We're finishing up month the fourth of our marital separation. It was such a slow grind getting here and I'm not even sure how we managed to accomplish it. Next month will mark the first anniversary of ending my eleven years as an at-home mom and returning to my profession.
I was talking about the particulars of this with a friend; what it's like to finally be doing it. He'd had a major rough patch in his marriage himself during a time of extended unemployment. Things were said. Things were done. He is employed now and things seemingly back to normal.
I wondered at some of the things that were done. Had this been my marriage the fissures revealed would be cause for some major questions, because they seemed to go to some issues that were beyond the strain of prolonged unemployment. They seemed to reveal some cracks in core foundational assumptions.
I figured once the crisis was past he would do his best to forget those things. He'd tell himself to 'forgive and forget' and set his intentions on forgetting. He would resolve to start over with a blank slate. From what I knew of him, this seemed like a safe prediction.
So he was asking me about my marriage, more specifically about the separation from my marriage. I was doing my best to answer him in the face of not really knowing. Four months really isn't that long, and I think it's still too new to draw any conclusions. The data isn't in, and the questions are open (am I doing the right thing? Am I harming our sons? Does separation from me for a week at a time harm them more than being free of the toxic atmosphere Gary and I create benefits them? Will I find this was merely a lateral move--miserable there, miserable here?)
He surprised me. He said on a television program a main character, when asked if she was happy said, "Am I happy? Or is it just relief that the hurricane has stopped?" In my life I've experienced something like this, where a chance phrase I read or hear somewhere suddenly sheds light and understanding on a question I didn't know I had. It's like reading a passage online and suddenly a link is highlighted. I was delighted that he had experiences like that too. Furthermore, we weren't talking about my marriage any more. We were talking about his.
He said that things seemed better with him and his wife. He said it was great to have a steady income again, with insurance benefits for him and his family. He hesitated a moment, and said that he wasn't sure if he was really happy, or if he was just in the relief of the hurricane being over. He said that right now, he doesn't want to disturb his relief by probing, rocking the boat. He's unsure if he ever will. He's poised between further evaluation or resolutely determining that bygones will be bygones.
I think someone making the decision to rock a boat creates a ripple effect. It sets precedent, and nudges awake decisions once thought settled and asleep.