This past Sunday we went to couples counseling. Finances were on the docket that day and once again, even though we said almost all the same things we always say, I heard something different. Later that night I brought up a fear with Mi.Vida that I’d been feeling for a while but had never shared – a fear that we want such fundamentally different things in our lives as to be incompatible as a couple. Lately I’ve been wondering if us trying to build a family together was all a huge mistake.
As you can imagine it didn’t go over well. Mi.Vida was understandably shocked and hurt. I felt horrible. But in the aftermath I noticed something shifted and after suddenly our situation didn’t seem so hopeless. For the first time in a long time I no longer believed our differences would be the death of our relationship. I realized that we didn’t want such different things, not really, we just wanted them in different ways and on different time tables.
Last night I wrote Mi.Vida this letter.
I’ve been thinking about what to say to you since our conversation on Sunday. I’ve wanted to talk but I’ve sensed it hasn’t been the right time. Not because you weren’t ready or interested, but because it was late and I knew you were tired. I’ve realized recently that I tend to push things on you when it works for me, when I want to talk about them, even though I can see you aren’t really in the mood. I want to stop doing that. I need to start respecting you and your feelings more. I need to be more patient and open minded. Things can wait. We can always talk later.
And if we become ships passing in the night, I can always write you an email, like I’m doing now. 😉
I know I dropped kind of a big bomb on you the other day. And I dropped it in a pretty shit-tastic way. I’ve been thinking about that stuff for a while, being scared of what it might mean. In the past months, as we’ve both struggled with the prospective future, I’ve noticed how different our ideal situations are. There have been times, so many times, when I’ve wished that we wanted the same thing. Sometimes I feel we have to negotiate everything because none of our major desires in life are in line. Sometimes I wish that we were a united front, boldly pushing our way to the same destination. Instead I feel like we want to go to two completely distinct places and we’re always arguing about how best to get there, except we can’t come to an agreement because we’re facing different directions.
Sometimes I just wish that when I said, “I really want another baby,” I knew you’d say, “yeah, I really want one too.”
But you’re never going to say that. And for the first time in maybe forever, I’m okay with that.
For a while I thought maybe the fact that you’d never say that meant this was all a big mistake. For a while I worried that we shouldn’t have tried to make this work, that the constant negotiation would get the better of us, that we’d eventually have to give up and go our separate ways. It was so horrible to feel that way. I’ve never felt so lost or despondent or hopeless than when I felt that way. And I’m sorry if thinking that way feels like a betrayal. I can understand if it does. Maybe it was a betrayal of some sort, but I hope you believe me when I say that it wasn’t meant as that. I was just trying to figure things out.
In counseling S has told us repeatedly that when negotiation takes place, neither party is truly happy with the outcome. I suppose it makes sense, if one of us is happy with how things are it means that person didn’t have to give anything up. I think that so far, I haven’t really been negotiating, at least not about the things that matter. As you’ve said, there are certain things I’ve determined are “off the table”. That is not good negotiating. That is not negotiating at all. It’s not fair for me to take things off the table, especially when those things are causing us all of our problems.
Two years ago, when you weren’t quite ready to start having kids, you jumped in with both feet because it was what I wanted. You gave me what I needed to be happy. Now it is my turn to concede. Now it is my turn give you what you need to be happy. That is only fair.
I love you so much. In the end that should be all that matters, right? I won’t lie, there are times that I wish, really wish, we wanted the same things, if only because it would make things so much easier. But then they’d probably be a lot more boring too. And I recognize that if I got everything I wanted we’d probably be in an even bigger mess than we’re already in. I know that I need your leveled patience and calm to counteract my wild and untethered wants. I know you need my drive and determination to get your placated butt into gear. I know we work well together and make life interesting while we do it. I know this, for the first time in a long time, I really believe this to be true.
There was a time when I worried that our divergent desires would be our demise. Now I see that needn’t be the case. We love each other enough that we can make it work. It’s true it will require continual sacrifice from both of us, but together we can do this. And my life might look really different from what I’d always planned, but maybe that’s okay. Different doesn’t have to mean worse. In fact sometimes, different can be so much better.
I love you.
Now I would be lying if I said I felt this way, 100%, if I claimed this shift has brought me to a place where I’m okay with waiting, possibly indefinitely, to have another baby. I want to feel that way, I think I should feel that way, but it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be really hard to not pursue the dream of my family that I always held in my mind. It’s going to be hard to erase my vision of three kids in a little house with a dog. I wanted those things or a reason, and I still want them for a reason. And there is a part of me that feels lost with out that dream for the future. There is a part of me that feels I have suffered a loss in letting it go.
What I have to remember is there isn’t just loss there, where my old dreams used to live. Something else will be there, something that I might not recognize yet but that could be just as wonderful as what I’d hoped for. Maybe even better. And while I can’t know yet if the new dreams I’m working for bring me as much joy as I hoped the old dreams would, I have to have faith that they will. I have to see what I have and not look past it to what I lack.
Nothing really has changed but the way I see it has. Or at least, the way I think I can see it has. Before our difference were mired in hopeless and despair. Now they are bathed in tentative hope. I haven’t made this shift yet, not totally, but I’m on my way to it. Just seeing it this way, even for a moment, is such a big step for me. A positive step. There will be steps backwards. There will flashes of anger and resentment. There will be disappointment and frustration. But there will also be moments of optimism and peace and eventually, acceptance.
Do you see eye to eye with your partner on the big issues (like family building or where to live)? If not, how do you achieve compromise?