Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Valentine's Day

Aurelia and Deathstar have both recently written frank posts about their marriages, & the difficulties involved in trying to hang on to your relationship through the rollercoaster ride that is infertility. I've been thinking about their words as we approach that day devoted to all things romantic (not to mention chocolate!!), Valentine's Day. And although my dh (a) is a private guy who doesn't like it when I write about him on the Internet & (b) reads this blog sometimes, I felt the day called for some musings about him, romance, loss & infertility.

My dh & I have been married 22+ years, together 26. We were probably apart longer than we were together before we got married -- he was from Toronto, I was from small-town western Canada. We met at university, but spent the next three years conducting a long-distance romance (on a student budget for telephone calls, postage & travel -- e-mail still being a good 10 years away!) as we finished our studies at different schools & then worked for a year while planning our wedding.

I thought that was probably as challenging as life would get for us, and that if our relationship could survive those long months of separation, it could survive anything. I'm sure neither of us ever dreamed that infertility & stillbirth would be part of the equation when we finally made those vows "for better or for worse."

I've always liked to think that losing Katie brought us closer together, that we survived because we held on tight to each other. And, several years later, when faced with the decision, I knew that we could make a go of childless/free living -- because we'd had a pretty good 16 years of doing it already. I figured that, as long as we had each other, we'd be all right. (Ironically, the first song we danced to at our wedding was "You & I" by Crystal Gayle & Eddie Rabbitt... with the repeated words, "We'll be all right... Just you & I." )

For the most part, I still believe that. And for many, many years, we've been the couple that everyone else rolled their eyes at -- the inseparable lovebirds who held hands & sometimes got caught sneaking a kiss at a family gathering (while everybody else was chasing after their kids, lol).

But it hasn't been all sunshine & roses, the last several years in particular. At 47 & 51, I suppose we're both prime candidates for midlife crises, and we both exhibit some of the classic signs. While loss & infertility has brought us closer together in some ways, I can see that it's also taken its toll on us both. Part of the problem is our very different ways of coping with the things that frustrate us. I seldom get truly angry, & when I do, I cry. I tend to bottle things up & pour out my feelings to my support network of friends, both real & in cyberspace. Dh tends to explode verbally when he's angry or frustrated, & I often have a hard time dealing with that. Think repressed Scandinavian (me) & emotional Italian (him). (Stereotypical, but in many ways, true.) I will be honest and say there have been days when he's been in a bad mood & I've thought, "Is THIS all I have to look forward to?? Is it always going to be this way??"

I've read that people who have children often focus so much on the kids that they neglect the relationship -- only realizing it, perhaps, when they become empty nesters & refocus on each other again after many years. For those of us who don't have children & have been empty nesters all along, the relationship is all we've got to focus on -- so perhaps we expect too much and depend on each other too much and obsess too much about it. Somewhere, there must be a happy balance between the two models.

It's not easy. But then, who said marriage would be? And we're still hanging in there. Because at the end of the day, we still love each other madly, even when we're driving each other nuts. Because he's still the one who makes my heart go flip-flop when I see him walking across the concourse of our office tower at the end of a long, hard day at work. And because no matter what else happens, we will always be Katie's mommy & daddy. He would have been -- he is -- a wonderful daddy.


  1. this is such a lovely post, thank you. you capture so well some of the issues that are just different among couples in childless/child-free homes.

    for so long we've wanted to share our lives and love with a child, to divert some of that attention and energy away from ourselves and pour it into another being. I often wonder how we'll get through the rest of our lives this way...

    and I also think it's great that you recognize how differently you deal with anger and other issues that are inevitable in any relationship. no wonder you've survived so long. of course mad love makes all the difference.

    thanks for sharing, and happy valentine's day. ~luna

  2. "For those of us who don't have children & have been empty nesters all along, the relationship is all we've got to focus on -- so perhaps we expect too much and depend on each other too much and obsess too much about it. Somewhere, there must be a happy balance between the two models."

    So true, Lori. Sometimes I find myself comparing our marriage to my friends'/family members' that have kids - almost as though I need to prove to myself that we have a stronger marriage - i.e., you all may have gotten the kids, but we got the better marriage.

    Not healthy, I know - I have to really stop myself from thinking that way. It's not a competition, of course.

    A healthier thing I do is just to appreciate the fact that we do have more time and energy to spend just with each other. That is one significant gift of this childfree life.

  3. You reminded me of something - waking up one morning several years ago and feeling very disatisfied with my life and marriage. Feeling loads of self-pity I indulged in a bit of fantasizing what it would be like to run away and start over with someone else, or had taken up with one or another of my "old boyfriends". I think this went on for a week or so and one morning I woke up again and it occurred to me that my dh was still there. He had always been there, every morning, through thick and thin and despite all the stuff we had been through together - our several miscarriages, the fertility drugs that turned me into a loony and the postpartum depression that left me near psychotic at times, particularly if it followed a loss. I'd put him through the wringer and he was still sticking it out. He has more than proven I could count on him. I don't know that I could trust someone else that much.

    You are right - marriage is work, with kids or without. The business of grieving is hard too. Despite both our faults, it's nice to know that I am married to someone who isn't afraid of a little hard work and is determined to see us through. I always determined our angels and children to be the best of both of us - so, I guess I'll keep him around. ;0)

    Happy Valentine's Day Lori - and thank you for the thoughtful insights, they were a nice way to start today.

  4. Very moving post. Love is never the issue, it's the how do we stay happily married that's hard.

  5. Love isn't finding someone to live with but someone you can't live without.

  6. What a wonderful post. Thanks for writing this.

  7. Wonderful post. I've wondered about the balance and dependence issues of a childless marriage. You seem to be navigating them beautifully. Congrats on your successful marriage!

  8. This is a great reminder of how much patience is required in any relationship -- but especially one that involves such intense personal sharing. In the end we have to know where the limits are and continually refresh our commitment to each other above all the grumbling and distractions that come our way, and that's where the power of love comes in.

  9. I loved this post and just wanted to thank you so much for writing it. I don't yet know if our life will be childfree, but it's so wonderful to be able to get a glimpse into your life and know that if it is, we'll be okay too.

    Thank you.

  10. This post is so amazing ! Thank you from the bottom of mu heart for sharing it with us! I got to learn so much!! Thank you once again! :)