Friday, November 17, 2006

Across the Great Divide

I started thinking about this after reading a post by my wondrous cyberfriend Maggie at Mind Moss. There was also another post that i read this week with a similar theme, but i don’t want to link to it as the writer was being very indirect about the issue and may not appreciate the attention. It had to do with mental distance between two people. Two people who are in a committed relationship. In both of these posts, the women were concerned and unhappy about the distance. One of them called it estrangement.

This has happened between the Mister and i. We would get caught up in our lives and i would realize that it had been a week….two weeks… since we said anything to each other beyond “Good morning”, “Good night”, “Pass the salt” and “Please stop on your way home and get some sour cream.”

Or it’s one of those times where the Mister is working really hard at his job, the job that ate his life, and i am trying to be the invisible background support, demanding none of his precious attention. I don’t want to be just another time sink for him, another person to be managed and calmed. But god damn it i get lonesome and i miss him. I come to resent the life-eating job. Where are his priorities, i wonder.

I am always the first one to “crack”. The first one to protest the chasm widening between us. I wonder if i never said anything, if the chasm would just continue to widen until we couldn’t see each other any more. Sometimes i am tempted to just let it go, because honestly, some days it’s easier to just float along and ignore each other.

But in the end, i always make a fuss. Because this marriage is too important to me to let it slide quietly into the ocean with nary a bubble to note its passage.

But does the fact that it’s always me mean that i am the only one who cares? Or that i am the more sensitive one? Or that i am the caretaker of the relationship? Isn’t that a job that should be shared?

This is really an old issue for us, in a way, because at this point in our lives, there are two of us seeking closeness, so i am not alone. But the memories are there. And i do wonder what would have happened if i had not bothered to shout and cry until the chasm filled with my noise and tears.


Otter said...

I could relate to the "job that ate his life" syndrome. Lonesome, missing him and resenting the life-eating job too. When you asked "Where are his priorities, I wonder." it gave me shivers of knowing.

Bobealia... said...

This is hard hard hard stuff. Have you asked a couples therapist? I'd like to know what one would say.

Princess in Galoshes said...

I used to refer to long distance relationships as "relationship maintenance." Because you really aren't in a regular romantic relationship, so much as maintaining it until you really are able to be together, again, because you think it's worth waiting for. I think that's true even when the distance is emotional and not physical.

But this goes back to your post yesterday and the day before about motivation. You have to find a way to keep yourself motivated, and invested in a relationship, even when you're tired and preoccupied with other things. Fortunately there are two people in a relationship, so as the natural ebbs and flows occur, you can take turns maintaining it. But it does take a little bit of extra effort and motivation sometimes, even when it's not easy. Fortunately it's more than worth it, in the end.

Lynnea said...

Oh my god. You nailed it. You just nailed it. "Stop on the way home and get some sour cream" and "Where are his priorities, i wonder" - my heart stopped and a chill ran willy nilly down my back. This is what I have been suffering. And when i 'cracked' i was more angry that he acted angry and indignant that i said it was a problem in our marriage not just that the job was eating his life...what if i hadn't said anything?

You so nailed it

Lynnea said...

P.S. I am so happy to be your friend. I need friends like you.

Anonymous said...

Just today I had the following telephone conversation with my husband: Me -Are you going to come happy?
- I'm happy.
- You're not acting like it.
- You can't talk about money until after the end of the year (referring to last night).
- I know you're under stress, but try to remember, we're the people who love you.

He doesn't talk to me, and he doesn't want to talk about what spill out into the silence from me - usually I don't either. I'm sick of living the life of toddlers and want to have some adult conversation or at least a laugh!

You've obviously hit another nerve with this one!

Anonymous said...

In the early days of our marriage, there were periods of time when we would live like roommates who hated each other, for days on end. I always cracked first, too. Later on, when the kids were older, we would go periods of time when I compared our relationship to that of a business partnership rather than a love affair. Again, I always cracked first.

Now, after 25 years, we don't have those mini-estrangements anymore. It's a growth process I think. And another thing I learned?

I may have always cracked first, but when all was said and done, he always cracked deepest.

Anonymous said...

I wrote these words just last week:

If you had tried to tell me in my infantile twenties that marriage could be lonelier than being single, I would have scoffed. But if you told me after my fourth anniversary, then I would replied, "Why didn't you enlighten me sooner?".

I understand where you are coming from. I love my other half, and I'm still intent on spending the rest of my life with him....but every now and then I get so aggravated with him that I want to sew the leg holes of all his underwear shut.

Most of the time though, I have to remind myself that we are programmed differently...but yeah, I usually crack first if there is any cracking to be done.

Unknown said...

Scrolling through the comments, I kept saying, 'Yeah, Meg! Abslutely, Princess! Dead on, Maggie! God, yes Daufiero!"
God, I just want to have all of you over for coffee to talk about this.

Meno, thanks for ANOTHER great post that seems to resonate with everyone.

I don't know. Is it a man/woman thing? Do we always 'crack' first? Guys, what do you say?

Girlplustwo said...

oh, men...and everyone...yes.

as much as it shouldn't's work, and it's a shared job, not one that should be shouldered by one more than the other....and yet it is, more often than not.

good thinking post.

Mignon said...

I wrote a post a while back wherein I argued with Dr. Phil's proclomation that "every marriage has a hero." Mostly because I didn't watch the whole show and thought that meant someone was always weaker. But after thinking on it and reading what you said, I get it. I don't really like it, but I get it.

If we're estranged, as your friend says, I am the one to crack, lash out, cry, whatever, in order for a change to occur. For us to repair the damage. But then, day in, day out, Jim is the calming force, the one that brings me out of mood swings and calms my fears. I always think when I'm complaining that he should just listen, but a lot of times I need his reasonable approach and solutions to lifes problems.

So I guess every marriage has heros. Plural. If it works, that is. You just have to be able to recognize your partners heroic works as well.

Lucia said...

Meno - In many ways, you are our everywoman. Yours are the posts to which we can all relate. You express what resonates...what we would write if we could.

Lynnea said...

Nancy, time and place. I'm so there.

Mellowdrama said...

I know exactly what you mean...let's face it, women are far better at communication. I was in a similar situation till about two years ago - we barely saw each other, me working a sensible shift, husband in an erratic job (Bless the Navy). It took a change of city and slowing down the pace to appreciate what we almost lost. Give it time and talk..highly recommended tho I daresay the guys would beg to differ. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Another one of those posts where I am left staring at the sceen, mouth agape, thankful someone out there dared describe what for me,has often been a painful reality... My husband is as taciturn as they get. Tapping into his feelings and actually expressing what they mean,has been a long and arduous process.I am grateful I stayed on the voyage even though at times I wanted to strangle the words out of his mouth!

Ginnie said...

Looking back over 32 years of marriage (he died in 1990) and the rest as an independent woman... I would say it's a matter of what's really important to you. I could have broken years of silence if I had spoken first...but I was too wrapped up in self-righteous indignation and I toughed it out. A very poor choice.
I'd advise you to keep on breaking the ice and be happy at least one of you can do it. Most important, don't waste precious time worrying about it.

Mother of Invention said...

Right on meno, and everyone else! Meno, you have the finger on the pulse of this whole scenario and we all have ben there. Sounds sexist, but I think it is the gender difference...we're not wired the same way...not even close. We need to be the ones wo speak first because if we don't, we would pay a bigger price. I truly think that they don't notice or feel things that we do. Once alerted to the situation, they usually respond with, "I had no idea you were so unhappy." and show true remorse. Then, they are willing to sit down calmly and work out a compromise plan.
Don't be afraid to initiate, if you want to gain something. And you'd be waiting time when you could be much happier once it's dealt with.

That's my experience anyway.

Mother of Invention said...

Beauty picture so reflects the sentiments of your post...forlorn right down to the cloud breaks. Perfect post today.

meno said...

meg, welcome. Looks like many women could relate to this post.

bo, we were in couples therapy for about 3 years after we were separated. He wasn’t really all that useful. I wanted someone who would point at me and say, you are wrong. But they are never that direct. When i was in group therapy, my friend kim pointed out that maybe the Mister was working so hard was his was of taking care of the family, money-wise. While it did give me something to think about, i question whether it was really the best overall way to live for the family.

princess, that is a very wise observation. I think it is worth it, but sometimes you feel so all alone.

maggie, that’s what i wonder. So you see you are not alone. And thank you, (l) (that would turn into a heart in IM.)

de, i really did hit a nerve didn’t i? The good news, is that this sort of distance is really common, and people get through it. The bad news is that if no ones bothers to fuss about it, who knows where you’ll end up?

jennifer, “I may have always cracked first, but when all was said and done, he always cracked deepest.” Wow, that gave ME shivers. Because that is what happened. And when he cracked, the family fell apart. Inside himself he is still working on fixing that crack. But he doesn't give up.

patches, there is certainly a growth process in a marriage. But young love doesn’t really want to listen to that. Because we are convinced that such a thing will not happen to us.

nancy, it’s amazing isn’t it? Can i have tea instead? :) I think it’s a man/woman thing, but no man has been brave enough to step in on this. Yet.

jen, ideally, it should be shared. But in reality, we have different threshold levels for the pain of distance.

mignon, i like that idea, that every marriage that works has heroes. I know ours does. Dr. Phil, huh? He can be so annoying and so correct at the same time. I haven’t watched him in a long time.

lucia, that’s a really heady thing for you to say to me. I just start musing and out pops some stuff. That you can all relate shows how much we all have in common.

mombat, blame. That’s a loaded word. I too am to blame. Sometimes i like my space a little too much.

mellow, welcome. It’s so scary to look back and think what could have happened. And i think we’ve all seen it happen to other couples.

caro, i’m glad you persisted. But damn it’s hard sometimes. And lonely.

ginnie, what a wonderful thing to tell us. Thank you. Righteous indignation is a poor companion.

moi, we are so not wired the same way. But sometimes withholding becomes a power game. That was the case with the other post that i referred to. It made we want to slap the man. And thank you about the picture. That’s what greeted me on getting out of bed yesterday.

Imez said...

I'm always so woefully behind on your posts, you eloquent and hearted woman. In fact, maybe I just better leave it at that.

Except to say, "just another time sink" is beautiful and makes me want to write a poem about it. Or better, read one you wrote.

Bob said...

you know, stereotyping is alive and well. either I have no courage for not having commented yet (I am obviously guilty of being a man) or I have no courage to admit to the emotional barrenness of men. I could tell you about my experience in my marriage (or previous relationships) but I don't think I'd be believed - after all I am a man and haven't the emotional depth to have really had the emotions I am relating here.

well maybe I do have one emotion - the one that men are allowed to have. anger. guilty as charged.

meno said...

esereth, it's not like you don't have anything else to do. :) I don't really do poetry, so feel free to write one, i'd love to read it.

bob, i am sorry to have offended you. I was just being cheeky with my noting that no men had commented, i didn't mean it in an "all men suck" way at all. I would like to hear what you, and other men, think. That's the half of the discussion that is missing.

Bob said...

Meno -

First of all, I owe you and your readers an apology. I should not act on angry impulses. It doesn't excuse my rudeness to say that I have not been in the best of moods lately.

Meno - you did not offend me, I was reacting to the tone or outright statements made in several of the comments above. It is so easy to play this topic off as a male/female difference. That in my mind is a cop-out and an excuse not to delve deeper into the men involved - or to hold them accountable for their failure to recognize or react to the needs of their partner.

In our marriage, we haven't really had this situation. That isn't to say that either of us haven't been distant to the other, but it doesn't last more than a few hours or a day at most and it is always tied to a bad bout of depression. Of the two of us, I am the more outwardly needing of contact - physical contact. Holding hands, a kiss or a hug - I tend to initiate these between us. I am by nature a tactile person and will reach out to touch friends when speaking. My wife is a reserved person by nature and that extends to physical contact too.

I apologize again to you and to your readers. It is just that I am required by society to be strong, and when I show my emotions I am breaking this social taboo and am held accountable for it. So, I am damned by society by having to uphold this moray (I am an uncaring man), or I am damned by society when I don't (look at that wuss crying over there.) Be honest - how many of the women reading here look toward their male partners to keep the lawn mowed, the car running (and to actually know what is wrong with it when it doesn't) and to kill the bugs. My wife does, the women I work with do, I have had female strangers approach me asking me to help them with their broken (insert noun here). And I have actually heard women talking about a man who had broke down and cried in public wishing he would "be a man" and get over it.

I get frickin tired of it.