The irony is, if given the chance, and a time machine, neither of us would choose the other if we could go back and do it again. Somewhere deep in our psyche we’re still holding on to the idea that there’s a better fit, a right fit. Not a soulmate, but someone who better meets our individual needs. A part of our brains whispering “This could be be improved, but not with him/her. Tear it all down and start over with a different model and see how that feels.”
The relationship isn’t everything, but it is enough. And that’s different from settling. I am not resigned. I am determined. I am resolute.
We tried marriage counseling for the first time this summer and the first thing she asked us was what we want to get out of therapy. My answer was immediate, no pondering necessary: I want to see this relationship through until the end. Whether that’s the end of our lives I’m not so sure, I have no illusions about what the future holds. But even when I’ve known that it’s not working, at all, I’ve also known that it could work. There’s just enough raw material there for us to reset and reshape and try again.
What will I write after another 10 years? There isn’t a lot of romance in this missive. Maybe that’s the biggest difference between the Jenna from a decade ago and the Jenna typing this out now. I’m missing that magical combination of hormones that cast a warm, rosy glow over the entire endeavor. I still want it though, and that’s what’s important. I want to get up each day and try again, try to do and be better for him and with him.
There is romance in the relationship though. What I’ve written here isn’t entirely fair, to either of us. It doesn’t look like flowers or diamond earrings or giggling a lot or constantly touching each other. Some of the work of marriage is the effort required to allow the positive manifestations of the relationship to morph over time, and to notice and appreciate the new ways romance is expressed. When we stand in the kitchen late at night, laughing and sharing about our day. Hugging me because “it’s been too long since we’ve touched.” Supporting my choice to get a giant cake tattoo on my thigh by telling me that it’s my body and I should do what I want with it. Reaching for my hand as we drive together. Reaching for me in the morning, hungry to feel the heat of me. The days when I see how much he does for me and I take the time to tell him how much it means to me. The days when he sees how much I do for him and he takes the time to tell me how much it means to him. Withholding eye rolls when I make my life more difficult by staunchly sticking by my principles. Allowing each other to run toward what we think we want most (even if we have reservations about whether that thing we want is actually the thing we need.) Understanding that we can’t be everything to each other. Fiercely loving our children and marveling that we joined together and made something so magnificent. Always, always allowing the other person to shift and change.
Writing out that list has shifted me into that mushy mindset one would expect from a 10th anniversary address. Come home safely from London, My Love. We still have good work to do.