This Tuesday Mi.Vida’s colleagues were informed of his promotion. In the New Year he will become the managing attorney at his non-profit. He’s known about the promotion for almost two months and while he was told it would include a substantial raise, he was never given an exact number. This was great news for us because our financial plan for a second child required $10,000 more a year from each of us. I figured I could make my$10K tutoring and giving private classes in the evenings. Mi.Vida’s $10K was going to come from his raise.
This Friday Mi.Vida was finally given an offer letter. His raise was substantial alright-substantially smaller than he had expected. All the plans we’d spent three months in therapy working towards seemed to be unraveling before our eyes. It was a difficult afternoon.
In the hours after I heard of the raise debacle I felt a number of things, primarily anger, frustration, despair and panic. I wanted Mi.Vida to march in there and demand an explanation. I wanted him to say that he would have to leave because (a) the compensation was not adequate for the amount of work he’d be doing and (b) he couldn’t support his family on the salary they were proposing. I wanted resolution and I wanted it now.
Of course even if Mi.Vida didn’t avoid conflict like the plague, he would never had done any of that. That isn’t his style and it’s probably for the best. I can’t imagine my plan would have produced the desired result anyway.
The next 24 hours were difficult for me. I lamented the fact that our plan was basically ruined, as it hinged on money that we falsely believed we’d be earneing. I feared the conflicts this would create, as Mi.Vida handled the disappointing raise, and eventually finding another job, in ways I didn’t understand or endorse. But really, the thing I was most upset about was the uncertainty. I was so looking forward to knowing what at least one large part of the next couple of years would look like; now yet another piece of our future was completely unknown.
Turns out uncertainty stokes my anxiety big time.
Once I was able to articulate that realization I felt better. Just knowing that the uncertainty was what bothered me most made all of it more manageable. I no longer felt overwhelmed by all of it.
On Saturday I initiated sex with Mi.Vida during Isa’s nap. Our joint “homework” from our couples counselor was to spend 30-60 minutes a week doing something we both enjoyed and to have sex once a week, whether we “wanted to” or not (you can imagine who that last bit was aimed at). We’d barely fit our first sexual encounter in the week before and I was determined to get the second one done as well (I’ve always been a straight student and I NEVER turn my homework in late). Initiating sex on Saturday felt like checking a task off my to do list but in the end I was so glad we did it. It’s true that being intimate can help kindle a connection between two people, even if one (or both) lacks the urge to do it.
On Saturday night I went to my staff party and told Mi.Vida to spend the evening with his friends. While I carve out time to meet with my girl friend he almost never takes the same initiative. I knew he wouldn’t mind going to my staff party but I also guessed he’d prefer to take advantage of “guy time” so I pushed him to do that. We both ended up enjoying the evening immensely and were happier to see each other the next morning than we might have been had we forced a shared experience.
On Sunday we went to couples counseling. Mi.Vida’s homework was to agree to the time line I’d proposed at the last meeting. I was sure that the new financial uncertainties would determine his decision but they didn’t, or at least not in the way I expected. He felt we were doing much better emotionally and that the financial piece would fall into place. He not only agreed that we could start trying in June of next year, but conceded that we could even begin earlier if things continued in a positive direction. I couldn’t believe it.
The rest of the day Mi.Vida spoke with sparks of excitement about finding something new. As a someone who’s never been a self started he believes this raise debacle might be just the kick in the pants he needs to make a move to something new and hopefully better. And while I’m still anxious about the uncertainty involved, I feel more hopeful about the eventual outcome than I did about the original (assumed) raise.
Two weeks ago I was wondering if the time, effort and money we’d been spending at couples counseling was worth it. While some days were obviously better, there was a lot of that “two steps forward, one step back” sentiment. I doubted any real progress would ever be made. It seems, though, that it has. I see it in the disagreements we have that don’t ruin our time later together, even if the issues haven’t been resolved. I glimpse it in the renewed support we show each other at home every night. I recognize it in the way we handled the bad news this weekend, in the honesty and acceptance present in our discussions about the future.
It’s true that we’ve been taking two steps forward, one step back. I’ve been so focused on the back steps that I forgot one simple truth – the final sum of that equation is still one step forward. It may take a long time to get anywhere when you’re making a go of it one step at a time, but you will eventually get there. And it seems, slowly but surely, that we are.