I told my husband the name I came up with for my column. "Trenches?" He looked a bit hurt. "Is this combat?" Hmmm, no. But it is sometimes a battle -- to keep the wonder from slowly leaking out of our union, our own identities afloat, and our feet firmly planted on the ground, all at the same time. Hopefully, though, we'll never be bored if we are in the foxhole together.
* * * * *
A friend of mine -- married for five years -- recently told me that she felt "bored" with her marriage.
It might feel like boredom - same thing every day, nothing ever happens. But really, I think it's a lack of connection, even a pushing away. A non-sharing state.
She said this without a shred of self-consciousness, like a reporter, who could only watch from the side and tell what she saw.
I was riveted by her confession, because she is an intensely interesting -- and interested -- person. So is her husband.
But who can honestly say that they do not relate to her languorous lament?
At the risk of impugning the chic reputation of boredom, I don't think that there is such a thing as passive stasis -- boredom -- in a marriage. It might feel like boredom - same thing every day, nothing ever happens. But really, I think it's a lack of connection, even a pushing away. A non-sharing state.
I think it's active.
Because, like an elevator, a marriage is either going up, or it's going down. When it's stuck, it's an emergency.
Think back. What was the most exciting part of your marriage, at the very beginning? (Besides the sex, that is.)
Wasn't it the intense quest for coupledom? The thirsty exchange of ideas, like you were somehow solving your partner's equations by revealing your own solutions? Remember those late night, all night, talks, when you would whisper till your eyelids closed by themselves?
But then...you feel safely hooked, satiated with wedding cake, and you head back in there, where it's more familiar. You want to rediscover yourself as an individual, this time against the background buzz -- the static -- of the marriage.
You welcome yourself back home, to Selfland. Your new quest, whatever it is, becomes extremely exclusive.
Add to that what we like to call "real life": laundry, kids, mortgage, broken appliances, Dilbertish supervisors. Inexplicably, we tend to see these things as obstacles to intimacy. Yet there's so much to share -- but do we choose to share it? And with whom?
Let's say your significant other runs into an old buddy. They talk for an hour. About the old days...and the new days. About "real life." Hubby comes home stoked, but relates the incident telegraphically; the glow is kept private. What more is there to tell, really? Why are you asking so many questions?
Then you read something that rocks your world, maybe even changes you. Do you tell him? Or do you maybe tell your best friend? I mean, would he even appreciate it? What if he laughs?
He talks to his dad and it dawns on him how scared he is that he'll turn out like that boring, old, bumbling man. Does he tell you? Or does he shave off his beard instead? What if you laugh?
And you remember it's your fifteen-year anniversary of getting your period. Sooo stupid you cannot possibly share that with him. Right? But you call your mom and talk for an hour.
There are interesting new things going on, but you hoard the fascination and the awareness that used to be the marrow of your relationship...
You hide "real life", and then you hide behind it.
Slowly, you discover that this need to mark your personal territory -- to claim some space within the union, to protect yourself -- is squeezing out the juice of what brought you together in the first place: That you are interested in each other.
Instead, you find yourselves competing for spiritual real estate.
So your partner cannot possibly enjoy the moment with you. Because for him or her, there is no moment. Only a person there who looks a bit different; a bit distant. There's no giggling, either. Only...Static.
So you go to sleep early or you watch TV...great god of static.
Maybe you even talk for a few minutes, but it feels very perfunctory and...
Call it boredom if you want.
I'd call it an elevator that's stuck.
Friends, it's time to push the button to a higher floor, even if you don't know where you're going.
Time to share the ride.
Time to look at that person standing next to you, not at the digital floor number display.
Who knows? You could end up in the penthouse suite together.
With any luck, it will be a long, long way up.