers my theory that parents have very little effect on the outcome, but I digress.)
After I had the baby, we moved into his parents’ house so I could stay home with her. We got married when she was one-month old, at the courthouse, on a cold December day. As if it were a sign, I wore all black. Ha! (No really I did.)
I’ll never forget the first time I realized without a doubt I had made the biggest mistake of my life. My baby was a day or two old. She had woken in the night and I got up with her. There was a rocking chair in our bedroom, facing a big window. I sat in that rocking chair and nursed my baby with aching nipples and fear. I looked back at the barely man sleeping behind me. I looked at my baby in the moonlight. I looked back at the man in the bed and I said to myself “You’ve ruined your life.” The words roared into my brain and planted themselves right at the center. They were true.
And I knew it.
But I also knew I was inextricably connected to both of these humans, for the duration, and I was terrified. I wanted out but there was no out. I had a life I was going to live, before. It’s gone now.
What had I done?
And that, my friends, serves as the foundation of my love story.
I realize not everybody has this experience. I realize some of you took your time and dated and shit and got married when you knew this was a human who could work with you as a domestic life partner (as opposed to having a kid and hoping for the best). Maybe you’re all swooning in love all the time and it’s always been smooth and good and loving. And you know what? Good for you. I mean it. I think that’s rad sauce. BUT I’M NOT TALKING TO YOU.
I’m talking to those of you who can’t see in and can’t see out. I’m talking to those of you who can’t find the love. And I’m talking to the people who have straight evidence (as I did) that they were stupid fucks and made a giant mistake.
So many people divorce because “they love him but they’re not ‘in love’ with him.”
Every time I hear that I want to respond: OF COURSE YOU’RE NOT. That’s what marriage is, dude: Loving somebody despite the fact that the “sparks” have gone. Committing to somebody beyond the initial “OMG let’s have sex in all the places.”
The “in love” period is a phase, the beginning phase of three-phase deal. That’s my theory, anyway.
Am I telling you to stay with your partner? God no.
Am I telling you not to divorce? Fuck no.
What the hell do I care what you do? I don’t know shit about marriage. I only know what happened to me, and it’s this: It was only after I settled, gave up, surrendered to a crap marriage with a man I knew I didn’t love that I fell into a love deeper than I ever knew possible.
It’s so backwards I can’t explain it. It makes no sense.
It was only after I threw up my arms and gave up fighting, figured “Well this is hell, but it’s your hell, Janelle, so get used to it” that I was, a year or two or three later, able to recognize that while I was busy hating my marriage and trying to “fix” the man I married, love had found its way between us and I stood across from a human who made my stomach flutter, a little, when he called. But not because of romance or newness or fresh flirtation, but because a life had been built beneath us – 13 years of struggle and work and joy and I was only 21 when we met. I’m 34 now. And there is so much meaning there. That’s the hottest shit there is.
I look at him and I see history. I see shit that matters. I see life and growth. And I’m grateful there’s been no cheating, or beating, or other absolute deal-breakers. And I’m grateful he’s been willing to work too, because it cannot be a one-sided mission. And I can’t believe he stayed with me, waited for me, a once worthless alcoholic, a woman who abandoned him and our kids and life. And I can’t believe he knew the moment to say “Kick rocks, bitch” and the strength of his soul and arms and heart complete me. Ha. Like a motherfucking soul mate.
No. Not like that.
Rather, like I see I’ve got a damn good deal with a fucking great man who I love with a depth beyond the surface, because of WHO HE IS and WHAT HE’S DONE in the time that I’ve been lucky enough to know him.
Love is not something that held us together.
Love is something that developed over the years that we were held together through bulldog like tenacity.
It sure as hell blindsided me, friends.
I guess because I had given up, I was able to see him for the man he is, not the projection of what I wanted him to be (cause that ain’t love, folks). Not the screen onto which I cast my expectations and needs, but rather a man who has stood by my side and built with me an insane gorgeous disastrous perfect life.
And I fucking love him for it.
And I want to get older with him, to see where it all goes.
And when our kids leave I’ll stand somewhere more wrinkly and kinda old and a little spent and I’ll look at him and remember 21 and 34 and 40 and 50 and he will be the constant, like a long lost beacon of hope – Ha! As if.
Nah, he’ll be what he is now: the one who’s committed to me as I’ve committed to him. The one who agreed to let go of the bullshit in light of that one single interest, in light of a life we’re building together, in light of this partnership. And what’s happened is that partnership has found its spot in the motherfucking cosmos – a little life of its own – and we flirt and laugh and hold hands again because it’s bigger than us, because it holds us up with a love we never knew was possible, a friendship that spans a decade and a connection that’s reborn in newborn breath and the squeals of our tween’s attitude and Santa Cruz and camping trips and each night when we crash into the same bed, over years, in pain and boredom and delight – and that alone is breathtaking.
It doesn’t always work. I know that. All I want to tell you is that there’s a chance it might.
Because that was something I never believed, until I saw it with my own eyes, and felt it with my own gut – the slippery little bastard that sits now like an old friend on a worn-out bedside table.
Diana Ann BisaresTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 11:37
What a beautiful love story you have there – with all the flaws and ugly things that go with marriage. A beatiful piece, too, Janelle! So glad to have found your blog. 🙂
G.Tuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 11:42
LauraTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 11:54
Thank you Janelle, for putting into words what has happened for me, too. And recently. Marriage is even harder than I thought it could ever be and I spent years hating, judging, blaming and resenting my husband. Some time ago we finally heard each other for the first time and each thought ‘fuck, I have been a shitty spouse.’ Then my sister’s husband cheated on her and we became closer through the shock and gratitude that neither of us had done that and never would. Respect is regrowing and communication is getting better. Sex is getting better. And dare I say it, I love him more than ever. He is my husband.
BrendaTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 11:59
Thanks. This may explain why I keep going back to him. After leaving twice. Within 14 years of marriage. Doesn’t explain why he keeps taking me back. Glutton for punishment? IDK. Either way. Thanks. I understand this insidious secret cement you speak of.
KendraTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 12:07
Perfectly said. You always say what can’t say out loud. Thanks!!
KeelyTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 12:10
I needed this, big time. Thank you
RoseTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 12:16
I love you Janelle! X
EleniTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 12:26
Thank you. My life is nothing like yours. I live half a world away. I am 39, met my husband 16 years ago, didn’t marry him until 12 years after that, no kids (yet…). And yet I read your posts and something deep resonates. Every time, without fail. Even when you are writing about situations I can’t even begin to imagine (like being pregnant for the 4th time). But it always makes sense. It rings true. I can’t quite explain it. Maybe it’s this: you say, very publicly, all the things that we are not supposed to say – or even think. About life, about marriage, about motherhood, about love, about gender reveal parties (loved that one!). And it’s good to know I am not alone in my head. Or crazy. Or bitter. So thank you.
CaliopeTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 12:42
Thank you. I am 3 years into the “got pregnant after 3 months” experience. Currently doing the “Falling into a pit of I can’t believe this has become my life” phase. But like you, I am determined to do this because of my amazing child, he deserves both his parents around him all the time, I don’t want him to be shuffled back and forth like I was, and I am too stubborn to give up. You could have been telling me my own life story except I was 32 and already divorced once when it happened to me. Thank you for giving me some hope that it will all be worth it.
MarieTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 12:52
Sing it sister! Absolute work…
BecTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 13:08
The first hating-on-love part, well, I thought I was going to have to slap you to get you to stop. I thought, Oh no, where is this going!! But then, phew, it turned into a good old love story, and the pregnant lady and her old man are still together! Yay. I hope you let him read this.
JJTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 13:17
Wow. Are you stalking my life? Great post, as usual!
deegeeTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 13:26
LynnTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 13:41
holy crap=thanks, i loved reading this. i can so relate. in fact, i’m gonna read it again right now!
CTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 13:47
we got married when I was 6 months pregnant, one year after meeting. when the baby was 6 months old, I left him. and I realized the same thing, oh god oh god, he’s going to have other women in our daughter’s life. and he has TERRIBLE taste in women. obviously. and the control freak in me said, “You know all those things you tell him not to do with the baby, and all your freakish rules for baby-related things that he only follows because you force him to? …he’s going to break those rules. ALL THE TIME. he’s going to feed her TV dinners and high fructose corn syrup!!!! aaaaaaaah.”
I do sometimes feel the butterfly in love stuff still. he can be really sweet when he’s not fucking annoying.
renegademamaTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 20:59
that basically sums up all partners: “sweet when not fucking annoying.”
oh shit. that applies to kids too. wow.
MelissaTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 14:11
AnnieTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 14:25
My like is 100% different than yours. I am 37, married my high school sweetheart 20 years ago, waited 5 years to have 2 kids then another 10 to have another. We live a comfortable life with lots of love & happiness. However, there have been times when I thought “what the hell did I do?” No ones life is a perfect love story matter how it looks on the outside. Thanks for your honesty. A TRUE love story is hard, hard, hard! Good luck to you, I think you guys got this.
SavannaTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 16:02
I may or may not have gotten a little teary eyed. I love this post. It’s all so very true! I wondered why I married him and everything a lot more when we were first married and now… despite it all I seriously can’t imagine my life without him. Seriously, I hate doing the dishes and he does them. 😉 I Love my man even if our love can be so confusing, so crazy and so much work!
LuluTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 16:02
For me, I totally get the first part. Working my way through the middle, which I also totally get. Hope We make it to the end. Thank you for this. No-one I know would get my feelings on where I am now.
renegademamaTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 20:58
That’s exactly how I felt, my friend. I was sure I was the only one with those dark feelings toward my marriage. Good luck to you.
AmieTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 16:04
Love this. I’ve started thinking that arranged marriages are not as barbaric as they’re cracked up to be. That initial attraction has to be replaced by tougher stuff.
I’m 50. It got easier. I think the older you get, the more you are able to accept a person, warts and all.
You also begin to understand how this life together is not forever, and this increasing sense of loss around you really puts the bullshit into perspective.
Spend some time with elderly people. They teach so well. Gratitude, decent manners and the ability to let it go… that’s how you get there.
Doesn’t sound very revolutionary to me, but I guess maybe it might to younger folks, who have grown up with more divorce than I did.
renegademamaTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 20:57
It is revolutionary to me. Or it was. I grew up thinking “If it sucks, LEAVE!” Not because of my parents, but rather because of society’s general message about “love” and marriage — maybe I was just dumb, but I thought I should be entertained and engaged and “fulfilled” all the time by my partner. Of course we got married at 22, so…that could have been part of the problem. Cheers.
Alice MWednesday, 15 January, 2014 at 8:22
“Gratitude, decent manners and the ability to let it go”. That’s it. Right there. Put that of the the refrigerator and live by it.
CarrieTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 17:07
I think you’re living in my head…
SaraTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 17:25
I soooooo agree with you! I have at least six friends who are single and who envy my 13-year relationship with my spouse… And I keep telling them that the main ingredient to our long-lasting relationship is work! They keep falling in love and then wonder where that love has fled… I say it’s still there! It’s just evolved into a long-term relationship… They give up as soon as it becames a little harder… But I never quite found the words to make them understand what I meant! Next time I have that conversation with one of them, I will send them the link to this post! 😀 Héhéhé…
VictoriaTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 18:26
Preach it, sister! Your “love” story is the true love story. My husband and I have seen our personal hell, and it took us through the train-wreck to see what “love” truly means for us. As we say, “Marriage is a job. You just gotta really love your job and make it work!”
LyndseyTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 18:57
I was really scared to read this. I was married for a while, to a guy who was abusive and was gaslighting me and I kept reading all this stuff about how you just have to work at it and everything will be okay, and I stayed because I thought that was true. It was awful. I read stuff now about marriage being work and I think, no, it isn’t work, that’s silly, because my marriage now (to a different guy who is lovely) is not work. But reading this, I realize that maybe I’m just looking at it through a different lens. My first marriage was me working all of the time, and him doing nothing. It was me trying so hard to keep us together and him actively hurting our relationship and then making me believe it was actually me that was messing up. I’m starting to think that maybe I do actually have to work, it’s just that it doesn’t register as work to me because it isn’t even a fraction of as difficult as I’m used to, and because I don’t feel like I’m giving up my soul in doing it. It’s like I was making ten course meals for a guest who is never satisfied with my cooking and was a messy eater who would never clean up after himself, and now I’m making regular food for someone who is generally pretty okay with my cooking and who does the dishes afterwards.
I’ve always been kind of afraid of these “marriage is work” posts because ideas like that were what made me stay. But now I realize that isn’t the intention, and that marriage actually is work, and there is a good reason and need for these posts.
Sleeping RealitiesTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 20:27
Similar story. The religious indoctrination I grew up with, messages exactly like this post (but with “Jesus” and shit thrown in, instead of curse words), kept me in the marriage 3-1/2 years longer than I should have stayed. (We were married for 3-1/2 years).
They say that psychopaths are only 1% of the population, though, so fortunately, most people will not have the experience that you and I had, Lyndsey.
renegademamaTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 20:43
Sleeping Realities: I tried to make very clear that one of the reasons this approach has worked for me is because there was no cheating or abuse: “And I’m grateful there’s been no cheating, or beating, or other absolute deal-breakers. And I’m grateful he’s been willing to work too, because it cannot be a one-sided mission.”
I also tried to make very clear that I am not telling anybody to stay in a marriage: “Am I telling you to stay with your partner? God no. Am I telling you not to divorce? Fuck no. What the hell do I care what you do? I don’t know shit about marriage. I only know what happened to me…”
And I was very clear that not all stories end up like mine: “It doesn’t always work. I know that. All I want to tell you is that there’s a chance it might.”
So while I’m sorry you stayed in abusive marriage and I cannot fathom the pain you endured, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t lump me together with a bunch of fundamentalist Christian freaks who advocate “work” in the face of abuse. I have quite explicitly stated the opposite.
Sleeping RealitiesTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 21:44
Sorry, no no, that’s not at all what I was trying to do. I should have proof-read before posting… damn this headache. I was trying to relate my story to Lindsey’s, that’s all. And as I reread it, I see I wasn’t doing a good job, and I see how I was being offensive. Was definitely not my intention. I really shouldn’t have used the words “exactly like…” It’s definitely not “exactly like.” My bad, totally sorry! Positive stories should not be read as a prescriptions, and most people know better than to read them as such. Especially when you included so many caveats.
Lindsey and I are probably just more sensitive than others to this kind of suggestion, because we both got it wrong. (Well, dammit, I shouldn’t go and tick off someone else now by putting words in Lindsey’s mouth, so I’ll just speak for myself…) I misused these kinds of messages and got hurt, so now there’s some “association” and loaded emotions behind the slightest hint of anything resembling the previous pain, and I take full responsibility for my dysfunctional reactions. I’m working on it, promise.
The underlying message of hope through struggle sounds somewhat similar to what I heard growing up (not Fundamentalist, but kinda sorta), but you’re definitely a LOT better. I remember literally walking out of the room on a marriage counselor from church once, halfway through the session, because I was so appalled about him telling me “nobody ever died from being miserable, so try to hang in there.” Pretty sure you wouldn’t say anything like that, for example! Again, apologies for misrepresenting you.
And seriously, I’m truly happy for you that you have been blindsided by love. I’m glad your story turned out well. That’s the main point. You worked hard for your happiness, you deserve it, and I truly look at you with respect. Best of luck as the future continues to unfold!
(BTW, in case my story helps anyone out there… my case was subtle, because the abuse was mostly emotional, so nobody recognized it as abuse until after I left, got my head on straight, and explained it to them. Seeing the “Power and Control Wheel” was what finally helped me realize I was actually being abused. What a relief! I wasn’t crazy!)
renegademamaTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 21:56
I also fully understand how a post like this could come across as “Stay! It gets better! Love will prevail!” and I would sound all preachy and advice-giving — and I can understand how a person in a vulnerable place may hold on to that as motivation to stick around (the alluring promise of a brighter future), and I really tried to be careful to NOT convey that attitude. In fact I almost didn’t write this post at all for fear that people would think I was telling them to “stay” or judging their divorce.
More than anything else because I have no business doing so. I was a failure at life, marriage included. I am an alcoholic who abused her family — abandoned them straight up. I was insane. I was narcissistic and self-centered. And while I’ve been sober nearly 5 years, it’s never lost on me that I have NO BUSINESS living the life I’m living – still married to the dude I met at 21? Ridiculous.
I am more surprised than anybody to find myself in an overall decent, loving marriage. I have no idea how to do marriage! I have no idea how to do life! In this post I was merely trying to give people some hope that maybe it will end up okay, whatever that looks like.
Thank you for commenting, for responding, and for sticking through what must have been excruciating. I imagine you could teach me way more about love and relationships than I’ll learn in the whole of my life. Cheers.
KellyThursday, 23 January, 2014 at 11:10
That’s funny – I’m sober 5 years as well, and I just had my first five months ago. I feel that same way – like I don’t deserve it. I also feel like I’m ungrateful when I don’t feel like I’m supposed to about my husband and son. But I made the same decision you did – just do it because I don’t want to deal with the implications of separation, and because I honestly believe I would eventually feel the same way about any other man in the world. So I’m going to stay and create a partnership, and hopefully we’ll end up with a real love instead of just whatever that stupid fluffy thing was that led us to get married. Your post gives me hope that it will happen.
LyndseyWednesday, 8 January, 2014 at 0:34
You know…it’s nice to have companionship on this shitty road sometimes, but at the same time, I wish I was alone in knowing what this stuff was like, because no one should have to know about this. I’m glad you got out.
renegademamaTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 20:49
Lyndsey, yes. I actually took a really long time writing this post (worked on it a little here and there for a couple weeks) because I REALLY didn’t want to come across as if I think that “work” fixes all marriages or makes them successful. I’m also not giving marriage advice. I am only responding to the bullshit mentality that sufficient “love” ALONE will carry two people through life together — I am just sharing my story in hopes that it might resonate with people who have experienced similar emotions or situations. Clearly this does not apply to women in abusive relationships, period.
Thank you for commenting. And you are a true hero for surviving that shit and coming through the other side. Much love to you.
LyndseyWednesday, 8 January, 2014 at 0:51
I know, and this is the first time I’ve ever realized that there were reasons for this sort of post that weren’t about making people stay in shitty situations. I guess I’m sort of myopic like that. I think a lot of the reason is that when you’re in an abusive relationship, the abuser spends a lot of time and effort making you believe that this is normal. That everything they are doing is normal and good and it’s only your perception of their actions that’s wrong and bad. You start to see justifications for staying in abusive relationships – or just bad ones – everywhere. I’m not sure if that’s because they’re actually everywhere or just because you get trained to see things that way, because I mean, there definitely *are* those sorts of messages out there (that Eminiem and Rhianna song, for instance), but maybe not quite as many as you see when you’re being abused.
I’ve been out of the relationship almost 11 years now, and I’m still unpacking baggage from it. So thank you for helping me figure out another thing that I can let go of.
mandiFriday, 10 January, 2014 at 6:27
Lyndsey, Renegade: thanks to both of you!
Renegade – love your posts. Thanks for being so clear with your message by adding the “deal breakers”
Lyndsey – similar story and still working on my “baggage” from an abusive, mainly gaslighting marriage. I hate that damn song, totally sends the wrong message. Cant there be a song about “deal breakers” instead?
KMonday, 13 January, 2014 at 7:30
Lyndsey, I have had the same experience with my marriage. For the last 8 years, I have felt like a crazy person who could never do enough. Fights would escalate and I would have no idea how or why they escalated but it would always be 100% my fault but now when I look at it, I can see the patterns of abuse and control. He has made it so I feel like I have 100% responsibilty to not only our relationship but to his relationship with our daughter, his relationships with his friends and family-relationships that I have no control over so therefore I’m doomed to fail. From his perspective, I’m 100% financially responsible for our household plus all the housekeeping, cooking, washing, grocery shopping and I’m primary carer for our daughter. Seriously, his idea of financial responsibility is to ask mommy and daddy. I hate that until the last year, I was so dumb to all of this. I agree with you when you say that maybe you do work on your relationship but after years of back breaking work that accomplished nothing, the work on your current relationship doesn’t feel like work.
Renegade, this was a wonderful post and somehow it gave me hope that when I do leave, there will be someone worth working with.
GloriaTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 19:44
This was all romantic and shit. Dang. You’re like a modern goddammed day Nora Ephron! 🙂
MILF RunnerTuesday, 7 January, 2014 at 22:53
How many of us have lived some facsimile of this? Great piece 🙂
ShannonWednesday, 8 January, 2014 at 3:39
Even if you date 4 years and are married another 22 You Are So Right~ Marriage is work, my fave book” Surrendering To Marriage” ( there’s a Surrendering to Motherhood too!!) because that’s what all this surrendering in your words fucking surrendering 🙂 I LOVE YOUR POST!!!
JessiWednesday, 8 January, 2014 at 6:09
My partner and I had a huge fight today over the same old nothing that is the mundane day-to-day bullshit of real adult life. We’re both pissed off, tired, and stressed out from all the goo and gooblyguck of being grown ups having to take care of small, needy humans who’s cuteness is sometimes their only positive as well as work a soul crushing job, all the endless driving here there every fucking where, and find time to clean, clean, and smile. It wears on you. It’s depressing, suffocating, and rage-enducing.
No one said this is how it is; I think one reason I get so upset is that movies, stories, and stuff straight up lied to me. They promised happily ever after and easy street. Fuck you, Hollywood but no. My hubbie and I work SO HARD to survive and raise our minions to be reasonably decent human beings, to say nothing of the pressure to stay sane and somehow find time for ourselves, much less time for him or me. I have baggage from working, like Lindsay, with someone who’d rather face the bottom of a bottle than reality and when the bottle didn’t make everything better, than using me as his personal punching bag was a sure fix, right?
It makes me angry that I am so bitter and have history that interfers with the story Tim and I are writing. So we cry, we scream, we stew in our misery, and then we snicker about a fart or silly kid antic, tentively reach for the other’s hand hoping to find redemption in that small physical contact, then squeeze the lifeline we knitted together as tightly as possible to make sure it’s still there. Then we breathe, snuggle, and do it all over again.
Thank you for saying what really goes down when you’re all grown (or sorta grown) up and trying to make it with another human being without homicidal tendencies erupting. Your posts speak to me like you snuck into my brain, reviewed the history of Jessi files, and then wrote amazing, badass posts. You are a strong, amazing woman who’s bold words and fuck you haters (no flame wars 2014!) attitude is both empowering and refreshing as well as incredibly touching and real. G. R. R. Martin has nothing on your brutal honesty (insert geek/nerd flag here). Thank you so much; your posts help more than you know. Congratulations on baby bump 4 and I love the sneak kissy photo 🙂 Happy Wednesday!
BreezyWednesday, 8 January, 2014 at 9:27
Holy mother of goodness, thank you for writing.
JenWednesday, 8 January, 2014 at 11:32
Thank you for writing this! Thank you for writing!
TiffanyWednesday, 8 January, 2014 at 12:46
fucking beautiful. In all of the rawness that is reality, you just told a love story. It’s like the movie that you love but hate because it’s too real to escape your own reality. This was just enough romance to remind me that love is a god-damn shapeshifting bitch. Just because I can’t see her like she was the first time I saw her doesn’t mean that she isn’t there lurking. And I know she is there lurking because every time I want to walk the fuck away and tell love what a motherfucker I think she is, I realize that she has been in the room with me the whole time. And not just in the room with me but in the room with Bernie, too. Like an instinct that nudges me to just do the next thing and trust that somehow our steps will eventually fall back in step. Janelle, you make me want to accept and, maybe even, love my life a little more. Thank you for being real and honest and vulnerable with the truth of your story.
Cheryl S.Thursday, 9 January, 2014 at 5:59
Thank you. All of that is so incredibly true. And it’s true for me too. I need to remember some of it when hubs and I are at the bottom and can’t see light. WORK.
And I didn’t read it thinking that you were saying that people should stay in a shitty marriage. But, that if you have that fairy tale view of marriage you’re not going to get very far.
Bad EggThursday, 9 January, 2014 at 6:06
Perfect description about the imperfectness of marriage. My life in progress, too.
Tiffiny SchwartzThursday, 9 January, 2014 at 10:33
I met and was with my husband for 9 years before we got married, right after we got married is when the wtf hit me. I thought I should have run a long ass time ago but I too have fallen into this love.
JessicaThursday, 9 January, 2014 at 14:34
Thank you for writing this! I needed to read this right now.
LindsayFriday, 10 January, 2014 at 6:03
You nailed it. It’s so nice (& validating & somewhat of a relief) to have someone “say” out loud the realities of marriage. Forget Meg Ryan movies; Facebook does more to perpetuate the notion that happy marriages are all lovey-dovey, romantic trips to Paris, sunsets on the beach, and oh yeah– let’s joint tag each other as we post about “our best friend and most amazing spouse–ever.” Barf. My marriage has been full of “I hate you,” “what have I done,” and “biggest mistake–ever.” But when we both realized that, as my husband says, we each got the spouse we deserve (& that no one else would have us!), we let all the other shit go & found our love story. Thanks for writing about the messiness. And congratulations on 12 years!!
DanaFriday, 10 January, 2014 at 12:49
Well, I think this is very normal. I ask myself everyday if I made a huge mistake by marrying my husband. But then I am thankful he gave me two kids. I am messed up, obviously.
MarleenSaturday, 11 January, 2014 at 12:23
It’s been said already, but this is lovely.
I was kind of the same in my marriage. We met online, when it wasn’t fashionable (remember those days? When you said you met somebody online and people would say “what a moron, she thinks she’s dating!). I flew an ocean to meet him, them he came to my country, next visit I stayed here, in England. And exactly like you say, 2 years on working a crappy night job, I asked to myself wtf I’m doing here. But I guess stubbornness kept us together, even though there were no kids.
Ten years on and a toddler, we’re still here. If somebody were to ask me why, I really couldn’t point out one particular reason. We have been thru hell and back, there is just a lot between each other to just let go.
Fuck let go, he’s stuck with me like fart inside a car with windows up in summer.
HeatherSaturday, 11 January, 2014 at 18:41
Girl, you can write! Dig what you’ve got to say too!
kimi wMonday, 13 January, 2014 at 13:16
my hubs and i have had a pretty rough ride over the last 3 years…and we’ve only been together for 4 🙂
during a particularly rough stretch (like 6 months), where there was more silent treatment than actual spoken words; and most of those words were filled with anger or resentment and maybe a little hatred, spite and bitterness; our daughter, who was 1 at the time (now 1.5) would flip through every one of her little board books searching for a particular picture of Ariel and Prince Eric kissing and bring it to either myself or her daddy. i know in my heart that she was trying to tell us something…she could feel the tension in the house, even though we tried to hold it in until she was in bed.
i hate that she has witnessed this darker time in our relationship but at the same time i am grateful for it. she sees two people who do love eachother; who argue yet still have dinner together every night; who can hate eachother but still come together in a group hug to comfort the little girl who tripped and smashed her head on the coffee table; who can not talk for a week but still drop everything at a moments notice for the other person. she sees that relationships are work and not all roses and sunshine.
i believe that her daddy is her first role model for the men she will date, i am her first role model for the woman she will become and we are her first model of how relationships should work. i want her to know that family is ALWAYS the priority. we stick together, through the good and the bad. we love eachother in spite of our flaws and accept these flaws in one another.
i want her to know that daddy and i love her 100%, no matter what she does or who she becomes. she doesn’t have to be anything or do anything for us to love her. we will love her during her highest highs and love her in her lowest lows. i feel that the best way to show her this is for her daddy and i to model that with eachother as well. i love him despite the the things i dislike about him…and he is the same towards me.
we don’t need to like eachother all of the time; we don’t need to get along all of the time; we don’t need to change for the other person…
we just love eachother…and as a family, we are one.
thank you for this post 🙂
NicoleMonday, 13 January, 2014 at 16:08
Have you read Committed, but Elizabeth Gilbert? Lots of really interesting stuff in there about marriage and how/why it works/doesn’t work in various cultures. Basically, our romanticized North American view that marriage should be all about love and bliss and soul mates and decades of great sex set us up for disappointment and frustration. Gilbert’s research into the history of marriage in many cultures reveals that marriage is more traditionally (and successfully) viewed as a “life partnership”. Frankly, life is too much fucking work to do it alone, so we pair up and battle it together, and sometimes, after years of working together to fight the same battle and reap the same rewards, we end up with a true, deep, loving companionship that actually resembles romance.
AliWednesday, 15 January, 2014 at 1:24
Amazing, thank you!
TaylorWednesday, 15 January, 2014 at 16:02
It’s been days and I still just love this post!! Not to name any names, but it kind of rang true for me! 🙂
VeronicaFriday, 17 January, 2014 at 15:54
I have the very same love story, but you sure do tell it with conviction. I am new to this site and I am loving every minute of it, I want more! I am amazed to see I am not the only one who thinks this way ^_^ Thank you.
DesireeSaturday, 18 January, 2014 at 10:40
Your story is my story. Kind of scary reading this and its my exact story. weird
HollyFriday, 24 January, 2014 at 6:22
Axelle the french reader.Friday, 24 January, 2014 at 9:32
Thank you for being SO honest, Janelle ! You can’t imagine how much I loved reading your post.
I’m in the same mood, actually, that’s maybe the reason why I loved it :).
And believe, me …
Surrounding me, in France, where I’m from, I just know TWO couples who still live in “cinderella’s world”… We’re all crossing what you describe. Some stay together. Other no.
And what you said about another woman educating our children, OMG, it’s SO true … Ten years ago, I wanted to live my husband and my mother told me :”Think well … I’m not telling you you have to stay. I’m just telling you, will you accept to see another woman taking decisions about your children ?…”.
I stayed … And today, I feel all you describe.
Thank you for being different and TRUE !
KyleSaturday, 25 January, 2014 at 11:09
Well, I’m impressed with you, your writing and your outrageous clarity. My youngest daughter “liked” someone’s posting of your most recent post about the Teams, which had me laughing out loud! A little background… I’m your predecessor. Well, the old lady, hippie chick turned overwhelmed, cranky and pissed of mother of eventually 6 kids.
In 1979 I found out I was pregnant with a little parasite at 20 years old, by a man I met while serving him drinks at an upscale hotel I worked at in Chicago. The rest is history, meaning we got married. It was not “love at first sight”, but “neurosis REAL HIGH” that tricked me into bed with him at first, then I did love him greatly for many years. We had a bunch more kids over a 15 year span, ultimately ending our marriage when the youngest grommit was 3. I’m now a grandmother, but still pretty hip or something and felt much like you about mothering, marriage and life in general… but never had the platform to express these feelings… or the time, to be honest. Single parenting was over the top hard to do; intense. If I could’ve done that part differently, I would’ve… but it’s not what happened.
Love was a huge factor in my marriage, but all that you offer in this post is spot on. Work and determination have to be employed. Faith and commitment are also important… For me, I got all tuckered out and finally left him… I was with a broken heart, for sure, but clear that I didn’t have the ability to go the distance. (Infidelity just hurts and at some point I just stopped having the willingness to sign up for another go ’round of that whole thing… ) Still, even though we aren’t married we have loads of kids together, so we are related – FOREVER! Which means… we still have to forgive, move on, love big and be accountable.
Sure, staying together is ideal, especially when everyone involved is willing to grow. But, even if you can’t stay, you still will have to do much more than just love the asshole you married. You’ll have to understand and forgive yourself and him or her for being so fucking human and not always getting it right.
Cheers to your expression… and just so you know… I threw out all the hippie mothering mags, books and ideas for a while just so I could trust my instincts as a woman and mother and raise my kids up with integrity and truth. It worked… they are my closest allies, friends and companions and truly amazing people. Today could be my last day, but I feel good about my life & know my breathing in and out for a number of years added great value to the world at large, even though it was a somewhat messy affair at times.
JamiSunday, 26 January, 2014 at 16:58
damn. I don’t think there could have been a better time for me to read this than right now. I literally just told my husband for the 8th time (At least) that I was so over it. we were married 11 days before my daughter was born in the old courthouse style. Thankfully rather than cheesy ass Celine Dion wedding music we had The Casualties on in the car afterward ( no limo for this… good old Civic lol ) There have been a number of deal breakers for us and honestly don’t know if I’m still with him because I’m scared of my ability as a single mom ( which honestly I usually am anyway) He has me more or less convinced that nobody would date my fat sorry has been ass anyway so eternity alone type of deal here….or almost even unwilling to give my children a shit life compared to the one they have now. I haven’t worked in years and don’t even know if I could get a job if I did leave. As it stands they pretty much have everything they want so who am I to take that away from them in the name of my “happiness” I’m really not a material person at all but is it fair of me to almost deprive my children of the life they have now? I have advice on both sides of the aisle. I grew up with no father and know how that pretty much fucked me up, but then I have no problem with them still interacting with him should we split ( where my mother cut my father out of every image and won’t even tell me where they were married or when so that I can work on my personal genealogy… she is still bitter as hell over it )However, I have a dear friend whose parents stayed together for the kids and it was miserable for everyone for years. No matter what he would still be considered a friend and I really have no bad blood we are just way too different.I’ve even said flat out “why not go find someone better suited for you?” He hates everything I stand for and tries to impose his mindset on me basically because mine is “wrong” He is military and I am an activist, he believes in spankings and I am more of an attachment parenting “hippie” as he calls me. We have an autistic daughter who beats the crap out of me on a daily basis and yet he tells me it’s my fault because I can’t keep her under control and I interact with her wrong…although he is never there, he just assumes I’m a fuck up. Due to his general feeling of superiority over me and him being somewhat of an ass to me for the past 8 years I’ve really lost any sexual attraction I had to him and although he wants to try to fix that I just get really annoyed with his advances. I try not to be cold, to try to give a damn but I just don’t I can’t even muster up enough give a shit to fake it. I really don’t know what to do.. but, I have say in some odd way reading this helped me see things from a somewhat different light, so thanks 🙂
LeahMonday, 27 January, 2014 at 19:56
I think I’m in love with you…Anyhow, after reading several of your blogs I haven’t laughed so much in a long time. You tell it like it is in my own head. I am so happy that a FB relative posted a blog of yours because I am hooked. Thank you for keeping it real and I am looking forward to more of your insights.
MudderMonday, 17 March, 2014 at 1:02
So fuckin’ true!
LaToyaThursday, 30 January, 2014 at 7:25
I love this… How can I love all of your posts?! I have nothing to say but I LOVE it.
Paulee McCormackThursday, 30 January, 2014 at 19:06
This is pretty much my life right now, the pain, the damage, the should I stay or should, the mundane beauty that exists after all the novelty fades..you are an amazing story teller, and an amazing writer. Thank you for sharing such a raw and REAL love story that reminds people. especially people with children, what partnership REALLY looks like!
BrandyWednesday, 5 February, 2014 at 6:09
Thank you for this. I read it twice and cried each time because it hit so close to home, not the situation but the emotions. The Pink song that says “I really hate you…must be true love” has become my anthem. I stopped complaining to my friends when I realized I didn’t want to be the woman that complained but did nothing to help herself. I considered divorce then decided not to because I didn’t want my daughter only half the time. I decided to just suck it up and stick it out. I accepted my husband for who & what he is. He was exactly the same person I’d married, he hadn’t changed at all, so it wasn’t fair of me to be so angry for not being who I wanted him to be. It’s still not easy but we have almost 18 years together, a beautiful daughter and a life that is pretty damn good even at it’s darkest. I started reading this blog after the “real-life valentines” post, when I laughed because it was so true. Then I kept reading and damn, I felt so much better after this post and the comments knowing I am not alone in this. Thank you for sharing your stories.
Suburban SnapshotsThursday, 13 February, 2014 at 4:56
This was a great post but I’m just here to objectify your husband.
MudderMonday, 17 March, 2014 at 1:19
Thank goodness for someone telling the truth. My relationship is a lot of work! I have wrestled this week whether to stay and make things work, or to hit the road. When I read your blog, it made me realize that it takes more than love to make a relationship work. Plus, we have a child together which complicates things. So instead of complaining about the problems in the relationship, or thinking about leaving, I’m digging through the shit pile I helped create (it wasn’t all his fault), and focusing on how to fix our problems. Plus it doesn’t help that when you are thinking about leaving and praying to god for answers, he keeps telling you to stay. So I’m staying in this muddy relationship and know that through our good and bad times, that is where the real romance lies.
KateThursday, 22 May, 2014 at 15:07
Thank you. That was so beautiful. I’m all blotchy-faced now.
AlexiaWednesday, 25 June, 2014 at 22:36
This is the truest thing I think I have ever read about marriage. When we get past the fairy tale bullshit true fucking love happens, the real, deep, bottom drop out of your soul love and it’s terrifying and exhilarating and so real it feels dangerous. That’s what happens when you truly give someone your heart. Thank you for sharing your amazing self with all of the rest of us muddling through out here.
MiraTuesday, 8 July, 2014 at 10:32
I’ve been happily single for eight or nine years, then I met someone. Whose wife left him because she wasn’t “in love” and now they’re shuttling the kids around etc.
I swore I wouldn’t be like that.
Then we went camping for a week with his spoiled bratty teenage daughter.
I was done.
Then I read this article.
Maybe I’m not done.
AshleyWednesday, 16 July, 2014 at 7:39
I absolutely love this and can relate! I got pregnant with my husband at 19, four months after we met. Got married when I was 21. So many times I’ve thought to myself, “what the fuck am I doing with my life!?” Two kids later, a whole lot of anger, heartache, and longing for things to be different, I too gave up on the idea of leaving and it was then that I realized that I love the man I chose to marry who helped create this awesome little family. They all make me want to rip my hair out a little at times, but i wouldn’t have it any other way. Your blogs make me feel perfectly normal with all of my chaos haha you have a wonderful way with words and tend to hit the nail on the head with expressing emotions. So glad i stumbled across your stuff! Thank you for sharing.
RubyTuesday, 14 October, 2014 at 8:17
I really believed in making it work, and I was married 13 years and it didn’t work and he didn’t believe in making what you’ve got work, and he was weak and finally left. I wasn’t happy either because we had no children because he was sterile and he didn’t qualify to adopt because of all the medication he was on (ADD, anxiety, seizures). I’m really glad you put it out there how it could work for you guys despite all problems, staying in there fighting because you had kids and wanted to keep working at it. I hope to get married again and fight and work like that. When I was married we NEVER fought, because he couldn’t stand up for himself and he couldn’t deal with conflict. Sadly, I didn’t know that was a bad sign.
At present I am being the mom of a new baby. Her father was this exotic foreign guy, long gone now, off this continent, who I had a brief fling with immediately after my ex and I separated and he moved in with his female-friend-become-girlfriend. I only had the fling, strangely enough, because my ex insisted I try to have some fun and made me promise!! Life is weird. So in a year I have gone from being married to a guy for our entire adult lives, who’d eventually had success in his career, making it unnecessary for me to work, to being a single mom with no income, leaning on my family. At 37. But the baby is soooo worth it! She’s perfect. But let’s say I’m not in the best position to go out and date now, haha.
KarynSaturday, 18 July, 2015 at 4:45
Thank you. Again. It’s such a comfort to know that when I can’t put into words what I’m feeling, I look on your blog and there it is.
TechieMommaSaturday, 17 October, 2015 at 0:23
Holy fuck. I just discovered you this evening. I have been pouring over your posts. They sound like some conversations I used to have with a like minded sarcastic-ly inclined friend of mine. And I found so much truth in all your posts (seriously the rant post about childless people, if these people read everything with the lack of general comprehension they read that post with…) but this one hit me, hard.
I met a man after the worst breakup of my life. He became my best friend. I would go on dates and then go to his house to bitch about how awful or weird or whatever they were. Then we got a little co-dependant. I moved to another state, he came with me. We had a baby. I realized one day that I was basically married to my best friend who I loved, but wasn’t IN love with and I was stuck. I flipped out for quite a while. I got resentful. I got angry and a little spiteful and I had to be oozing ‘you are not good enough’. Then I realized that it didn’t matter how miserable I was, or everything I was missing out on, or the fact I’d never have ‘real love’ again because we were a family. And I wasn’t going to break up my son’s family.
Then something weird happened. I realized all the love that he was giving me when he really wasn’t getting nearly as much back. He must have felt my coldness, but he plowed right on through loving me anyway. And I’ll be god damned if that didn’t make me fall for him.