This question ranks very close to “Honey, we need to talk” in my personal list of worst openings for a conversation. And here I am, musing on the same question for a second time.
Marriage #1: Falling in love.
Once upon a time this question marked the end of my first marriage. My ex-husband had fallen in love with another girl and in this mind that meant we had to get a divorce. His (and my) traditional upbringing did not allow for any other ending.
We hadn’t been unhappy, just not happy. The OKish day-to-day of a normal marriage, that soon felt stiff and boring, until that other girl came along. We split up amicably, we still talk, though I wouldn’t call us friends. He still exchanges post cards with my mom.
Yes, I was hurt – a lot, though for all the “wrong” reasons. I wasn’t mad he fell in love with someone else. It’s called “falling” in love for a reason. You have limited agency. I was mad he would just give up on us, and not look into other options. I would have happily pretended that everything was OK, because yes, I wasn’t happy. But I wasn’t unhappy either, until the divorce left me unhappy for quite some time.
Looking back, I was too young, too traditional, and maybe too much copying my own upbringing to see any alternatives.
Marriage #2: Falling out of love.
We went to the theatre, then had dinner at our favourite Indian restaurant. The question did not take me by surprise, though the timing did. We had just spend a really nice evening together.
“Amor, do you think we are happy?”
If you ask this question, it means you do not think so. But I do not thought so either.
After (maybe too quick) a wedding, a gender transition who turned my wife into my husband, twin babies and a new job our life had settled into an almost predictable routine.
I was not happy. But I was not unhappy either. Actually, I am quite comfortable. But comfortable does not necessarily mean happy.
Most of the time we are nice to each other. I’ll kiss him goodbye, he kisses me good night, we talk about the kids – normal domestic life it seems. And yet, it does not seem to be enough.
And I wonder,
If the difference between a good friend and a lover is sex – what does that mean for my marriage?
And I know where we went wrong: the day we got married, our partners merged from friend and lover to spouse. We expected our spouse to be able to read our minds. We stopped talking, stopped sharing, stopped being partners in this game of love.
We turned into flat mates that get along amazingly well while having very different lives. I run in the mornings – and go to bed early. He gets up super late – because he plays poker tournaments until the wee morning hours. I travel for work, he travels for fun, though rarely together.
The missing third option
My first marriage ended because we did not see a third option. For my ex it was either me or the other girl. For me it was either therapy or divorce. In the end we decided on the divorce.
I am older now. Maybe more experienced. Certainly with a broader world view. This has opened up a third option:
- Couple therapy
- Split up / divorce
- Keeping everything as is, but releasing the expectation of the other person being the one and only.
If we did not have kids, we’d probably go with option number two. We did not consider option one, since we are both working on personal stuff already.
Since we do have kids, and do not want to do therapy, we have settled on option 3. We are sharing all child rearing tasks and decisions. We live with our kids. We often sleep in separate rooms. We are both free to do whatever we please, without feeling guilty of fearing to upset the balance. Because the balance has shifted already.
But we have start talking again!
I still love him, but maybe not exclusively. I call him “honey”, he calls me “love”, as usual. We kiss goodnight. And he helps me to fill in my profile on OK Cupid (not that I had time to date).
We have shifted back from spouse to friend.