The 10-Year Itch

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We’re starting couples counseling next week. Wow, wait. I didn’t think I could say that out loud. I’m so afraid of the discrimination and stigma from others at the mere mention of it. Like they’re thinking we’re already headed straight to divorce and this is a last-ditch effort to save a marriage.

It’s not.

We’ve been going back and forth on the idea of it for a while now. We know things have changed between us. That’s inevitable in any relationship. However, the entire bedrock of our marriage was put through a massive trauma when we lost Emmett. Needless to say, we have a lot of things to work on and we want to be proactive to cope with them together before we get to a point-of-no-return.

We’ve both gone through dealing with our grief in different ways. I needed to tackle it head-on with every fiber of my being, to the point that I became secluded and apprehensive. Brett delicately moved around to avoid bringing out more of the raw emotions in me and dealt with his feelings mostly in silence until it all came to a tipping point in January, where he needed to take a medically-advised week off and reset his priorities. At which point, he took a step back at work and we decided to sell our house and move closer to a city again.

Still in love?

For me, I feel that we have just been going through the motions the last two years, if not well before we even got pregnant. We’ve been stuck in a cycle of indifference. I was telling him the other day, I still love him but question if I’m “in love” with him. If that makes sense?

I know the feelings are there, deep down. I know how I once felt for him. Those butterflies way down in my stomach. The wobbly feeling in my knees when he would take my hand during a walk. But through the years, those sensations have faded away into idleness, laziness. Like just going through the motions. We get up, we take the dog out, we feed the dog, we go to work, we go to the gym, we eat dinner, we watch Jeopardy, and we are in bed by 8:30. Rinse. Repeat.

Don’t get me wrong, I like a routine. It’s really helped in the last six months after working from home for 4 years. But this is more than just routine. This is like a lethargic marathon. And, I’ve been getting bored with it.

I wanted something new, or at the very least, something different. Just to feel something. Anything other than this lukewarm normalcy.

Heading “home”

I went back home to Milwaukee for Memorial Day Weekend at the end of May. It wasn’t a good trip. It was stressful and emotional. I don’t like going “home” anymore. Milwaukee hasn’t felt like home to me in a long time, and that saddens me. I feel like a stranger when I hop off the plane and drive around streets that once used to bring me such joy. It’s the first time in more than a year that I saw…and…talked to my Dad. I could only bring myself to see him two out of the four days I was there. It was just too much for me to handle emotionally.

He’s a shell of what I remember him being when we moved to New England 8 years ago. Stuck in a wheelchair, connected to oxygen, wearing an adult diaper, barely able to utter a sentence that’s audible. When he does express himself, it’s generally out of frustration for his situation. I know he doesn’t want to live like this. He’s the last of his family of 13 still living. My mom has been gone for 17 years. He’s lonely. He feels like a burden. Someone once so self-sufficient, strong-willed has now become the child in our father-daughter relationship.

There are times when I get a call from the nurse and I wonder, “Is this it?” I knew he and my mom have/had “do not resuscitate” orders in their living wills. But it wasn’t until a few years ago that I really got it and why. There comes a point when you’re lying in a bed and it’s just not living anymore. It’s existing…but barely. We’ve had two bouts of pneumonia this year already. As his decision-maker, how aggressive do I want to be in treating it? It just prolongs more pain and suffering for him and shows a feeble selfishness on my part to try to keep him a part of my life longer.

Revisiting the past

Because of the emotional toll of being with my dad, I also spent a fair amount of time with someone from my past. We’ve come in and out of each other’s lives at various times but always as friends. But there was a time when I wanted more, yet I wasn’t ready at that moment of my life. Our lives were in two entirely different places. Still, through all the years, we’ve tried to stay friends and we still are…trying.

For whatever reason, this trip, this meeting brought a lot of those feelings back to the surface for me again. Confusing the hell out of me. Making me think I’m an awful person. Second guessing how anyone can ever be friends with someone of the opposite sex. Re-thinking nearly every decision I’ve made from 2001 to the present.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time since coming back home, trying to navigate these feelings. Uncertainty. Insecurity. Self-confidence. Love. Loss. Friendship. Grief. Anger. Jealousy. And, I’ve listened to way too much emo-indie girl rock from the early 2000s.

However, there’s a reason some things are in the past. It can sometimes be hard to realize that when you’re too busy feeling things. I know we’re better friends. I do. Yet, there was/is that teeny part of me that wanted a moment of the past, or even, a future that never was.

I used to believe in fate. Maybe a piece of me still does. That people are put into your life for a reason. There to help you learn something about life and yourself. But then two years ago happened. There’s the me that’s left that just thinks sometimes life sucks and that’s that. People are meant to come and go from your lives. Some just last a little longer than others.

I used to be a dreamer. Deep-down, she’s still probably there. Wanting a fairytale ending, the prince on the white horse to sweep me off my feet and ride off into the sunset. It just wasn’t with him.

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Marriage comes with its hurdles

My fairytale started when I made that decision to go to grad school in Boston back in 2003. I had no hopes for meeting anyone special, let alone the person I was eventually going to marry. My friends back at UWM joked that I would meet a crew guy from Harvard but I ended up with a sports journalism major from Emerson instead.

Brett and I have been married 10 years. It’s been a pretty good darn decade together. Yes, there was a heartbreaking loss, but every marriage comes with its hurdles. It just happens. We’ve had some amazingly good times and made some wonderful memories that I wouldn’t want with anyone else, and I know we’ve made it through every obstacle that we’ve encountered before from job loss, health scares, family crises. We’ve figured it out.

But this time, this hurdle has rocked me. It has made me question my integrity as a person. How much I really value the vows that we took on that cold February night so many years ago. It has made me question everything I know. It honestly has scared me for not being confident, not being sure in knowing that we can make it through, that we can survive this. It’s made me feel like such a bad person when nothing has happened.

I’ve asked…Did I pick the right path? Are we really meant for each other? Was this loss too much for us and are we fundamentally broken beyond repair? What am I needing in this other relationship that doesn’t currently exist in our marriage? On the other hand, I know that there is no one who I’d rather wake up next to in the morning. No one else who will sing “Love is an Open Door” from Frozen in the car with me. No one else who’ll make Lumpy the Heffalump “talk” with a British accent. No one else who would’ve spent five years on a twin mattress in a tiny two-bedroom apartment.

So, I talked a bit with my therapist. She mentioned something about attachment disorder and my upbringing. Interesting thought so I’ve done some more research on it. I’m apparently insecure ambivalent. Basically I translate into a clingy, insecure, emotional and anxious wreck in my relationships.

Fun.

But, as I read more and more about it. I’m like “that’s totally me”. I constantly question if Brett is going to leave me, like on a daily basis since we were dating. I have an unhealthy fear that he’s just not going to be there one day. My reaction is to push him away in any way possible so that I don’t have to hurt when that fear would actually come to fruition. It’s a coping mechanism. And, it’s all be aggravated by the grief of this loss as well as the loss of my adoptive mom.

I know it’s been a long time since I’ve written but there’s been a lot going on and this is just the tip of the iceberg. I know  I have some work to do with my own therapist as well as a starting point for what to work on with our couples counselor on my end. I want to make this work, with every fiber of my being. My biggest fear is losing Brett and doing something totally, utterly stupid and regrettable. I’ve already lost my son. I can’t imagine losing the love of my life.

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3 thoughts on “The 10-Year Itch

  1. Wow Christina! Thank you for sharing such personal details about yourself on the blog. You are so brave to share what you are going through. I will keep you and Brett in my prayers xoxo

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    1. Thank you, Colleen. It’s hard to be honest with such personal topics but I hate to just show the “happy” and “joyful” moments. There are true hurdles that every couple faces and much do so with candor.

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  2. Christina, your post really touched me. My heart goes out to you, and I’m so proud that you both are working to make things better. Marriages can go through really hard times, but if both people are committed, it will always get better. If both of you put your marriage first, you will come through this stronger. The “butterflies in the stomach” will ebb and flow. They are only part of a strong marriage. I’m also glad that you are working on your childhood issues. I know from personal experience that they definitely can influence the present. Wishing you both joy in the future.

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