Saturday, May 23, 2009

How to Get what we Need

Many years back when my first marriage was falling apart I found myself at home alone cleaning out my shed. My mother had been dead for about 5 years and I still had many of her things stored there. Amazingly while moving one of those basket type carry bags which contained some miscellaneous weaving and spinning tools I came across a small spiral bound notebook. It surprised me that I had never seen it before and that it seemed to be in such an obvious open place, not tucked away in the least. I took this as a sign that perhaps my mothers ghost had placed it there so I would see it. It was the type of notebook you would find in a University Bookstore, it was stamped "University of Edinburgh" which is where both my parents went. It was not dogeared in the least in fact it was well preserved considering the dates indicated she had used it during the mid 1950's. I found it in 2001, 45 or so years later.

She and my dad had made notes about their wedding, who was present and the gifts they had received. They had a pretty simple wedding but people sent them some nice things. I even have a bit of their Edinburgh Crystal left, when Madge and I are good we drink our Gins out of them.

Beyond all the wedding details my mother had written down her feelings about being married and this is what really rocked my world. She and my dad had a pretty good marriage, at least on the outside it looked good. I realize now that she really suffered in the confines of the role. She wrote at one point that she questioned her entire existence when Denis (my dad) was not there. Somehow her job was to wait to live until he got home from the office. I found this symbolic at the time but now looking back at it I wish there had been a way for us to have a dialogue about it when she was living. I got two letters back from her college roommate at Christmas and in those she also questions the whole institution of marriage. The idea that one woman and one man bound together could get everything they need from each other seemed to her neither realistic nor desirable. It was such a gift to read that from her because I believe that she must have imprinted some of it on me and Madge, we both have pretty unconventional marriages.

I have been married to my husband Mark for 5 years now and we have never lived together. It's a novel situation that will one day change when Mark's dad Eddy leaves this mortal coil. I do look forward to living with Mark because I'm mad about him but in the meantime having this space is really pretty wonderful. I have a lot of time when I am on my own which suits me, Mark is very self possessed and is happy on his own as well. There is no jealousy, guilt, or resentment. I do my work, Mark does his, we keep in touch by email semi-constantly, we talk on the phone a bit. I love my place and Mark has done a ton of work there to make it more comfortable and to look better. I do little here at his place except cook occasionally and clean sometimes but even then Mark takes care of most everything, shopping, cooking, decorating. It's his domain and I respect and value that. He makes improvements here based on my suggestions and his own desires. We have two very comfortable homes to spend time together and apart in.

This marriage is such a gift to me. I get what I need from my partner, unconditional love and support, endless respect and admiration. I also have a ton of freedom to feed myself, to fill the gaps that a husband can't fill and because Mark is smart and secure, he understands that when I am happily doing my own thing—hiking with friends, going on art dates, spending time with my sister, being alone because that's what I need—when we get back together he cherishes his happy whole wife who is present and loving. I am really proud of this marriage not for the mere fact of it but because of the substance of it. I am quite sure my mother feels proud of how I have redefined this marriage to suit better who I am and what I need. I know Mark's mom is awfully proud of him. And most of all I hope that when Pearl grows up she has some good tools to help her pick a mate and create a partnership/marriage that nurtures her. I just hope she waits until she's at least 35 to do it.


Mama Ter said...

Though I have read your blog for quite some time, my introverted side continually prevails and I don't engage. We have much in common (the weather blahs/blues, love of nature, the periodic desire to have a little itty-bitty cafe, our vocation, some hobbies, ideas on marriage, etc.) at times I find it eery, so...HI! Terry Drussel here. You might really enjoy (if you haven't already) reading Dan Savage's book 'The Commitment,' a hilarious and completely insightful (not to mention progressive) deconstruction of the Institution Of M. (same-sex and traditional). I found some pretty revolutionary ideas about both marriage and monogamy (I am both), two constructs I have continually questioned in my life. Thank you for hosting such a great blog. I do so enjoy it!

Rowan said...

Thanks Terry, good to hear a voice out of the vast wilderness. I know Dan Savage's work and our children were both adopted through the same agency. Now firmly in my mid forties I feel like I am just waking up to many things, trying to make sense of some things from my past (the bad M that consumed 15 yrs)and carving out a path for the future. Be well, enjoy your time with your little guy.

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