Well, I mostly write about parenting on here, and there is more than enough to say about that topic, but once in a while, I like to mix it up and write about something a little different.
It just so happens that greg and I spent a large part of our early dating years as a long distance relationship at various points in time, each of us going away to different jobs and away to college for a bit and so on so that we ended up, by the end of our early and mid-twenties, with quite a large pile of saved letters back and forth. Not all of them were preserved. Some met with the trash bin, others were lost in the endless paper trail of people’s lives, stuffed into drawers and forgotten, fallen into cracks between mattresses and walls, gathering dust coatings through the seasons.
Lately, I’ve begun re-reading some of these old relics from the past in my spare time, what little of it I can eek out in my daily life. And I was shocked with a humbling realization as I read through greg’s serial killer script and my own scribbled mad sentiments. In thirteen years of a relationship, seven years of marriage: none of our problems are new. We are still having the same issues and fights that we had on more immature terms since we were both teenagers.
Which leads me to an unforeseen conclusion: people don’t change. In that, they DO change, but their essence remains the same. I guess it could be better stated that people are like plants in that they change, they grow, bloom, seed and senesce, but all the time, they are the same plant. I’ve heard it said that you are at 90 who you are at 1 (or something to that effect) and the older I get, the more I take note of things, the more I think that this is true.
“it’s just humbling, I guess,” I said to greg the other day. “what do you mean?” greg asked, the person who has never liked rehashing the past, who constantly plows headlong into the future with every ounce of his being. “well, I guess I just would have thought that, by now, we would have worked through all of our early problems and have moved on to totally different ones. I guess, it’s sobering,” I said, the eternally retrospective one with a mean streak of nostalgia, “that all of the things that I took for early bumps in the road have, in fact, become the conflicts that define our relationship and that permeate everything we do.” greg’s eyes had glazed over somewhat and he had that familiar look in his eye that I’ve seen on so many other occasions that tells me that he’s thinking of something totally different than of what I am saying. I know his daydreaming looks so well that I could actually almost say with complete certainty that he was thinking about hawk migration. This is one of the ways he has always avoided heavy emotional topics with me, along with sleeping, his second favorite coping mechanism. “like, reading my old letters, it’s just so clear the disparities in our relationship. And we’re still having the EXACT same issues we were way back then. Reading the two sides of the correspondence, you wouldn’t even know these two people were writing to each other.”
It was true. My letters were a veritable encyclopedia of thoughts and feelings and questions and insights while greg’s were more likely to comment on the weather than anything of real substance. It left me wondering, as I have often done throughout our life together, what kind of a fit we really were together. Is it possible that we are just about the worst coupling of personalities you could ever throw randomly together to build an existence?
I wasn’t sure. I’m not sure. We definitely might be.
What is a marriage, or any kind of long term relationship really about? What keeps one going? What strengthens one? What makes one wither and crack and shrivel into a sad and dried up thing? I don’t know the answers to these questions. And here, in the dawn of the decade of my thirties, I am just starting to glimpse the real hardships of lifelong relationship.