Saturday, May 05, 2007

Balancing it Out

I have been thinking, and thinking, and over thinking. About, those times in our lives, when we measure what we give, against what we receive in our important relationships.

No matter how hard we try to not measure, say we do not measure, we do. But, as I was pondering, I realized, we most often measure only during those times when we're feeling dissatisfied. At other times, we may measure, when we feel we are being given too much. When we're in balance, we don't measure.

As a child, I observed, and assimilated my own parent's marriage, without consciously realizing that was what I was doing. I discerned what worked and didn't work. I watched, I listened, I learned. It wasn't the best of marriages, not even close. More turmoil than unity.

From my more recent observations of them, I am guessing, (since I wasn't around for the beginning), these last few years, have been their best years. They bear their burdens with a shared stoicism. They have a comfort with each other, a peace. They now more than ever, support each other. During my childhood, they tried several times to live apart, divorced once, separated three times. During those sad, bad times, things were very out of balance between them. I was the child of an alcoholic. That sentence pretty much says it all. I am now the child of a recovering alcoholic, they worked through it, and it balanced out. Thus, today, they are still together. They are able to fulfill each other's needs, more or less, because over these many years, they learned they love, they love each other, they learned that their lives, no matter how turbulent, are better, feel more balanced, when they are together.

I was young when I married, but, even with being so very young, I was not all starry-eyed going into the marriage. I was optimistic, but also tried to be realistic. My husband and I lived together during the two years prior to our marriage, and had dated almost a year, before that. Thus, I entered into it with my eyes open. I also knew, from my observations of other marriages, and my studies, that to have a successful marriage, it took more, so much more than love alone. I knew it took hard work, dedication, devotion, and sacrifice. We even discussed this. I was sure we could do it, I could do it.

There are still many times, when I look back upon those years, when I remember my early misgivings. When, I attempt to seek the 'real' answer as to why I went ahead with the marriage. After all, I knew within a few months of our first sharing of living space, (Ok, really, even before that), we were not a perfect fit, a good fit in many ways, but, far, far from a perfect fit. But I did marry, and perhaps because of those misgivings, and our combined family histories, I was prepared for the not-so-perfect times that would inevitably arrive. I was prepared for giving more than receiving, I was also prepared for the opposite. For many years, I held onto the hope, we would eventually balance out. I also believe, there are times, when our perspectives were so different, that, we each, thought the other was on the receiving end of our best gifts to the other, that we each were giving more.

We did rely on each other, I can look back, remember, and know, that I made it through some very trying times, because my husband was there, beside me, offering me his support, and love. I also know, I gave him the same gifts. It helps me live with my now to know that.

I am facing divorce, in that process, I have to face the prospect that I failed, we failed.

There are several very real, very devastating underlying reasons why, and I am beginning, albeit slowly, to accept those.

I feel damaged, we are all damaged, I hurt, my husband hurts, my children hurt. Very much. But, it hurts worse to remain married, for both of us. So, our we, will end.

To understand, to live with the pain of ending a relationship that spans more than half my lifetime, I have to revisit the past. I had to, and continually have to, it is the only way, I can know the reasons why we don't work now, and why for so many years we seemed to. To those on the outside looking in, for first two thirds of our marriage, we were seen as "the perfect couple". No one saw the inner turbulence hidden behind my wall, I hid it well. It's easy to say we changed, we don't blend, we don't have the same dreams, we don't have the same viewpoint of the world, but, are those good enough reasons to end a marriage? To me they are, because over these many years, I realized, we never had the same dreams, we never looked at the world in the same way, we never blended well. (The image of a cruet filled with oil and vinegar enters my mind. As long as it is kept continually shaken, the two blend, but once that is stopped, separation rapidly occurs. My arm is tired, I can't seem to find the energy to keep shaking that cruet.)

So, I kept, and keep, revisiting our shared past. In doing so, I have imagined a scale much like the one pictured above. A pile of gold coins on the table. One pile labeled his. One pile labeled hers.

I kept asking myself. Did those piles start out equal, and then shift over time, until they never seemed to balance out? When we reached a point, in which, we were simply incapable of meeting the needs of the other? I know, I have always felt as if I was not enough, what I gave was not enough, the need was higher than what I was capable of giving. There were, and are times, when he was simply incapable of meeting my own needs, (there were, and are times, when I am simply incomprehensible to him). His fault? My fault? Both?

I recall times of balance, I recall times when the scale tipped heavier on his side. I recall times when the scale tipped most heavily on my side.

For many years, I hoped, wished, tried desperately to capture a sense of balance.

But, there is no balance of giving, there is no balance in receiving, or taking.

A loving, working marriage, isn't a balance between giving and receiving, it doesn't matter who gives more, who takes more, because in a good marriage, in a marriage that works, those will continually shift. If love and cherishing are present, if both give those, it works, the scale can be thrown out.


Snowqueen said...

Wow! What an incredible post. My parents recently celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary and I know that there were times when as an outsider to their relationship (afterall, even if you live with a couple, you are still an outsier to their relationship) I thought they would separate. I thought at times that my father was selfish and hurtful and that my mum was too passive. It is only now that I realise that they are a wonderful complement to each other. My Mum was diagnosed last year with cancer (for the second time) and this time round I have noticed how much she has felt the support of my Dad and that their time together has been a great foundation. Having said this, my sister has just recently been divorced (her husband's decision). So I have also seen the pain and anguish of divorce. I have never married and in a way feel that I cannot make an observation, but the one thing I always tell my students in class when we consider what it means to be a good father and/or a good mother, I tell them, after they go through the usual list of: providing us with a good home, being fair, helping us, listening to us, etc; that maybe the most important thing that our parents can do for us is to be the best possible spouse to the other parent, and sometimes, as difficult as it may be, the most loving thing to do is to separate and/or divorce. Sorry for my ramble.

LePhare said...

Just to let you know I've read and you are right. 'If love and cherishing are present, if both give those, it works, the scale can be thrown out'.

The only person I know well, who has gone through a divorce, is Cag's sister. She remained married for 25 years. What a waste.

Be good to yourself. IanS.

Anonymous said...

It's tough. It's tough because there are no easy answers. If you leave, you will hurt people, if you stay you will hurt yourself.

The only thing my husband and I have in common is our mutual bemusement with each other. We are nothing alike, have no common dreams, no common language, we only have our shared history. I don't know if that's enough. As I get older I want more from my partner, more intimacy, more balance.

I wish I could fix it for you, for me too. If you need anything, ask, please. And take care of yourself, we all have to find happiness for ourselves, before we can share it with another.

Fiona said...

I still believe that your best years are in front of you Sunny. The rest, I've said in my emails.

To stay in a marriage and have to keep shaking that cruet to keep it going is to ask too much....especially when you were doing most of the shaking, if not all.

'Waste', the word Ian used, is so true in a lot of relationships and it's so sad. There is no second chance at our lives, we have to grasp what we want and need now.

Always here for you my dear friend.


Sunny Delight said...

I thank you all for your words of wisdom, your caring, your concern.
You all honor me.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I sure can understand the feelings. I “we” are evaluating the same concerns, the same wonderment. We are also so different. We have even agreed we probably should not have gotten married. All these years and it may not last out this one.

Big hug and good vibes sweetie.

SoCal Sal