Yesterday, we were sitting around watching Stephen Fry’s Q.I. on Youtube when Perfect Husband sat up straight.
“Oh, SHIT.” He covered his mouth. “I forgot!”
“What?” I was alarmed. I wracked my brain. Were we supposed to be doing something that night? Was there something vital that I had let slip through my calendar?
“I have to call a prostitute right away! It’s my last chance for the seven year itch!” he said.
I leaned back on the couch and stuck out my tongue.
Eight years ago, we were married.
Eight years ago, he was my rock, my prince who made me feel like the luckiest person in the world. I couldn’t believe that I was getting to spend the rest of my life with this man who worked so hard to make my life better.
He was the kind of person who cooked dinner and then washed the dishes, while insisting that I sit and rest. He was the kind of person with whom I could talk for hours and never grow bored.
The best part of it all was the fact that he thought he was the lucky one – he actually felt lucky to be with this socially anxious awkward girl with weight problems who loved to take care of pets and babies but also desperately needed to be taken care of by someone else.
Ten years ago, I started dating my best friend. I avoided it for so long, because it sounds like such a terrible idea, but within days we knew that this was it.
We knew that we would move in together. We knew that we would get married. We knew how many kids we would have and what their names would be before he even formally proposed.
Sometimes you just know.
Eleven years ago, he emerged from years of crippling depression, and I discovered that the man who had always been my best friend because even better when he was free of his chains. The man who had always been willing to talk for hours about books or argue with me about hypothetical situations, who had always been willing to give the shirt off of his back to help a friend, stepped out from under the clouds so I could really see him in his entirety. He turned out to be a sunny optimist with a can-do attitude that I found deeply attractive.
Twelve years ago I stopped him from committing suicide. Even then, I knew that I couldn’t live without him in my life. Even then, he was part of the furniture of my mind. Even then, I was willing to sacrifice his happiness to keep him alive. Even then, his pain mattered less to me than the continued beating of his kind heart.
Thirteen years ago my parents met him for the first time, and they thought, “that’s the one.”
“That boy is in love with you,” my father told me later.
“Yeah… we don’t talk about it, though,” I replied, and my parents wisely kept their mouths shut. But they told me later that they knew from the first moment that they saw us together that this would happen. That he was meant to be their son in law.
His parents have said the exact same thing.
Let’s face it, Perfect Husband has said the same thing. “I knew it was just a matter of waiting,” he said.
Fourteen years ago, I sang a Lorne Elliott song with one of the actors in the production of Hamlet that I was stage managing. Almost no one knows Lorne Elliott and we were both delighted to find someone else who did. Almost no one else has read Gordon Korman, but he had, and we talked about it for an hour. He liked Who Is Bugs Potter. I preferred I Want To Go Home.
Fourteen years ago, I found a new friend.
So here we are, fourteen years in, thirteen years in, twelve years in, ten years in.
Eight years in.
I don’t have a photo of us, now. He doesn’t want his picture taken. He doesn’t want to remember this.
Life is different now.
The depression is back and has been raging for years. Most days, he isn’t the sunny prince that I married, but he is still the best friend that I couldn’t live without. I have met this side of him before and I married him knowing I would probably see it again. So it doesn’t scare me. He is still kind. He is still my best friend. He is still the man that my parents knew I would someday marry.
We have two young children that demand almost all of my time. I feel a constant gripping anxiety based on the fact that I want to work more, because we need more money, but I also want to work less, because I feel overburdened as it is, and I can’t afford to shift too much of that burden onto my husband, and I really can’t afford to pay someone else to take on some of that burden.
I struggle constantly to hide my stress because he blames himself when it emerges. A stray tear, wiped away too late, and he will be pestering me, asking what he can do, beyond the impossible. He thinks that I will blame him, or should blame him, for this.
I was there, you see. I saw how he couldn’t make himself wake up and go to class. I saw how he sometimes backed out of plans because he couldn’t face a social scene. I knew him. I married him.
Yes, I miss the man who pampered me and spoiled me. Yes, I miss feeling like he was someone that I could lean on. Yes, I miss feeling that he was someone I could come to with my problems, instead of someone that I needed to shield from them. Yes, I sometimes feel envy when I meet people who can just get their husbands to take the kids at a moment’s notice, no problem, or who can go out with their friends or on date nights on a regular basis.
Then again I know people who have husbands that are perfectly well and are just giant dicks, and then I feel very grateful. He may be asleep a lot, but he’s not a dick.
Besides, I knew he was sick, and what that meant, and I said the words, “in sickness and in health”, and I knew what I was saying when I said them.
“You could still run away, you know,” he whispered before the vows started. “Now’s your chance. Look, there’s a door just there.”
I looked out of the side door near the altar. It was open to let in cool breezes. The dandelions swayed in the old cemetery where couple after couple lay side by side. Then I looked back at him and shook my head, “no.”
“Now is YOUR chance,” I told him.
Sometimes I think he should have run. He isn’t equipped to handle the stress of caring for small children. I see how just our presence in the household raises his stress levels. I think about how much of his time is spent on blaming himself for my own stress and misery.
Sometimes I feel like we are Albatrosses around his neck.
And I know he feels like an Albatross on mine.
We keep telling each other that we have no regrets. We keep telling each other that we prefer this to the alternative.
Maybe one day, we’ll finally believe one another.
Because let’s face it: If there is such a thing as fate, we are it.
So let it be. If we are lucky, we’ll have another thirty or forty years together. And I can’t speak for him, but I would still sign up for that in a heartbeat.