What brought this on?
Ann Althouse has a thought-provoking post about the public disintegration of a 20 year marriage. Go read the whole thing, then pop back over here.
The words that did a flying ninja leap off the page to me were these:
Indeed, what also came out that afternoon were the many tasks I—like so many other working/co-parenting/married mothers—have been doing for so many years and tearfully declared I would continue doing. I can pick up our girls from school every day; I can feed them dinner and kiss their noses and tell them stories; I can take them to their doctor and dentist appointments; I can earn my half—sometimes more—of the money; I can pay the bills; I can refinance the house at the best possible interest rate; I can drive my husband to the airport; in his absence, I can sort his mail; I can be home to let the plumber in on Thursday between nine and three, and I can wait for the cable guy; I can make dinner conversation with any family member; I can ask friendly questions about anybody’s day; I can administer hugs as needed to children, adults, dogs, cats; I can empty the litter box; I can stir wet food into dry.
What I don't hear Sanda Tsing Loh saying, and the words I should have said long ago are these: "I can't do this alone. I need you to do whatever it takes to stand up and be in charge. I'm tired. I'm hurting. I need you to be the head of this household. I'm falling. I need you to pick me up. I need you to be the strong one."
I was so busy holding the entire world up that I forgot that I had a partner. I forgot that I could have and should have insisted he help shoulder the load, and maybe even be the one to carry it alone for a while. And by the time I should have figured it out, I was so physically, mentally and emotionally spent, that all i could do was save myself, because the partnership wasn't a partnership any more.
"I can is a dangerous place to be once you make the commitment to become a "we".
Dr. Helen recently recommended "You Still Don't Understand," which I picked up out of curiosity, but which gave me a deep understanding of why my own parents' marriage worked, and why my own fell apart.
I went back and re-read the eulogy I'd done for the Princess Mom. Again, there were a couple of things that slapped me upside the head:
They had a tiny little apartment that was a place of pride, and a big old beater of a car that wouldn’t start unless you got it rolling downhill first. Dad pushed and Mom drove. That would be the pattern of their many years together.
It couldn’t have been easy for Mom to be stuck at home with three small and demanding children, and sometimes Dad was too tired to hear about home woes. Mom’s method of getting his attention was to write him a letter setting out her arguments, placing it on his pillow and then taking herself out to the movies, usually with an emphatic slam of the front door. She told me years down the road that she and Daddy never discussed those letters, but his behavior always changed to show that he’d paid attention. After he died, she found every single one of those letters tucked in the back of his armoire.
In retrospect, they took turns driving. They had different methods of getting one another's attention, but when the situation called for it, one or the other would drag out the cluebat and whap the other upside the head with it.
Marriage or partnership -- or whatever the hell you want to call it -- isn't always harmony in yoke. Sometimes it's both pulling together. Sometimes it's one pulling harder than the other. Sometimes it's resting together. You don't always have to agree on the path, as long as you both have one eye on the destination, and the other eye on your partner.