This whole therapy and relationship thing can become so emotionally, intellectually, ethically, and normatively confusing that you don’t know up from down, right from left, or whether you ever even existed or merely imagined that you did.
It’s not at all like a new relationship, in which you’re pretty sure how you feel all of the time. Instead you spend a great deal of time second-guessing yourself, not on solid ground in your thoughts and feelings and your understanding of immediate realities. Often you feel half a dozen contradictory things at once. In fact, you may not be sure whether you’re actually presently feeling this mishmash of feelings, feeling a mere memory of them, feeling anticipation of them, or if the mishmash is both temporal (some past, some present, some future) and qualitative at once.
— § —
Sometimes she tells me I’m insecure. I’m not convinced that I am, exactly, though I also think it would be pointless to rule it out. I think, rather, that we’re often at arm’s length for one reason or another and trying to navigate uncertainty and distance with sensitivity and grace while we both hope we got it wrong and we aren’t or wish it wasn’t so and we weren’t, even as we worry that we have misread something-or-other and are creating problems where none exist.
Sometimes, the best way to try to be sensitive is to just ask clear questions and hope for clear answers.
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Sometimes, it’s not that you are insecure, but that you have kids. So many, many, many kids, it can at times seem, a roomful of kids, a military platoon of kids, an entire teeming ocean of raging children, that you are simply not allowed any sort of emotional intimacy with anyone else in your life. So any parents that happen to be nearby are emotionally distant as a kind of inescapale ontological necessity.
So, depending on your personality, you may talk about feeings and ask for confirmations a lot as a way to try to get things more right, because so much is turned off between you by the fact of children, or you may just be very businesslike as you try to get through the day, leaving more sentimental people to feel a bit on the outside looking in.
If it all sounds like there’s way too much meta going on, I’d absolutely agree, except that the entire goal of the process we’re in is for everyone to achieve consistent and consistently reliable metacognition. So meta is the direction we’re driving in.
No doubt that’s why it turns into an endless game of “I know that you know that I know that you know that…” follwed by a “Wait, don’t I? Do I? Do you? Shit.” And that on the exactly twelve seconds of every twenty four hours together when things are not being thrown, set on fire, or turned into a space of conflict by the kids.
When you as a couple are not being thrown, set on fire, or turned into a space of conflict by the kids.
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In part, what I’m unclear about are also my own boundaries and needs. I know these very well in relation to the parent in me (something that causes us endless trouble, because I think that she does, too, for her part). I’m far less certain of them when it comes to the individual in me, the significant other in me, and so on.
So much of what I used to know about myself has been affected, transformed, altered by circumstance, that I am trying to learn about myself again as I go. This is a scary process because there’s much at stake and the consequences of any learned truths can be high.
— § —
I find myself sitting and trying to think my way through things a lot. It mostly doesn’t work.
— § —
I love my children very, very, very much. And I am an extremely involved and adoring father. But there is no doubt in my mind that children end marriages, whether literally or figuratively. And that the father in me routinely tries to murder the husband in me. And the same is true for my wife, whether or not the wife part in her is aware of the conspiracy.
Now it may be possible also for marriages to be reborn as something new after the fact in the cases in which endings are merely figurative, after much hard work. We are trying to find that out now, with hope and love in our hearts.
But it is a sentimental cultural lie to pretend that childrens’ effects on the arrangement—emotional, physical, practical, etc.—that preceded their arrival in the marriage are not definitive.
And any struggles or difficulties that existed in the marriage prior to children will magnify and multiply this effect exponentially.
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In particular, and to personalize this, we had kids too soon in our marriage, before we knew each other well enough, or had come to terms with our differences well enough, to stably survive the onslaught.