March 17, 2011

The Mess That is Our Love, and the Choices That We Must Make

I have never been on my own. Ever. I went straight from my dad's house to my sister's house at sixteen, then to Dominic's mom's house after I became pregnant with Julian, and finally to an apartment with Dominic in Texas. We've been on our own for five years, but sometimes I feel just as clueless as I was at the beginning of it all. I haven't grown as much in that time as I could have, and it's largely due to the fact that I am incredibly co-dependent on Dominic. And he is co-dependent on me, so the two of us have stayed in this little bubble, knowing only each other, for all these years. We have driven each other crazy because we won't/don't want to  grow up, but we know we'll always take the other back because we are just as immature ourselves. It's nice to have someone to depend on when you feel all alone in the world, with children that you're not really sure what to do with, and family that is 2,000 miles away. But with it comes a price - the price of not growing as individuals. This isn't necessarily our own choice. I can think of many times that Dominic has wanted to do things, to expand himself in some way, and I have prevented him from doing so. I haven't wanted him to get too happy, when I wasn't happy. I haven't wanted him to get to a better place in his life than I am, because for me to feel that I am better than him is a way to stay in control. And I am a control freak. There have been times when I've wanted to learn about things or pursue job opportunities, and while Dominic was always supportive he was always somewhat mocking me underneath. We had both failed each other so many times that we had no confidence in the other person to change or improve themselves in any way. Having that in the back of our minds made it easy for me to quit anything at any time, because I knew that he expected me to quit. We have been in a bubble - a self destructive bubble for five years locked in this web of equally loving and hating each other.

Loving each other because we are soul mates. I think falling in love when you are young and open makes you incredibly vulnerable as you age together. We have this history that includes our teenage years, years that are terribly awkward and immature, but years that are completely run by your emotions. And emotions are so strong then. Those feelings can never go away. They are too deeply embedded into our relationship. During our toughest times, I could look back on what we were like at the beginning, and know that it was worth any pain, any heartbreak, and any amount of work to get that back. Love when you are young is completely pure. We talked about running away together, and truly there couldn't have been anything better than that in our eyes. We would gladly live on the streets without food if we could be together 24/7. It's foolish of course, looking back, but it's honestly how we felt at that time. People often belittle high school romances, and say that it isn't real love. That we're not smart enough, developed enough, or experienced enough to even know what we're talking about. I agree that we were very naive, but I would never say that our love wasn't real. Our love was pure, and I loved him with everything that I had at that age. As years go by, we learn more and more about how to be in a healthy relationship, how to make another person happy, and what loving someone means (that it is a choice, not a feeling, and that is it much harder than it is easy). But with everything that I knew then, I loved him. And I am grateful to have felt such strong feelings at such a young age. I love that I had those experiences, because they can develop you in wonderful ways.

I also think that love is greatly solidified by closeness, and through pregnancy, birth, manic feelings and depression, loneliness, parenting, and giving up dreams and developing new ones, we have become very close. So close that if we ever weren't together, we'd still be together. I don't feel like we could ever undo the closeness we have. The thought of separation has come up numerous times over our tumultuous relationship, and every time one of us is the least bit serious, we are quickly humbled by the realization that we could not live apart. We could not be with someone else. It's a terrifying thought. We belong together, and the things that have brought us so close have weaved our souls together. I don't know what I would do without him, because I physically do not know how to be happy without him.

We've hated each other for many reasons, mostly selfish ones. Knowing how dependent we are on one another, when one of us tried to express themselves in new ways, or change life directions, we simply didn't know how to let them. You have to be this way, because I am used to this way and I love this way and I expect this way, and if you change I don't know if I'll love that way. And if I don't love your new ways, where does that leave me? Because I can't possibly live without you. We are so young and immature in so many ways still, that a happy relationship which can only be achieved when we are thinking of the other before we are thinking of ourselves, in nearly impossible without God's help. And we've chosen for so many years to live without God's help that integrating Him back into our lives is difficult and sometimes even embarrassing.

We've also hated each other because of the way we were raised. I was raised by parents who were primarily angry addicts of some sort. On parent hit, the other parent broke things. I was taught how to judge and cut someone down, but never how to lift someone up. I was taught that appearance is more important than what's underneath, and that if we didn't get our way, screaming, hitting, or throwing was an acceptable way to deal with it. Dominic was raised in an incredibly loving and supportive environment, however his father was in and out of his life. His mother was (and still is) a doting woman who cherishes her children. However I believe that on some levels, her encouragement went a little bit extreme, so far that there was never a negative word spoken about or towards her children, and every endeavor they had and every work they completed was above and beyond amazing. Can you see how our upbringings have caused us tremendous problems in our marriage? Dominic is always craving the supportive words and admiration that he was showered with his whole life, but I don't know how to give it to him, because I am busy trying to make him into what I think he should be. And he is too loving and easy-going to let me know how badly I hurt him, so he keeps it all inside until it just explodes in detrimental ways a couple of times a year. We have serious problems. Being so young, we were full of expectation. The future was going to be wonderful! Everything would be perfect, because we were together! We loved everything about each other, and little annoyances would instantly end once we were married. The devastating truth was that to keep a marriage going, you have to work. Constantly. For the other person. And that is such a foreign concept to our young, selfish minds. On top of that, we are just completely exhausted. Three kids in five years might not have been the smartest move on our part. We are so tired we can't see straight half the time, so to choose to work constantly to lift up and serve another person does not make our priority list. These are our issues, and while they are problems that must be dealt with, they don't deter us from the fact that we love each other and want to be together. But we don't want to change. So for quite a while, we've been staying together angrily, because we're too scared to leave what we know is real, but too stubborn, tired and lazy to change. Since it's a choice we both make independently, we understand each other. It is a comfortable bubble we live in. Sometimes loving, sometimes hating, but always comfortable.

I shared those intimate details with you for a few reasons. First, I like to have a written story about our lives to keep for future reference. I think that the way we live now is important for us to be able to look back on in the future, and an important tool in assessing our situations at each new milestone. Secondly, because I like to be honest. I know that many relationships are struggling. I know that more relationships are struggling than are running smoothly. And I know that many people think that they are the only ones with problems, or can't talk about them for fear, embarrassment or persecution by others. But I truly believe that if we go to God first, our spouses second, and then share what we have gone through, that we can change lives. I went to a marriage seminar recently by Tim and Linda Buttery, and the driving force behind their program is that they are honest about the wife's infidelity: what led her there, what she was thinking during the whole thing, and how they resolved it and rebuilt their marriage from the ground up. There is nothing like hearing truth from others, that sounds a little like your truth, to give you encouragement.

I believe that Dominic and I meant to be together, and not only because of our sappy high school romance We are meant to be together because God put us together. God gifted us with children to create a family. And God does not want us to be apart. So no matter our struggles, I will always believe that our marriage is worth reviving and sustaining. Who am I to say that God made a mistake?


  1. oh my goodness, I just wrote up this big post to respond... and now I lost it! It was so good too, but now I don't have time to write it up again... so it will have to wait.... Sorry...

  2. lisa, thank you so much for sharing. and for keeping it real and honest. i myself can identify with many of your struggles and havn't always been brave enough to admit ARE a strong woman. :)

  3. Once again you write in a way that pin points our relationship perfectly. You help ME to understand US better, and I love you even more for it.

  4. Such clarity and honesty in your writing, always; it's inspirational.