I have been with the same guy for over 20 years. When I say that out loud or put in writing, it blows my mind. I feel like all these years together, all these experiences, he was there but not THERE. Mel is my biggest fan, my supporter for sure. BUT, his voice is quiet, his approach subtle. He is on the sidelines, and I’ve always been on the field.
As you can probably tell, I’m very complicated and emotional. I spent many years HATING this about myself. It’s only until recent years where I see this as my super power and I’ve been full blow leaping into what’s possible for my life. And there’s Mel.
I’m reading this Gottman book and one of the chapters has questions you can use with your partner to deepen your connection. Last night I asked Mel, ” What does home mean to you? ” And he looked at me, with a confused expression. ” It means where we are right now. We are home. ” I dropped my head and put my palms over my eyes. BIG SIGH. ” You really mean that, don’t you?” I asked. He nodded, looking lost. ” Well, what’s yours?” he asks.
” Home is a place of comfort and ease and safety. Home is safe. Spacious yet soft. A place to be. Home is what we are creating for our children. for ourselves. I think of our home like our own personal retreat.” ” HMM.” He replies. Clearly we are on different pages, with this one.
And yet, he is always saying ” Yes. you should do that. Go to Israel, go to Mardi Gras, go on that cruise, go to grad school in Philly, I’ll help you move. Go open that yoga studio, I’ll help you build it. Go write that book. Go live your life, Pleasance. We will figure it out.” His relentless support for my crazy ideas and independence has served us well.
And to be clear, We are not best friends.
Last year I had 3 friends who lost their husbands. In all 3 cases, the couples were madly in love. The closest of friends, confidantes, enjoying similar passions and building really big beautiful lives together.
Watching these 3 people I care about go through this, I started to question my own marriage. I started to think what we had was not real or ” as good” as my friends. I started to get really, really scared and I freaked out on Mel and to my journal and my friends. ARE WE GOING TO MAKE IT?
The truth is, I’m at a point in my life where a lot of my friends who are married, are pretty unhappy and going through their own struggles. I think this is b/c of a lot of layered reasons like society, stress, fear, pushing things under the rug, etc.
Mel and I are not alone. There are a few times over the past 20 years where I really did not think we were going to make it. There were a few times when I just was crawling out of my skin with our life, with our marriage, with the choices we had made, with the day to day. And yet, somehow after each deepest, darkest valley- somehow we start to climb back up that hill together, stronger.
I know I have done my part… read the books, hired the therapists, started the conversations. BUT at every turn, he has a choice. TRY. STAY. ASK. ENGAGE.
And he has.
Over and over he shows me that people CAN evolve. We BOTH have.
We can grow together and mess up a lot and forgive. WE CAN FORGIVE.
When I met Mel I was wild. Untamed. Messy. So angry. So lost. And he was there. He never left, and it didn’t scare him. He did not really react to it all, to be honest. He just stayed. People said ” He’s good for you, P. But he’s so quiet. He’s so not like you.”
But when you are with someone every season for 20 years.
You know them. You feel them. And yet, he is still a mystery to me. And I to him.
Recently, he came on my podcast, which was unlike him. And I am proud of him, he really wanted to do it. It was so nice to hear him talk about his life and share in this way.
I won’t pretend to know what the next 20 years will hold or what on earth might unfold.
But as the seasons change again, and another year starts to come to a close, I realize with compassion that without a guidebook or instruction manual, we are raising these kids and living this life TOGETHER. I think for us, it’s actually really GOOD that we are not best friends. I think for us, fiercely independent souls that the truth is we are BOTH scared and complicated, both only children from divorced homes, both not convinced we were ever supposed to be the ones to get married or have kids. We are bruised. We are human. And somehow, SOMEHOW, we found our way home.