My Sober Life, Chapter 22

In which a marriage becomes a partnership

It’s been almost 15 years since I went on my last first date. My husband and I met at Target. We were both working there at the time, him in the backroom, and me in the photo lab. (I developed real film. In an hour. Remember that? No? Aww, that’s adorable.) We worked in the same building for over a year before meeting each other. And from that first phone call – you know the one, where you stay up all night talking, learning as much as you can about each other – I was hooked. He was mine and I was his. Man, you can get everything at Target.

Within the first six months of our relationship, there were things he would do that would drive me batty. I would get so frustrated by something he would do or say. And then one day, I realized the things he did that drove me the most crazy? They were things I did. He was my mirror (cue Justin Timberlake). He reflected back to me parts of my personality and character for which I did not care. And it was a catalyst for me to change. 

Four-ish years later, we were married, and we just celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary. Our relationship has always been against the current. We don’t neatly fit in the husband/wife, male/female boxes. We never have. We’ve never wanted to. It’s one of the things I love most about us. 

After my mother died, we hit a hard rift. Feelings I had been suppressing for years could no longer be suppressed. I exploded at him and my children regularly. Then I would shut down for days. I would will him to do something unforgivable to give me an excuse to throw my whole existence into upheaval. Break up our marriage, our family, our life, just so I could run away without carrying any blame. I only wanted to escape. To never feel. Feeling was too hard.

When we hit our bottom, we had to decide whether we wanted to move forward together or not. We had to learn all over again how to communicate with each other. And ever since then, our life together has been different. It has been strong. Because this time when we chose each other, there was no pomp and circumstance. It was just us, crying in the kitchen, not wanting to give up on each other.

For all my internal self-doubt, I am fairly strong-willed. I am loyal to a fault. I also put an enormous amount of responsibility on my shoulders. When my husband decided to go to film school, I put my pursuits on hold so he could go after it. When he quit a full-time job for a part-time job so he could finish school faster, I supported it and took a position within my office instead of the career change I’d been pursuing to that point. When he was unexpectedly let go from that job, I put my head down, completed classes, and earned certifications so I could be eligible for better jobs and more money. I encouraged him to pursue his art and a career in that field. We’d lost more than a third of our income, but I would not let us fall. I would not fail us.

For the last few years, I have been working to support our family while he stayed home. He has been honing his craft; shuttling our children to/from school and activities; gone from a good cook to an incredible chef; increased his wood-working skills; handled homework duty; maintained our home; coached soccer teams; all while continuing to love all of us. Even when we make it hard. It is exhausting to be the at-home parent, but when I walk in the door from a long day and longer commute, he always greets me with a smile and a hug. He always takes the time to let me know I’m loved and appreciated.

When I was offered my current job position, we were ecstatic. The salary was more than we had ever earned combined. The stability we’d been lacking for so long seemed within our grasp. My family joined in our excitement. But while my father was proud, he also shared with me concern. Not about me taking the job, or my ability to do the job, or my opportunity to provide for my family and grow professionally. He was concerned about my husband. He said, and I quote, “I’m worried that he’ll feel like he’s not contributing.”

Now, my father was born toward the end of the great depression. He’s lived through over eight decades and experienced hardship and strife I will likely never know. He suffered racism and classism in ways I will not experience. He’s witnessed war and death and poverty. And he powered through all of that to become successful, exceeding all expectations. He also grew up in a generation where the man was the breadwinner and the woman kept the home and raised the children. 

So keeping all of that in mind, I gently asked, “Dad. If the situation was reversed, and it was him with the job opportunity, would you be worried that I would feel like I wasn’t contributing?”

Pause. “I never thought of it that way.”

My husband and I are a team. We are equals. We are stronger together because we know we support each other above and beyond all expectation. We balance each other out, we listen to one another, we love each other deeply and profoundly.

He is my twin soul. My partner in crime. 

I can’t wait to see where life takes us next. 

No. 

I can’t wait to see where we take our life next.

Cheers. (with pineapple orange juice made by…you know who.)


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