Mostly though, the thoughts that come out are written in private entries. I need to say them in a medium that isn’t my head but I don’t necessarily need others to read them. It has never been about the validation for me. Often the mere act of writing is enough to exorcise any demons and I can just leave them be. I carry this tendency across to other forms of social media as well; I think Facebook and Twitter are on their way out, in terms of relevancy. I use those two outlets for professional, safe considered, work reasons these days, anyway.
Occasionally I write about things that I still think pertinent to my life – home truths, triumphs and disasters, and for some reason I do publish those posts. What I am writing about today is, I think, worth it if only for the reason that my daughters do sometimes read here.
It was St Valentine’s Day yesterday and not an occasion I make a big deal about. In the days of my gorgeous youth I expected (and received) many bunches of flowers, boxes of chocolates and anonymous cards. I loved being single and feeling like I was an object of somebody’s attention from afar.
Once I got married to my first husband we tended to do low key stuff. He would bring me token flowers/chocolates and I would plan a special meal. A couple of times I even sent flowers to him at the office. It wasn’t a big deal but it was noted as a day to exchange tokens of our affection.
Fast forward to my life now. My husband blew all the stops out for our first VD together. I got red roses, chocolates and jewellery. He knocked it out of the park. However, since then he has rested on his laurels. I usually get him some small token or cook us a romantic dinner but he rarely responds in kind.
In the past I might have been upset about this lack of display but I’ve figured out that he isn’t a romantic man and any romantic gestures he has ever made came about purely because I told him what I expected of him. He never resented that I did so because he recognized that he was clueless about these things and appreciated getting a head’s up. Eventually I got tired of asking for the things I wanted but I was always happy to know that I could get them if I just stated my needs and wants.
I never felt bad about not getting those romantic gestures. He does romantic all the time, just through everyday life and really noticing me. My first gift from him was a Scrabble Set because he knows how I love words. He built me a roof rack for my car for a camping trip where there would be three of us (and, without going into details, he did it so I wouldn’t have to be involved in a very unsavoury interaction.)
This Valentine’s Day wasn’t about me being sad and resentful I didn’t get the stereotypical gifts associated with the day. It was about being so grateful for a happy marriage.
And I am at last coming to the eventual point of this post. Even things that are potentially issues between us never turn out to be so. We can always talk about things, always see the other person’s point of view, always call each other out without offense. It is all so EASY and I am constantly surprised because of that.
I didn’t know, you see. I didn’t know that marriage was supposed to be like this. The best relationship you have is the one where you never feel you have to work at it. It shouldn’t be hard! But I grew up in the shade of many times divorced grandparents and their bitterness. I absorbed the template of my own parents’ marriage and it made an impact. I thought that was how it was supposed to be: that there were arguments and fights and repercussions and tiptoeing around and threats. My father actually used to tell me that marriage required work so no wonder I saw my own dysfunctional relationship as a challenge to work hard. My God, I worked hard at that marriage and I felt like such a failure because I couldn’t somehow manufacture the glue to hold it together long term.
I am amazed at the epiphany I’ve received since meeting and marrying my partner now. It came as a shock: THIS is how marriage is supposed to be. It’s not hard when you are with the person who is right for you. Everything is easy because you truly value the other person’s welfare above your own.
When my parents divorced after 35 years of marriage, all of us children felt relief. They did the whole ‘stay together for the children’ thing, or maybe it was just exhausted resignation; either way, their marriage was a dreadful example to imprint on their children. One out of the three of us got marriage right and I definitely wasn’t that sibling.
I always felt that I did the best I could in a marriage that had problems right from the start and I gritted my teeth and hung on, because I’d never really been within shouting distance of a happy marriage. Even when my husband left me for a short period of time, my mother blamed me for causing him to go and not putting the children first. That is so fucked up.
So I kept on working at it and it never even occurred to me that by staying in such an unhappy life I was showing my children patterns that they would see as the norm. I thought I was doing the right thing and it took me until just recently to realise that I did a bad thing.
Unknowingly, unwillingly, but totally reprehensibly, I set my daughters up for relationship dysfunction as well and there is so much guilt there.
Of course they haven’t had happy relationships in the past: how could they, when they don’t know what one looks like?
And if they ever read this, I just want them to know that if the relationship is right, it isn’t hard work. And that they deserve so much more than what they are getting. And that I am so sorry I got it so completely wrong.