My husband and I have been married for eight years and together for more than a decade. Not only is he my love, but he’s my best friend and ultimate drinking buddy. Together we’ve covered multiple countries, cared for a cat and two dogs and produced a beautiful baby boy.
So why did it take me years to address us in the plural because I felt allergic to the word “we”? Why did he have to practically blackmail me before I would put his name on the voice mail? And why have I repeatedly recoiled at the idea of mingling our finances?
My flip answer is that it’s out of habit. I spent my teens and 20s single. My husband is the only significant relationship I’ve had, and we didn’t start dating until I was 30. I enjoy listing off the achievements made easier given my single status: living overseas, entering graduate school, launching a freelance career.
For a long time, I felt as though love would always evade me, that my nose would be pressed against the glass forever as I watched from the outside, destined never to have what I so coveted.
Now I’m in a secure and happy marriage. Instead of celebrating my entry into the world I’d so hoped to know, I feel guilty for abandoning the world of the single, no longer able to make proclamations that I could do life on my own and that I didn’t need anyone else.
Now, there’s a sense of selling out. I feel like a disrupter of the notion that it is possible to live life on your own terms, in your own time, without the interference of or interdependence of another. My self-destructive tendencies have been blunted. I have made a commitment to be good to myself. Paradoxically, there is a sense of loss there.
My husband gets it, but only to a degree. “How long do we need to be married,” he asks, “before you stop getting pissed at seeing other people as happy as we are?”
Here’s what he doesn’t say, but that we both know: My beef is not with us, but with myself. I have trouble accepting the growing sense of interdependence I feel when I look at my husband. I still feel like a singleton in this world of twos — when I hold my husband’s hand, when I kiss him, when I hold our child, whose features are mine but whose facial expressions are pure him.
I fear that in a sense I’ve regressed beyond my past as a single person and back to childhood, when my parents were consumed with fighting their own personal fires. It was then that I learned that joining with another was fraught with danger, studded with spikes. I would linger at the top of the stairs, listening to love get twisted with disgust, commitment into chains. The subjects ranged from major (spending the family’s quasi-fortunes) to the mundane (an ongoing debate as to whether Billy Joel was Jewish). If Google had been around when my parents were together, they might have still been married.
And yet it’s time to — as my therapist says — update my software. I am no longer the 6-year-old who stood at the top of the stairs and listened to her parents toss bile back and forth. I am no longer the 20-year-old college student who watched the Noah’s Ark of lovebirds parade two by two down Santa Barbara’s State Street.
I am 42 years old. I am married. It’s time I acknowledged it.