The Marriage Experiment and the End of an Era

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Categories:  Life, Relationships
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For the first 8 years of my relationship with Kati, I was stubbornly anti-marriage. Those of you who’ve been reading my articles for a long time know that all too well.

We went through couples counseling every week for more than a year to work on things. We learned:

  • How to communicate more effectively
  • How to disagree more productively
  • What changes in how we communicate when a moderator is present
  • How to get past my hang-ups surrounding marriage

From there, I arrived at:

The Anomaly

She Breaks All The Rules

At the time I wrote this, I was ecstatic to have reached my goal: getting over my negative feelings around marriage. I was trying to recap some of the personal changes I was proud of making. It was also a love letter to my future wife. Perhaps in effort to make up for my disappointing proposal:

I believe my exact phrasing was “Fuck it; why not then, right?”

I saw marriage as an experiment. This wasn’t the lone reason we did it, of course. I love Kati in a way I’ll never love anyone else. She’s an incredible anomaly. This love letter tilted toward optimism and maxing out my limited capacity for romanticism in writing, but I wouldn’t take a word of it back.

Mr. Robot - Tyrell and Joanna Wellick (I'm uncertain about them being marriage role models so far, but they seem promising)
Mr. Robot: Tyrell and Joanna Wellick

Much of what I wrote there hasn’t changed. Experiencing a low-drama relationship was definitely great, new, and eye-opening. The time we spent working on communication in therapy has changed the way I speak to everyone, and even how I write.

Some has changed though. I’m no longer hesitant to feel or express love, because I stopped buying into the baggage that’s piled on the word. I’ve since told some of my male friends I love them, fighting through my school-age conditioning. I’ve admitted to myself that I loved some ex-girlfriends to whom I hadn’t said the words. I’ve embraced the view: love means different things in each relationship.

The Public Relations

For the first few months after the wedding, people asked “How’s married life?” constantly. I became tired of giving them my boilerplate of “it’s pretty much the same” and the other notes I gave in this post:

So, How’s Married Life?

Being married doesn’t change who we are, or how we treat each other. It only changed how other people see us, which is quite interesting so far. It’s only been a little over a month, but people already treat me differently.

This is what I’ll miss the most about marriage. I liked saying “my wife”. When I did, it felt like people would immediately treat me differently than if I said “my girlfriend”. If I went to a store and whom I was shopping for came up, the person assisting me or ringing me up would generally smile when I’d say it was for my wife. I hadn’t received similar reactions saying “my girlfriend” in the past.

People seemed to take me more seriously. This happened at work, in public, and online. I felt like they thought I was more mature and responsible. I haven’t matured much since my late-twenties, and I’ve been fairly responsible since moving out of my parents’ house at 18. The change was my label: husband.

Hannibal: Molly and Will Graham
Hannibal: Molly and Will Graham

I’m dreading the contrast. Now I’m a single guy in his mid-30s. I’ll have an ex-wife. It feels strange. I wonder if people will assume I’m immature and irresponsible by contrast now.

The Decision

Neither of us wanted to get here, but it’s been a long time coming. We’ve gone to marriage counseling. We’ve tried different ways of changing things up to reignite our spark. We’ve taken separate vacations to try to work the “absence makes the heart grow fonder” angle. We both realized how we felt when we went through both of our vacations and didn’t particularly miss each other.

She has different ways of expressing her feelings. Both of us were unhappy and unsatisfied in similar ways, but for different reasons. No one did anything wrong. No one is at fault.

It just happened.

Game of Thrones: Catelyn and Eddard Stark
Game of Thrones: Catelyn and Eddard Stark

I’m glad we were able to take action before our emotions became corrosive. Before our resentment and exhaustion from trying hard took over our relationship. Hopefully we can look back on the good times we had together more easily when there’s less regret.

The Road Ahead

Kati is moving out soon. I’m going to try to find a roommate and stay in the same place, or I’ll move someplace cheaper within the Bay Area.

We laughed with tears in our eyes about how we take the substantial commitment of divorce more seriously than our commitment to marriage. It took us two years of resisting the current, while it only took one year of couples therapy to tie the knot.

Sons of Anarchy: Gemma and Clay
Sons of Anarchy: Gemma and Clay

We’ve slowly informed our closest friends and family of this decision. If we didn’t talk to you before and this is the first you’re finding out, I’m sorry. We were trying to avoid a big stir at work, awkwardness hanging out with our mutual friends, and making family gatherings difficult. It was a little selfish of us, but we both agreed we wanted some space.

The Introspection

I learned so much from this relationship. The personal growth I experienced even in the last 3-4 years has been incredible. This experience has stripped away the excess garbage I once thought I needed in a partner. I have a laser-focus on the things I want in my future relationships.

I’ve learned to recognize the ways we’re socialized based on our genders to take on roles in our relationships. Primarily, I’ve learned how those expectations of ourselves and our partners are full of shit. I learned the most important thing to me is to feel like the two of us are an elite team. A partnership of trust and mutual respect, able to fight against the whole world; back-to-back. Partners in crime.

House of Cards: Frank and Claire Underwood
House of Cards: Frank and Claire Underwood

The future is bright for both of us. We entered this relationship as two college kids, barely motivated enough to complete our assignments. We partied hard for a while, and eventually helped each other get our shit together. After college we followed our careers together. We traveled the country pursuing our individual ambitions and supporting each other. Today, we’re both fulfilled in our careers and I jokingly considered us a power couple.

We’re both better and happier humans today than we were when we began. This era in our lives comes to a happy ending, even though we’re both shedding tears at the moment.

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