Wednesday, November 26, 2008


A good marriage is that in which each appoints the other guardian of his solitude. ~Rainer Maria Rilke

I've been married a long time. "A long time" is definitely a subjective notion. I grew up in a divorced house, making my marriage seem long. My grandparents, on the other hand, were married for over 60 years. They literally lived and died together.

I never thought I would get married. I always thought that I would have children, but the marriage part of the family equation seemed a bad fit. Being married for 15 years continues to surprise me. It feels as if I must be talking about someone else, someone more stable and committed, more dedicated to the whole idea of marriage.

Being married has been hard for me of late. It's one of the reasons that I haven't been writing much, I think, as if laying down the words somehow moves me into dangerous, uncharted waters. And writing here is scary, and takes a modicum of bravery every time I do it. I've gone through these moments before. I should remember that.

Our move away from Italy has had many unexpected challenges and successes. It has been a journey of chance, and each day I am more convinced that I did the right thing. I cannot say the same for my husband. His reaction to stepping into a different world, as a citizen, not a traveler, for this is a very big distinction, has been hard, hard, hard. It may be because he is a man. It may be because he is Italian. It may be because he is proud. It is probably all of these. Is it that women are more resilient and adaptable to change? The majority of the expat blogs I read are women who have transplanted themselves into other cultures. I'm not so sure this is because of the stereotypical idea that the woman always follows the man. Could the woman actually be stronger, more able to adapt, more willing to feel a fool half the time?

And the intense culture gap, like a fault line between us, has never felt so enormous. My very way of thinking is foreign to him sometimes, and I realize how much our surroundings can camouflage our true selves.

I grew up thinking I wanted to be alone. I find myself slipping into fantasies of just that, remembering when I was untethered to any man. Fantasies are fantasies, they are not real. But it scares me all the same. Just as writing all of this down scares me. And so I wait.


jen said...

this scares me for a number of reasons, one i've not yet been able to put to paper.

you courageous woman, you.

i am sorry. it is paltry, but i mean it.

richclarke99 said...
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richclarke99 said...

I read the other day that numerous surveys have shown that in terms of most highly stressed are, first, married women who do not work outside the family life, second married women who work outside the family life (and normally do the majority within it!) and third single working women.

I believe it's related to which of these environments allows you to truly express yourself, as opposed to being defined or expressed by others perceptions of roles.

Different cultures, relationships, organisations I believe both restrict and offer challenges for us to overcome in that struggle for self.

I felt sad reflecting on your blog, and I am struggling now to seek happiness. I don't know when but I know it will come for me, perhaps later today?

Jennifer said...

I am so sorry the adjustment is so difficult for him and for you as a couple! I think men find it harder to adapt. The way you put it reminds me of your early posts when you talked about how in Italy you had become "Jenny." I think it's harder for men to do that, and it definitely gets harder as you age. He's a lot older than you were when you moved to Italy, so that could be some of it too. Also, he is probably not only dealing with the new world around him, but his new non-Jenny wife too!

I hope it's just a rough spot and you find each other again.

Jennifer said...
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Betsy said...

Funny, I was just thinking about another post you wrote in which you described your husband's difficulty settling into his new surroundings and when you said he seemed to be shrinking.

And since you haven't mentioned it again I assumed that he'd found his groove and that you both had recovered your equilibrium. I'm sorry to hear that this isn't the case!

15 years is a long time to know and love someone and then for that feeling to slip away-- it sounds like you've been such a great team in the past.

I sincerely hope that this phase passes quickly and that you can find each other again! Good luck!

anno said...

I'm sorry you have these hard thoughts in front of you right now, but there is a lot of wisdom in the comments so far.

A few more hard thoughts:

-- You can quit any time, but that's usually a permanent decision. If you can even imagine some possibility that you might regret missing somewhere down the road, it might be worthwhile to keep with the hard work of continuing the story, and working toward that possibility.

-- My divorced friends with children still have to deal with their exes; they still complain about the same problems they did when they were married.

The last year has stressed practically every dimension of your life -- it would be unusual if your marriage were not also stressed. You've spoken in the past of the deep connection you & your husband share. As Betsy & Jennifer have both already said, I hope this passes soon, and you find your way back to each other again.

Wishing you peace.

jennifer said...

Wow... nothing like a little honesty. I think I should thank you all for reading and writing, and also tell you that my post may have been misleading. I have the tendency to write spontaneously. It's the only way I know ho to be creative and expressive. So my post was kind of like a snapshot, or portrait of a moment in time. I have no real intentions of leaving anyone or anything. But I thought it just to write down the inner workings of my mind and heart. Feelings aren't facts. I dare say we all have feelings we never share, or never write, as jen said.
I think it is time to take my writing to a new level, hence this post. I have been sidestepping anything meaningful here for a while.
I love my husband. He loves me. We just spent the morning skiing together. But this doesn't mean that I don't at times yearn for something different. I don't know if this is only me... but I doubt it.
Now that would be a whole different post.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

I think many, many of us who are independent women OR men who are married dream of that former freedom at times. I think it's completely normal.

And yes, every moment that we independent spirits find ourselves still married, it truly is a wonder.

Like you, I always thought children would be there, but I was definitely unsure about the marriage part.

I've been married to D 18.5 years and with him for over 20. It still feels surreal to me. ;-)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Greg said...

We grow together; we grow apart. A marriage is sometimes the constant between that movement. I wish you peace.

Brillig said...

Is it weird that I think this post is gorgeous?

I definitely have those days-- those snapshots, as you say. It's not permanent, and I don't REALLY mean it, I think.

Here's to better snapshots...

michelle of bleeding espresso said...

I'm sure you're speaking (beautifully) for a lot of people who have been with someone for a little while or for a long while and anywhere in least for those of us who had a hard time imagining sharing a WHOLE life with someone else. And if it's not moving across the world, it's something else or nothing at all that brings these feelings to the surface.

But FWIW, I can't remotely imagine my OH adjusting to life in the States. Like you, I don't know if it's because he's a man, Italian, proud and/or all of the above or maybe I'm just underestimating him. Maybe.

Hugs, bella :)