Sunday, August 9, 2009

Scenes from a Marriage

I imagine that people are curious as to how Greg and I are doing as a couple, but are too polite to ask. Maybe that's not right, and I'm just projecting what I figure I would be curious about onto everyone else, but I would be highly surprised if some of the people who have known us for years haven't wondered. Mainly because they will remember how our marriage has had more ups and downs than a ride at Six Flags. That's probably not too different than a lot of marriages, which is a safe statement to make based on a 60% divorce rate in this country. And, just to be totally honest, the fact that we aren't in that statistic somewhere is more a testament to how lazy we are (and broke in the old days) than to how committed we were to one another. At one time when Marissa was very small, we were at such a low point that I remember sitting on the couch one night while Greg was in the hallway right outside the living room talking to a friend who had come over for dinner and thinking, "Damn, he's good looking, too bad I hate his guts." At that point, it really was our finances, or lack thereof, and the fact that we had two small children that kept us together. Ironic, since it was the state of our finances for the most part that brought us to that juncture. (And, yes, I do realize that the yo-yo state of our marriage contributed significantly to our children's later struggles, just to get that out there early on.) But, stuck with one another, we managed to make it work and gradually we fell into a pattern that was comfortable, which gradually led to a relative state of contentment. And that's just where I would have liked to have left it. Happiness is an emotion, contentment is a state of being. I liked being content. But, again, things were happening outside my notice. (I just got off the phone with a friend from the old neighborhood. She said several times during the phone call that I was always at work. She knew Greg better. She had to keep asking me if I knew So-and-So; she couldn't assume I knew the other parents or even the other children because she never saw me at any of the functions.)

Then Kelsey began to struggle. That careful balance we had achieved in our marriage exploded like a stink bomb. As it became clear something was changing our sweet, smart, gentle daughter into Linda Blair before the exorcism, we did what any red blooded American couple does: we blamed each other. I was the worst offender, I will readily admit that. I have always been the fiery one. We had never really dealt with the issues that put our marriage at risk early on, so the old wounds had never really healed, they had just scabbed over. For me, with this new trauma, they re-opened and fresh slashes got added. I stabbed back. Rather than fighting together to try and help her, we just fought. I talked to Marissa about those early days recently, and she really does not remember us being in conflict. I found that interesting and don't know if it is a defense mechanism that caused her to block it out, or if other chemically induced factors caused her to lose those memories, but she was acutely aware at the time. She was the one who had to point out to us that the sound carried up the stairs and the girls could hear every word we were saying. Did that stop us? Nope. We just moved the fights out to the garage. What she does remember is thinking that her dad was having an affair. I didn't discuss it her with at the time, but I did too. I don't think he ever really did, although I do admit I have never asked, but he did withdraw from all of us. I believe that Marissa started down her long dark path as a way to self medicate and kill the pain and confusion of what was happening. Well, we did too. We both started drinking more than we ever had. For Greg, that became a crutch that he couldn't live without for a time. I think now that if he was involved with anyone, it was Jack Daniels.

By the time we began family therapy, which Greg initially was absent for, I really could care less if I stayed married or not. But, we knew that we had to stick it out for at least a while to try and help the girls. So, gradually, Greg began to show up at the family sessions. I stepped back from my career and began to concentrate on the family first. We dealt with the old issues so we could move past them, and we began to respect one another. We remembered why it was that we married one another in the first place, which is that we actually are pretty compatible and are at least empathetic with one another's interests if we do not flat out share them. In short, we worked at it. Hard. But gradually, our work began to pay off, at least as far as our relationship was concerned, and we regained our footing. The true test of any marriage is how the bonds hold under pressure, and there have been lots of tests. We still fought, we still managed to act like the children in the family sometimes, and neither of us will say that the other one is perfect, but at least we could see what we were doing and stop the behavior before it got out of hand. The biggest single factor, however, was that Greg stopped drinking. Completely. My own consumption went way down. Jack Daniels has left the building, and we've locked the door behind him.

Mother's situation strained it again, but never to the point where I felt it was in jeopardy. He tried to be patient as I went through it, but eventually he needed a little more attention from me than he was getting. That was alleviated somewhat when Mother moved out of the hospital and into her current setting, and I was able to relax a bit more. I had gotten to the point where I felt that we were rock solid when Kelsey died.

So, are we in fact rock solid? I am not sure I can say truly at this point, but I think so. I think the difference between this much larger tragedy from my situation with Mother is that we are in it together. There are some things that are not good at the moment. We have trouble being physical. Greg is a little more anxious to resolve that than I am. His anger will spill over in my direction, and vice-versa. The other day, we fought over his pulling my phone out of my purse. I hate it when he does that. Just tell me I have a call I missed, and I'll dig around in there until I find the phone. I don't have any state secrets in my purse or anything, but he always punches a wrong button on my phone and makes it harder to see who called. Small potatoes, but we barked at each other all night after that. And some days he'll be in a good place, but I won't be, and then I feel guilty that I am dragging him down. Sometimes that's reversed. But, we both know that there is no other person on the planet who will ever understand what we are feeling better than the person on the other side of the bed. Even if you have lost someone, you didn't walk our same path, you walk a different one. Maybe when time and distance has allowed us to heal a little, we will wake up one day, look at one another and decide that very reason is why we cannot be together. Who knows. All I do know is that for now, we are in this together.


  1. Cheryl you look so PRETTY! Who is the Marie Osmond lookalike? Is it Audrey? I wasn't wondering about the two of you. I figured it would be hard. Very. I am glad you have each other and have found each other again. If that is some small silver lining, some small shard of something good, well, we take what we can get don't we? Love you! - V

  2. Yep. that's Audrey. I just speculated with a friend what it would be like for us to re-create that picture and see how much we've all changed (minus the monkey suits and wedding dress of course). We're all a little plumper and have a lot more grey, that's for sure.