Anniversary

Soundtrack

A little over a year ago, I found myself in hysterical tears on the steps of a church in Streeterville, Chicago.

It was a month into Spouse’s residency and I had never felt so alone in my life. I was in a new city, trying to figure out the basics and Spouse was married to the hospital. We had intended to go grocery shopping together, but as was so common, he was asleep before 8 PM and I was left to go it out alone.

Before leaving, before he fell asleep, I had expressed a need for some emotional reassurance, some closeness and words or actions of solidarity. He couldn’t give them to me. I know he wanted to. And that fact made it harder and more painful. So I got out the grocery cart, took it down the elevator and began the 15 minute walk to the store as he fell asleep and began to snore in our new, king sized bed.

While I walked, I called my big brother, J. J has always been there for me, fully and without judgment. This is when I fell apart. Somewhere en route I had to stop because I was crying so hard. I tucked up into the church steps, hoping darkness would conceal me a little bit on the busy streets. At least three people stopped to be sure I was OK. Including the doorman from across the street, who brought me tissues. I suppose being on a church’s steps made it seem like a very different kind of breakdown.

I thought of this tonight as I walked a similar route, this time headed back to the el after my weekly therapy session. You see, tomorrow is Spouse and my 5th wedding anniversary. Or, I guess it would be. Do you stop counting after you decide the marriage is over?

I cried, albeit not as hysterically as a year ago, all the way home. There is actually something really beautiful about walking around the city, listening to music, and crying. Now I’m sitting on my front porch, still teary eyes, but calmer.

When I tell people our marriage is over, they often ask if I will stay in Chicago. Outwardly, there is nothing keeping me here. I work remotely, after all. I could do my job from anywhere in the US and none of my family or closest friends are here.

But the truth is, I have built a life here. In only a short time and under relatively traumatic circumstances, I have grown into this city. I have an incredible roommate, a growing group of girlfriends and a kooky little dog. I have had more new experiences in the last year than I thought I even wanted. I have had tastes of love, companionship, friendship and great sex with men and women across the north side and am fostering the beginnings of more. I know how to live in this city. I can get around and enjoy myself and I know there are opportunities for me to do anything I want here. And I’m really proud of that.

Last year, our anniversary fell on the night before residency began. We got dressed up and ate at a nearby Italian joint, taking a moment to pause about getting here and what beginning this life would mean. At that moment, we still had a fair amount of blind hope, firm denial and the only thing still true this year: a lot of love for each other.

This is not how I expected to spend my fifth anniversary. But, it’s a lovely night. A warm wind is pulling my hair across my face and the tears are gently rolling now. Last year these tears were futile and frustrated, broken and tragic. This year, the tears are leading me somewhere.

 

Going Inside

Knowing your marriage is over and feeling that your marriage is over are two very different things. In some ways, I have been “making up for lost time” over the past 8 months since Spouse and I separated. Tons of dating, tons of sex, new friends, new adventures, etc. But the pace at which I was going was unsustainable. So, the day after I finished checking the last big box on my sexual wish list, I realized it was time to slow down and do some feeling.

The weeks since have been a mixture of grief and peace, new hope and despair. I have not once questioned the decision to end my marriage, but the fact that it’s the right thing doesn’t make it an easy thing. We’re lucky in that the dissolution of our marriage has been respectful, kind, honest and mutually decided upon. But there is still hurt and pain and disappointment.

There are so many ways to understand what happened or didn’t happen. I can tell myself and others the story of my marriage in a million different iterations and they’d all be true. But trying to comprehend such a thing is both worthwhile and futile.

So I’ve retreated some. I abruptly stopped maintaining existing relationships with men, deciding that the important ones would continue to seek me out. I reasoned that just because I could sustain all of these casual relationships doesn’t mean that I should. And right when I decided that I felt at once relief and sadness and very quickly, exhaustion set in.

Having healed from one trauma before and also believing that life is nothing but a slew of traumas, I know that it isn’t a consistent upward trend. Healing comes in fits and starts and this is no different. Some days I believe the darkness is largely behind me and other days I feel as though I’ve only just begun letting it in.

But one thing is for sure, I am showing up. I am paying attention and I am letting myself feel what must be felt. There are still multiple men around, there is even a new one that I find really promising. But most nights I stay in with S and M watching Gilmore Girls and sewing. This is a moment for turning inward and I intend to embrace it fully.

I truly believe I can at once close off the borders to my body and my heart for healing purposes and keep them permeable enough to consider myself open to new and deep love. We shall see.

 

The End

I married Spouse with a sincere belief that we would grow old together, husband and wife. But alas, it isn’t true. Instead, we will grow old together as dear friends, confidants and one another’s constant champion. I imagine that will look differently over the years.

I refuse to see the end of our marriage as a failure. Quite the opposite, in fact.

At the beginning, we fell in love quickly, madly and without hesitation. We founded and ran an advocacy group in our conservative college town and community. We held hands and walked together away from a religion and culture we now condemn. We gave one another the confidence and bravery to be the truest versions ourselves.

The first night we kissed, he was about to drive me home for the night when he came around to my side of the car, opened the door and asked me to please get out. He said he couldn’t wait and he pulled me close to kiss me as the first snowfall of the season began around us. The first time we had sex, I cried. It wasn’t my first time, but it felt as though it was.

For months, I would lay naked in bed, watching him play guitar and sing Iron and Wine or Sufjan Stevens and he would pick me wildflowers on the way to my house each day in spring. We spent hours on his roof discussing philosophy, poetry and religion. We both felt fully seen for the first time in our lives.

We were married  barefoot in the foothills of the Wasatch mountains not 8 months after meeting. We wrote our own vows and my pastor grandmother officiated as we stood beneath an arch Spouse and brothers had built from found wood in the mountains.

We moved in together and out of state simultaneously after that. We were so poor we had to borrow $400 from his parents just to buy a bed. We laid on a pile of blankets in our living room for months, referring to it as our couch. That first year of marriage was bliss and I wouldn’t exchange it for anything. He built us a raised bed in the front yard and we adopted a dog together.

But then we began to grow up and through the things of life. Spouse embarked on the arduous and in my opinion, abusive, path of medical education while I held many jobs and finished my undergraduate degree. We supported one another the best we could. There was always love and respect and a good degree of emotional connection through these challenging years. But we were also growing into ourselves. And that means figuring out how we wanted to live and what kinds of things we could give and needed to get within a romantic relationship.

I don’t feel that I can pinpoint a moment where our marriage headed south, because it really didn’t. Part of our vows had a promise in it to hold the space for one another to grow and change as individuals and I feel proud to say that for the most part, we did do that. There is more to it than this, but I think it boils down to the fact that we just aren’t what one another’s needs anymore. Not in this way.

So even though I am palpably feeling the heart break of the end of our marriage these days, I find solace in the knowledge that a broken heart has cracks in through which more love can enter. And in the end, I still have my best friend and words cannot express how grateful I am for him.

Relief

We sat on my porch to discuss the disentanglement of our finances a few Sundays ago. It was just getting warm and he brought beer to ease us through a very annoying but important step we’d been intending to take for a while. We’d been discussing counseling a while. It was clear that although non monogamy seemed to be a good thing for me, it wasn’t solving the problems that existed in our relationship. So the conversation started there. Should we do counseling? What do we want out of that exactly?

Then sheepishly, Spouse said “I mean, maybe this is crazy, but what if we were just best friends?” I immediately began to cry. These were the words I’d said over and over to my therapist. What if this marriage that made so much sense at one time didn’t have to end in divorce and hate? What if we could transition into best friends? That’s the part of our relationship that always felt seamless. It’s the whole reason this separation and the last few years have been largely peaceful and always respectful.

I responded through my tears “that’s what I want to do too!”. He began crying too and saying “oh honey” in the most tender, loving voice. It’s the voice that soothed me when I worried I had said something dumb or wanted something dumb. It’s the voice that held me during many a panic attack, late night school work complaining and every other life hurdle Spouse has held me through.

I climbed onto his lap the way I always do after we’ve reconnected and we held one another on the porch for a long time, just sitting in the relief and love at the idea that our marriage the way it was is truly over, and that’s OK.

After a long while he said “you know what this makes me think? I want to hear about your boyfriends.” What a strange sentence to come out of my husband’s mouth. But it was the final piece to things. I could finally let him in on my whole self again, the way best friends do. It’s true that he may never meet another partner of mine and I will probably never discuss sex with him in that way. But, I spent the next 20 minutes debriefing him on the wild ride of the previous six months.

I gave him the basics of the important men. Barista, who he knows. We laughed cause he of course had picked up on the fact that we had probably dated. I told him about Storyteller and Filmmaker and Feathers. The most bizarre thing was that it actually felt normal and comfortable. I know that as we navigate going forward things will not always be this easy, but it felt nice to let my best friend in on my life completely.

Since then my world has opened. I spend some nights crying. I spend some nights with new loves. But I’m feeling it all.

 

The end is nearly as beautiful as the beginning.

It’s been six months since my spouse and I decided to separate. It’s been painful and good and sad and exciting and all kinds of other things. We finally came to a place we both feel good about. We are going to let the romantic and sexual part of our relationship go. We’ll continue to be best friends, co dog parents and in some ways, partners. We are both relieved and feel calm about this decision. I don’t regret one day of our marriage the way it was and I think I’ll always love him. Those of you who know Spouse can understand why. He’s truly a remarkable person and I feel lucky to have shared five years with him. We grew up together. Got each other through degrees and jobs and moves and truly breaking with our families of origin. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner in all of that. And so even though we’re planning to stay legally married for the time being and there is some chance there will be romance or sex or love in that way again someday, this is very much the end of our marriage as it was.

I am happy to say I’m discovering and deepening female friendships, truly developing myself as an independent woman and enjoying some new romances. I am also able to enjoy Spouse again for the person that he is and not resent him for the partner that he couldn’t be. This decision has freed me to truly start looking for the love and partner(s) I need. But it’s also very emotional and sad.

I haven’t been writing much lately because it’s a lot to live. But tonight I found myself crying in bed and just really wanted to say these things to someone.

The Single Slut

pexels-photo-89820In the book Ethical Slut, a person without a primary partner is described as a single slut. This person may be seeing no one or may be seeing a few people, but they aren’t really committed to anyone in a deep way.

I had thought Spouse could be my primary partner. But I realized recently that I don’t actually feel that he is. Words like primary only have the meaning we put behind them and only matters insofar as they inspire action. The truth is, I don’t trust Spouse again yet and while I was fulfilling his needs in a primary partner, he was not fulfilling mine.

This became obvious when he forgot to wish me a happy birthday and couldn’t understand why that felt upsetting to me. I should be clear in saying that Spouse is not a jerk or an idiot. In fact, he’s very kind and very intelligent. But certain basic things that come to other people seem to elude him completely. I’ve often theorized that he exists somewhere on the spectrum, but who really knows.

But there was this moment when we finally talked about him forgetting that I realized: this man is not my primary partner. He’s a man I love, a man I grew up with, a man I hope will always be a part of my life. But he is not my person anymore. He cannot now and may never be able to be the kind of primary partner I need.

In the same week, Storyteller, who I had started to become quite close with ended things with me. I started seeing him before transitioning to nonmonogamy and so he really didn’t sign up for this. We both knew that eventually he would choose to be monogamous with someone else. I’m very sad that that day came. But I understand.

So that leaves me with a few things. There is Feathers, who already has a primary and who I wouldn’t want to couple in that way with in any case. Then there is Spouse, who I am disentangling myself more and more each time things like this happen. And then a few relationships that are sporadic and primarily sexual in nature.

And so, I am something of a single slut these days. And that’s a good thing. Losing Storyteller and in some ways, Spouse has made space in my life for whatever is next and I can’t wait to see what that is.

 

Dividing the books

Spouse and I decided it doesn’t make sense to live together in our old apartment again. For years we haven’t slept in the same bed anyway, one of us always ended up on the couch. He snores and we both have serious sleeping problems. We also have very different ideas about acceptable levels of cleanliness at home. And now, with non monogamy, it’s hard to imagine living together again. 

Anyway, it’s a decision we both feel good about. Our lease is up in August and depending on how things are we may move into a two bedroom and have separate bedrooms and hire a cleaner. Or, separate apartments in the same building. Or on the same block. Who knows. 

But, I won’t be moving back into the place we built together. So today, I went to go get the rest of my things. Not every last item.. and it isn’t time to divide furniture or anything. 

The process of packing the rest of my things up, alone, was sadder than I expected. Especially dividing our books. Spouse and I both love to read and own the books we love. 

I remember when Spouse and I moved in together after we got married, we had such a great time combining our books. We were so young and totally poor. In fact, we had a pile of blankets in the living room we referred to as our “couch” for months and we could not afford book shelves. So we sat on the wood floor in the sun from the big front window, categorizing and stacking our books, telling each other the signifance of many as we did. It is one of my most tender memories from the beginning of our marriage. 

So today, as I scanned our bookshelves in our fancy apartment downtown, I felt so sad to be dividing our collection. It was also hard to decide who kept what. Some were mine before but became favorites of his and vice versa. Some we bought one another and even harder, the books we bought together because we both wanted to read them and both ended up loving them. 

Even though this isn’t the end of our marriage, it is the end of our marriage in the way it had existed. I tried to remind myself of the months I spent crying myself to sleep out of pain and loneliness in that apartment. I tried to remind myself that this is the right choice for us both. I tried to remind myself that we are happier now. But it still hurt to separate those books and bring them to my new place. 

I also took some things from the walls. I had carefully constructed a collage above our king sized bed of pictures of us, our dogs, our families, our vows written out in beautiful calligraphy and framed, dried flowers from our wedding day, and some of our favorite art. I just took two small things from the collage because disturbing it too much felt wrong. Although our marriage wasn’t working, it also needn’t be destroyed. Just reworked. Which this collage will also need now. 

So I spent a lot of the day crying to sad music as I sorted. But. I finally feel fully moved into my new place. I’m glad I did that alone. I am truly on my own for the first time in my life. I still relied partially on my parents before I met Spouse and then when we got married I took on so much responsibility for our lives. So even though he’s still in my life, I don’t know that we’ll ever combine lives the way again. 

And so, dividing the books was emotional, but as I’m laying here in bed looking at my full collection of poetry, I feel calm. 

What do I want?

 

*I wrote the following a few weeks ago, but didn’t feel satisfied with it, so didn’t publish. But, this isn’t a place for only finished products. So. Here it is.*

 

My therapist asked me a question last week and I feel shocked and kind of embarrassed that I had never asked it of myself. The question was: what do you want out of love and Spouse specifically.

I don’t have a full answer and I imagine it will be a moving target throughout my life. I desperately want to make lists and categories and check boxes, but only to soothe my fear of what is true: it’s a bit of a nebulous thing, subject to change and circumstance. So here it is today. What I want. We’ll save what I can offer in return for another post.

I want to have sex. I want to have a few men who love to have sex with me. I want both comfortable, satisfying sex and adventurous, wild sex. And I want all my sexual partners to be good communicators about what they want in bed.

I want emotional intimacy. I want men around me who share of themselves and with whom I can safely share. I want to lie in bed under my twinkle lights and stroke one another while we talk about love and risk and family.

I want to always be open to new things. I want to be receptive to each person and what they can show me. I want to try new things with new people for the hell of it.

I want someone to know me and me to know them, but never take that knowledge for granted.

I want someone to eat cookies in bed with and most nights, I want my bed all to myself.

I want a reliable partner. The kind that will drive you to get your tonsils out and cares for you for days.

I want to have men who challenge me and surprise me. I want men who never stop asking questions.

I want brilliant men who know when it’s annoying.

I want men who won’t let me push them around.

I want men who don’t need me but want me.

 

 

 

Livin’ that low bar lyfe

I have expressed it before and I’ll say it again: I might be married to an idiot savant. He can explain in depth disease processes and philosophy theories, but he also recently asked me where one buys stamps….

I’m not sure how much of this is him and how much is society’s low expectations of men who achieve highly in certain realms. As I’ve told other friends these stories about my genius spouse missing the most common sense, basic life management principles, I’ve learned that he’s not the only one who can’t seem to get it together.

G told me:

“I’ve been to guys houses with dishes sitting in a dying rack and a load of towels in the washer and I’m like dayyyyuuuum!”

The first year Spouse and I were together during tax season he said “oh, taxes. Is that something I should be doing?” and I thought “oh you beautiful idiot. I will take care of you.” PUKE. In my defense, I was 22 and experiencing the equivalent of ecstasy in my veins from *LOVE*.

This year, tax season is coming up and Spouse has said he will do our taxes. We’ve talked endlessly about how I unfairly managed every aspect of our practical lives our whole marriage. So, the taxes would go a long way. But I am skeptical of his ability to manage it. We have a date tonight. If he manages to file our taxes today, I swear to god I will fuck his brains out. 

But. This is a low bar. Like, if my partner does something that everyone has to fucking do that I have been doing for us both for YEARS, I am going to be extremely impressed. Um. WHAT?

I’m not the only 20 something who has been partnered with a manchild and therefore lives that #lowbarlyfe.

G also said:

“Oh one time I went to this guy’s house and we were going hot tubbing and not only were his towels clean but they were folded in a cupboard. We fucked.”

How did our expectations of the men around us drop SO MUCH?

When I was dating Barista, he’d wake up before me and clean his kitchen and I’d be like “wow, he’s really got it together”. *eye roll*. I told my therapist this once she noted that I was living that #lowbarlyfe. It should not be impressive to us when men we date do the BARE MINIMUM of life management.

We should not get dripping panties when a guy says “I’ve got to go to the store to buy more body wash.” But alas, here we are. Looking for men who can do basic things like pay the rent on time and keep their spaces relatively clean.

L says:

“It’s very difficult to hook a guy with good hygiene and a design sense.

This may be the new feat for the modern woman.”

Agreed, L, agreed.

You didn’t hold up your end of the bargain

I ended up at Spouse’s last night, crying on the ground. I told him about Filmmaker and how I had conflated them and as I sobbed I told him I was angry that he hadn’t held up his end of our marital bargain.

So after I collapsed to the ground after having told him I’m angry that he wasn’t the partner he had promised to be, he got me a xanax, a blanket and sat down and held my head in his lap. I quietly sobbed while he stroked my hair and said, “there, there, it’s going to be OK”.

I needed that. I didn’t need a conversation at that moment, I just needed to be heard and held. I fell asleep easily and soundly next to him on the other side of our gigantic king sized bed and for once, he actually put on his goddam nose strips to keep the snoring down.