Fault Lines


Is love ever shatter-proof? We all know of relationships and marriages that fell apart. Most of us have lived through one. Looking back, it’s easy to trace the things that went wrong, to find the pieces that never really fit together. But is there a way to stop it? Is there a way to fix it?

M has a theory that one day, something he says or does will do irreparable damage to our relationship. He thinks I’ll start to resent him, and eventually hate him. It’s a crazy way of thinking. But then, as if it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, I resent him for thinking that way.

How can I feel secure in our marriage if he doesn’t?

And then, it gets worse. I’ve inadvertently said and done things that make him doubt my love for him. He’s kept a secret tally, a litany of fears. All of the apologies and reassurances in the world won’t console someone who believes they’re unlovable. Or maybe they will. I haven’t stopped trying yet, but it’s hard.

I get frustrated with him sometimes, and it shakes him so badly that I’ve started censoring myself. It feels so dishonest that I’ve come clean about it. “I didn’t say anything at the time because I didn’t want you to be upset…” I watch him crumble at my words. I regret saying anything. And I feel like communication, the one cure for the growing pains of love, is starting to fail.

“I feel like you don’t think I’m good enough as I am.” M told me, and I guiltily struggled to find an answer. “It’s not what you are or what you aren’t,” I explain. “I just want to know that you’re working toward something.” So it was out in the open: a love ultimatum from each of us. I was demanding for him to change, to grow, to keep striving—and he was demanding to be left alone.

There are scars here now that weren’t before. There are hurts now that a sleepless night of conversation can’t resolve. Things are more complicated than they used to be, and there’s no going back—only forward.

I’ve heard that there’s only one secret to a long marriage: don’t get divorced. As long as you haven’t given up completely, there’s a chance of fixing things. Of course, happiness is not a guarantee. You can muddle through the misery, the loneliness, the heartbreak as long as you want to. It’s not over until one of you says it is, the ultimate game of “chicken.”

I know this is dark, but I don’t think I’m being pessimistic. I consider myself to be an optimistic realist—I believe any problem can be solved if you face the truth and confront it rationally. So I’m trying to be rational. I’m trying to put this in perspective.

I’ve had friendships break when trust vanished, and past hurts became an obstacle to the future. It was easier to walk away, and so I did. However, I’ve also rebuilt a relationship with my mother from one that was toxic to one that I cherish. Yes, time and distance played a significant role in the rebuilding, but the potential for healing is there. There was more to the situation, though: redefining boundaries, setting new terms on the relationship and, yes, a willingness to walk away if things went south. Not shatter-proof then, just lucky.

All I know is that I’m tired of living in a fragile world. I need things to change. I don’t know the words to say, the conversations to start, or the right time and place to re-open these wounds. I just know I have to try.

Because deep down, I want to believe that all relationships are shatter-proof: not brittle, but organic. Something that is alive and growing has the potential to heal and become stronger as long as you nurture it. If love is the same way, it cannot be broken. Damaged, yes, but never broken.

Photo credit: Angry Eye by Hans Van den Berg, reproduced without modifications under this license

5 thoughts on “Fault Lines

  1. I feel you on your thoughts and M’s fears. I sometimes resented how married folks would tell me marriage is hard work, when I was single. It felt like they were trying to dismiss my challenges being a single person. But now that I’m married I now understand what they were trying to say. Hope you guys don’t give up. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for your kind words and support! We’re not giving up, and actually had a really productive conversation last night–not that everything is “all better,” but I think we both felt listened to and respected and much closer afterward.
      Marriage is certainly hard work! I don’t think there’s any way to understand it until you’ve actually promised to be with one person (and their special kind of craziness) for the rest of your life. (And, to be fair, to expect someone else to put up with our special kind of craziness for the rest of their lives as well!)
      Being single is hard, too, and I’m glad you acknowledged that perspective! Singletons don’t always get the respect they deserve!

      Liked by 1 person

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