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.