I believe in a thing called love.

Do you trust him? she asked.

We were at the lake house, sitting around the fire, and M had been gone for a short time. His cousin asked where he was and then, the trust question. I smiled and nodded, “Yes. Oh yeah. He’s doing good.”

That what I said aloud. In my head, a million thoughts. The answer is so much more than yes or no. It’s so much more than trust in one person. What does that even mean? Do I trust that he won’t use again? Do I trust that he’ll never hurt me again? Do I trust the person he is when he’s in recovery? Do I trust the addiction? Do I trust his love for me and my love for him? The answer, then, is not just yes. It’s no, no, yes, no, yes. If a good marriage is built on trust, then what the fuck am I doing?

I used to think that building a marriage on trust meant handing over my whole heart to my husband and knowing that it would be safe from harm, betrayal, judgment, lies. There is a part of me still hanging on to this way of thinking. The part that wants to answer her question confidently: “Yes, of course!” Proving that our marriage is normal, that I’m not weak for staying with a husband who lies, that we’re doing great, just like everyone else.

But… it’s complicated. I’m learning that trust in a marriage, in any relationship, is more about trust in myself and something greater. Trusting that my heart will be okay when I open it up to someone else because I take care of it myself – not simply handing it over and relying on another person to make it whole and happy. We are all human. Most of us don’t even know how to take care of our own hearts, so how can we promise not to hurt another’s, even if our intentions are good?

This doesn’t mean that I just take the hurt, tend to my wounds, and get ready for more. This does not give him an excuse to lie to me because it’s human nature to make mistakes, to get distracted by dark tunnels, to hurt other people without intending to. Honestly, this is where I’m stuck right now. I’ve learned to separate my husband from his addiction. I trust my husband, I don’t trust his addiction. But his addiction is a disease from which he will always suffer. It’s a part of our marriage, our family. A family disease. Sometimes the separation is not so clear.

“I cannot know what the future will bring. My best hope is every bit as likely to occur as my worst fear, so I have no reason to give more weight to my negative assumption. All I can do is make the most of this day. Today I choose to trust my recovery, the tools of the program, and my Higher Power, and to recognize how very far I have come.” // Al-Anon’s Courage to Change p. 169

I have to trust the process. The recovery. The work we are both doing. I have to trust that my Higher Power will reveal the truth to me when the time is right. Above all, I trust in love. The love in me and the love in him. I’ve seen that love in action and I see it every day. I’ve seen him work so hard to make changes in his life. And I’ve seen the progress.

I’ve made a habit of reflecting back each month, each year, in my journal. I write it out with colorful pens and doodles and lines and shapes, all the things that went right, the books I read, the crystals I carried, the places we went, the things little m said, the things I struggled with, my fears. 2019 was a two page spread, each item bordered by a different- colored box, and when I looked at it, the joy could not be ignored. Two boxes in the corner, one containing “two known slips” and the other read “at-home drug tests.” The rest of the pages were filled with so much good. It’s hard not to be grateful, to not see the progress, when it’s staring me in the face like that. The good outweighs the bad. Light washes away the dark.

So what do I trust? I trust that my husband is human. I trust that as a human, he will lie again. He will do things that hurt me. He will do things that hurt himself. Just as I do things to hurt him and myself. I trust that we are not perfect, and we will have challenges and fears and struggles. And I trust that he loves his family. I trust love – the love within me and within him and within the universe. Love will heal us, no matter what happens.

8.

Eight years married. Last year, the significance of seven was not lost on us. Seven chakras, seven colors of the rainbow, seven days of creation. And then: 8. The first day of the new week. A never ending flow. Another beginning of our infinite cycle.

Today is also a full moon, and your first day back to school after our small nightmare. We survived it. Yet another. After eight years, we’ve survived more small nightmares than most people. Looking back, it was probably around our fourth year, our halfway mark, that we hit a peak of our marriage. We got pregnant. We got ready for the next step. And then, our sweet son came to us in the middle of the night in the most unexpected way imaginable. We survived his 10 days in the NICU. Our first survival as parents, as a family. I don’t want to say it all went downhill from there, because the day he came to us, we learned the true strength of love. And then, life got hard. Maybe that’s why the universe put our son in our lives when it did – because it knew we would need that strength to help us get through the next three years as we completed our first full cycle of marriage. As the waves seemed to pull us under and we continued to find our way back up for air.

We ebb and flow. The waves of the ocean are influenced by the cycle of moon, and so are we made up of water and energy and vibrations, our bodies and minds and spirits in a constant state of ups and downs. We grow toward the light. Like the leaves on our house plants that have been drawing me in lately. Watching as new growth stems from the top, small baby leaves peeking into life. We pull away the dying leaves and make room for the new. We place crystals around our home and marvel at their beauty, their magic, their knowing. Their sacred patterns that help balance our vibrations like a tuning fork, bringing us back into the flow of the universe. We let love in. We breathe love out.

Who knows where this next cycle will take us? A part of me wants to lean toward fear – we barely survived the last one! How can we do it again? Well. First, we’ll take a deep breath. We’ll recognize that within our cycle of marriage are our own journeys to love and light, our own reflections and intentions, our own unique vibrations, our own purpose. And we’ll take each other’s hands, and let go of fear. Nothing can ever prepare us for what is to come. I go into the next with no expectations. But I know more now than I did then. And I know, my love, that as the next cycle pulls and pushes and feels as thought it’s weighing us down; in the moments when we may forget about our strength – we can be a lighthouse for each other. Let’s always leave the light on to guide the other home – back to infinite comfort of the other’s circling arms.

I am hopeful.

So we have this ideal of what love is and then these very, very unhelpful narratives of love. And they’re everywhere. They’re in movies and songs. And we mustn’t blame songs and movies too much. But if you say to people, “Look, love is a painful, poignant, touching attempt by two flawed individuals to try and meet each other’s needs in situations of gross uncertainty and ignorance about who they are and who the other person is, but we’re going to do our best,” that’s a much more generous starting point.

So,the acceptance of ourselves as flawed creatures seems to me what love really is .Love is at its most necessary when we are weak, when we feel incomplete, and we must show love to one another at those points.

– Alain de Botton, from the On Being with Krista Tippett podcast episode “The True Hard Work of Love and Relationships”

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6:01 AM, Saturday, September 15. I am awake. I am tired. m will be up at 7 and my body and my eyes are telling me to go to sleep, get some rest before he’s awake and asking for TV and juice and someone to play with. But I’m here, typing words on the page because things are hard right now, and I’m mentally exhausted from all of the confusion going on in my head – trying to practice empathy while also trying to figure out what it is I need to take care of myself, get the rest and the support I need.

Depression is weird. On the outside, it can look like laziness. M has trouble getting out of bed in the morning, and I can understand why. He is currently on administrative leave from work. He tells me it’s hard to get out of bed to get things done, especially when he doesn’t have work or a regular routine. I said if work isn’t currently giving him a routine, he should make his own. “It doesn’t work like that,” he told me. I don’t know how it works.

So I have been picking up the slack with taking care of m and keeping the house in order, and it’s been exhausting. I start to dread mornings again. I feel the resentment creeping in. I expect it. I try to let it go.

Focus on the good things. He is clean. Last night, on the way dinner, we caught a glimpse of the sun setting as we passed the prairie reserve. M turned into the next parking lot and we got out, pulled out m’s trike from the trunk, and walked along the path as the sky went from deep orange to pink to twilight blue. He has been staying up late in the garage, but he’s spending his time painting, coloring, nurturing his new found desire to create something beautiful. I have been keeping up with a daily yoga practice for almost two weeks now, and I’m slowly working on finding a community on Instagram and through my own blog. I am here, writing.

We are human beings who have come to the realization that we need to love ourselves before we can truly love another. I have been telling myself this a lot lately whenever I feel like I deserve better, like I should have the picture-perfect marriage of equally-split housework and child caring. But we all have our struggles. He suffers from ADHD and possibly depression. He is currently on leave from work due to circumstances out of our control. He is a recovering addict. He is clean. He is trying. We are trying. Am I making excuses for his behaviors? That’s where the mental exhaustion comes in – my mind pulling in two different directions. He is struggling. But what about me?

I don’t have the answers, but I do have an appointment with my therapist on Monday, and I will ask the same questions there. Tuesday, couples therapy. Wednesday, M’s individual therapy. Hopefully somewhere in there, M can go back to work. Hopefully we can move on from this and grow stronger. Hopefully I can let go of expectations on how long healing and positive change is supposed to take, and to accept that this is a lifelong process – to look back at where we were a year ago, two years ago, and see the incredible progress that we’ve already made. Hopefully I can get the support I need. Maybe I have to let go of the idea that “he should just know, he should do it on his own, why do I have to keep reminding him” and just ask for the help when I need it. Hopefully, just because this is where we’re at right now doesn’t mean it’s where we’ll be forever.

I am hopeful.

A journal entry from June 13, 2017.

Your behavior is bordering on codependency.

Do you feel defeated? Frustrated?

I don’t believe a word that comes out of your mouth.

I feel like you’re my mom.

I feel like your mom.

That’s a problem.

If it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck…

You’re smothering me.

Are you using again?

I’m sorry.

I love you.

At the end of the day, say I love you. Because it is true.