This floor has a lean
It gives to the side,
Where marbles and water
Roll and collide.
In the fashion of something
You think couldn’t fall,
The floor tricks your step,
Throws you to the wall,
Loves you madly
Loves you madly
— “Loves you Madly,” Joe Henry, Tiny Voices
There was something else about the book What Alice Forgot that really struck me and made me think, and that how madly in love with her husband she was. A recurring narrative in the book is her disbelief that she and her husband are getting a divorce, because they had been so “besotted” with each other at the start of their marriage.
One of the first things I thought while reading the book was: I wouldn’t be all that surprised if I found out that Mi.Vida and I were getting divorced. That might seem horrible to say, but it’s true. I’m a realist (or at least that is how I see it) about marriage and my relationship. I have seen incredible, strong, mutually loving relationships broken or worn down over time. I don’t just automatically assume mine will withstand the trials of parenting and long term commitment better than others have. I hope it will, but I know that things happen and marriages fail.
Having said that I’m willing to work hard for my marriage. I already have worked hard for it, and I believe we’ve come out of the last seven difficult years of disagreement, loss, struggle, transformation, more struggle and parenting stronger for all we’ve been through. We’ve been to the brink a few times, and we needed professional help to step away from it twice, but we’ve remained committed to each other. I think we have as much chance as any other couple to make it for the long haul.
And yet… I wouldn’t say we’re madly in love. I don’t think we’ve ever been madly in love. Is that an awful thing to say? Or is it awful that I married someone I wasn’t madly in love with?
I love my husband, please know that. I absolutely love him with all my heart. We’ve been through so much and I know he loves me and cares for me greatly. He respects me, he appreciates me, I would even say he cherishes me. And I do the same to him. But do we adore each other? Are we besotted? (That is a word that is specifically used in the book.)
I spent my late teen years and the first half of my twenties looking for a relationship, or rather, wondering why I couldn’t find a relationship. So when Mi.Vida showed some interest in me, I was quick to invest myself fully in the possibility of a meaningful connection. I loved him, absolutely, but I wasn’t madly in love with him. I had never been in another relationship so I made a lot of assumptions, about whether we were right for each other, and whether we loved each other enough.
I wanted us to be right for each other, I wanted us to love each other enough, because I was approaching my late twenties and more than anything (even more than a good marriage) I wanted children, and I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to have them. So I pushed. I pushed for us to commit to each other. I pushed for us to have children. We never had that honeymoon period where it was just us, committing to being with each other and our relationship. We dove head first into making it about adding someone else to our family.
We committed to each other by having children, or trying to. I will admit, it’s not the best way to do it (having said that I’m really glad we did because with MFI and DOR (at 33) we probably would have struggled a lot harder to have kids had we waited) and I think our relationship suffered for it (the loss and struggle didn’t help). The last few years have been hard, and while I think it has strengthened our commitment to each other, I don’t know what it’s done for the “love” we feel for each other.
So I wonder a lot, do we actually love each other enough? I think we do, but it’s hard to know. I think one thing that stands in our way is that we both express love, and feel love, in different ways. In fact, the way I need him to show me love is one of the things he’s least good at, and the way he needs me to show love is one of the things I’m least good at. It’s like we have to fight an uphill battle just to make sure the other person knows we love them.
My “love language” is physical touch but Mi.Vida didn’t grow up hugging much. He rarely touches me physically unless he “wants something” from me (or, even if he’s trying to simply show me physical affection, he ends up wanting something from me). This drives me crazy, because even when he does hug me or cuddle me I’m always waiting for him to take it to the next level. It’s like his love comes at a price.
Mi.Vida’s “love language” is quality time, which I’m crappy at because of my ADD. Sitting through a movie (especially some of the weird, independent films he picks) is a real challenge for me. I want to be folding laundry or doing SOMETHING while we sit there for two hours (at least most of the time). It’s hard for me to just sit still and watch something.
We’re trying to get better at these things. Mi.Vida is working on just lying next to me and holding me, without trying to take it to the next level. I asked if we could not watch TV while we eat but actually talk to each other and that has been really nice. The funny thing is, when we both get that from each other, we have the capacity to take it to the next level more, which means more sex and feeling closer as a couple. There is a way to make it work, but it takes, well, work.
I guess I assume that if we were madly in love with each other we wouldn’t have to work so hard, we would just know, organically, how much we loved each other. Or maybe after you have kids that mad love has to tone down its intensity, and eventually requires work? I honestly don’t know, I’ve never felt it before. I suppose I’m banking on the idea that while mad love might fizzle out, the slow steady burn of our love could stay lit for a long time, especially if we keep stoking it.
Have you ever been madly in love with anyone? Are you madly in love with the person you ended up? Do you think mad love has a greater, or lesser, chance of lasting?