and why I am still trying
I understand why a lot of people are hesitant when it comes to therapy, especially couple’s therapy. I had friends giving it a go, only for the husband to unload ‘all the things I hate about you’ in the space of an hour to the understanding nods and a-ha’s of said therapist. The only thing my friend took away from the session was a vow to never go back.
I am no stranger to therapy – I have been lucky to meet my therapist more than twenty years ago. While I haven’t been in constant therapy over the last two and then some decades (I am not that crazy), knowing someone I can trust, who’s well filled in on the whole backstory, has been incredibly helpful at various points in my life.
But despite the progress we both made thanks to our marriage counsellor (not the one mentioned above), I am wondering if she is just a little too biased to help us in the long run. Being asked what I would need to feel sexy or desirable when it was my husband who stopped fancying me, or being asked if I was ‘still in it for the emotional and financial security’ is pissing me off majorly, to be frank. No, I am not in it for the ‘stability.’ Financially, splitting up would be so much worse for both of us and emotionally, I would be so much better off than I am right now. Stability? This has been the worst emotional rollercoaster I have embarked on so far.
“Why aren’t you divorced yet?”Well-meaning but slightly clueless friend –
Apart from the small technicality that I’d lose my visa, which would mean packing up my children and moving back to the other side of the world if we got divorced now, I am still trying. I am trying to make this work for our children. I am trying to be friends at least, although sometimes, it’s hard, and sometimes, I just want to to tell my husband to fuck off and get out of my life.
While our children are the main motivation to work things out, we are also trying to make this work for ourselves. We have both signed up to go on this overseas adventure together. We have both made commitments. For example, my husband has promised to help me get back on my feet career wise (although so far, there’s room for improvement), and I have promised in return to stay put and keep the family together.
In a way, we have redefined what the commitment of marriage means to us. It is no longer ‘till death tear us apart’ and monogamy for the rest of our lives. It is much more ‘Ohana’ for the rest of our lives. We have made a commitment to work things out, even if, romantically, things don’t work between us anymore, and we are (at least theoretically) opening up to the possibility of a more open-ish relationship.
And there’s more: I don’t believe that this is the end of the road for us. Ideally, I would like to take a break from our relationship. Maybe a year, maybe two. Rebuild my career, take care of myself and what I need, establish new rules around all things household and kids and then fall in love with my husband all over again. I know that taking an actual break isn’t an option – I wouldn’t want to force that kind of emotional limbo onto my children. But I still live in the hope that there is a way to detangle the web of wrong decisions and crept-in routines that are largely pre-defined by society and a system that, despite various waves of feminism, rely on a sole breadwinner (mainly men) and a homemaker (mainly women).
It took a long time and repeated conversations around the topic to make my husband understand that being a married mother who wants to work often (and definitely in our relationship) is a bad bargain for said woman. It took an even longer time to acknowledge that he is, in fact, living the life of a 1950s man and that we haven’t had a true partnership since the birth of our first child a decade ago. We are now going over routines and schedules and responsibilities on a weekly basis, and despite both of us really wanting to make this work, it is all too easy to slip back into old patterns.
Every little setback bares the risk to work as proof for the other person’s incapability or unwillingness to change. I am trying to be as patient as possible – but sometimes it is all too tempting to throw in the towel and get happily divorced.
Despite the age old believe that women are better off, happier and healthier if they are or remain married, a fairly new study has found that staying single as well as getting divorced, especially later in life, has significant health and wellbeing benefits for women. This fact amuses me to a great extent, but it is also something I knew all along. My life has never been as exhausting and as much of a struggle as it has been in the last couple of years.
I first became acutely aware of this fact when, about six years ago, I pitched a book idea on motherhood to one of the top two publishers in the UK. What was supposed to be a proposal for a sassy take on all things motherhood (think Sex and the City plus nappy bags), quickly turned into a full-on rant on the state of affairs on all things equality and married life. In the end, the publisher pulled out (cowards!) and I put Pandora’s box to rest, not ready to confront my husband and all my underlying anger about where we were heading (even bigger coward!).
So, back to the biased counsellor. Right now, there are plenty of moments when getting divorced sounds so much more tempting than staying together, and I’d happily get off that bloody emotional rollercoaster and enjoy some emotional stability on the ground, on my very own two feet. I am not afraid of living (or dying) alone. I’ve never been. I have chosen to give this my all for the above reasons, and if our counsellor isn’t supportive of my decision not to be the ‘woman behind the man,’ she can start looking for another set of clients.