Learning to Survive the Journey of Life Together, HIV, Baby and All
Do you need help with verbal communication in your relationships? Watch the reality TV show Married at First Sight -- I'm not even kidding.
Being a full-time stay-at-home mom with a kindergartener in school includes some down time and, embarrassingly, this show is one of my breaks.
Yes, I did meet my husband when we were in 6th grade, but come on, what do you talk about in 6th grade? Anyway, he moved away when we were in 9th grade; we talked on the phone a few times and eventually lost touch. Long-distance calls were expensive, and there were no smart phones or internet.
Fast forward fifteen years or so and we were both newly single after being cheated on in long-term relationships. We were in our late 20s, living with our parents on different sides of the country. Technology helped us out this time: he found me on Myspace. We dove into a long-distance relationship within months of talking to each other. Trying to date after being cheated on during a long relationship is not easy. Casual dating apparently means dinner and sex, whether I knew the guy before or we'd just met on a dating website. I was not ready to be touched by anyone, and this assumption grossed me out and made me not want to date at all.
This made a long-distance phone, text and email relationship perfect. We dated on vacation, seeing each other every few months in each other's state for a few days at a time. After two years of long-distance dating, we moved to Seattle together.
Going from phone and vacation dating to living together in a new place is similar to marrying a stranger. We had to learn to communicate face to face, being in the same room. My most recent ex and I would write letters to each other when we were in a fight. It helps you not say anything you don't mean, and it helps you not blurt out something hurtful. I loved that. I can think with a pen and paper.
Verbally I'm a mess; I cannot stay focused; my mind wonders all over the place. Since 6th grade in 1992, I have written poetry to express my feelings. I have written about everything from 9-11 to Columbine, both Gulf Wars, the Virginia Tech shooting, all my exes, my friends' deaths. I have three ring binders full of my raw emotions; I cannot throw them away.
In my mind, communication with someone you love and live with should be easy. However, for me this is not the case. Watching this TV show with new couples dealing with real life issues is awesome. They have therapists on hand they can call or Skype for help dealing with each other. They explain situations to both partners and offer insight on how to communicate effectively, calmly and without sounding judgmental or confrontational.
I watch arguments similar to ones I have in my mind about mundane issues, and I can see how petty they are. My husband works his ass off for our family, for me to be a stay-at-home mom/housewife.
Relationships are hard; we are days away from any family. We only have each other to rely on. We have been through some shit together -- HIV, a baby, stage 4 cancer, my father's death, a halfway-across-the-country relocation -- and that's just the last six years.
Learning to communicate with and adjust to a new love or a new possible love is easy. You see him a few times a week and eventually move to physical contact -- or to someone else. You hold hands, you flirt with each other and try out the "tricks" you have learned along the way to impress someone or show you like him. You learn to read each other's faces and body language. You get to go home to your own space and think about how to move forward or things to do together. You introduce him to your friends for others' opinions on your new partner.
Instead, we took a leap of faith and skipped those years of most normal relationships. We moved backward and, as soon as I began to let my guard down to him, we were married; weeks later we learned I was pregnant, and then everything other than those two things changed. I fell down a rabbit hole.
My parents signed divorce papers while we were on our honeymoon. Them splitting up numbed my heart; I had based my idea of marriage on what I thought they had. I chose my best friend to move forward with over a lingering ex-boyfriend; I chose someone who wanted to talk to me, someone who watched baseball on the phone with me for hours so we could do it together.
This TV show, as cheesy as it sounds, has improved my not-married-at-first-sight marriage. I want it to work; I want our son to have not divorced parents who really do love each other, enjoy each other's company and get along. I want him to want these things for himself; I want him to see that it is possible to marry your best friend and survive the journey of life together, no matter where it takes you and what random shit is thrown at you.
We are getting stronger still. There is always hope as long as you don't give up on each other. I choose us.
Read Brooke's blog, Voice of ONE.