Life, stress and sickness started creating a wedge between TN and me around my birthday late last month. I had a lingering cough from the bronchitis I had in early September would not go away. TN has been under tremendous pressure with his current project at work. It’s a perfect storm of underperforming employees and demanding clients, which means TN works 50-60 hour weeks at a minimum (plus two hours of commuting most days), because, well, because he’s TN. He won’t let a deadline slip, which makes him an awesome engineer, but sometimes a withdrawn, distracted husband and father. And the virus that had gone through the family finally caught up with him and he was really sick with a cough and cold for a few days.
Throughout all of this, I’ve been dealing with family stress. It’s been obvious for some time that my mom is losing some memory and cognitive ability. She’s always been a very happy, kind person and that’s disappearing too. She jokes it off that she’s getting old so she’s earned the right to be bitchy these days. The problem is it’s gotten progressively worse in a short time. My dad recognizes there’s a problem (sort of). My sister is in complete denial. After talking on the phone to my brother more in October than I did in all of 2010-2014 combined, he finally is admitting it’s a problem, but totally chicken do anything about it. As the oldest, it all seems to get dumped on me. My dad calls to tell me about my mom. My mom calls to bitch about my dad. I live the farthest away (4x farther in fact) and somehow I’m the go to person. This sandwich generation–caring for kids and aging parents simultaneously–sucks. There’s just really no other word for it. Well there are lots of words, but none of them are remotely polite.
All of these external factors caused TN and I to stop putting enough time into our relationship. We’re just a year out of our dead bedroom and the past three weeks have demonstrated just how easy it would be slide back into that. We were having less sex, we weren’t really talking, and because of germs, we were barely even kissing. On top of that, I had a mix up with my depression medication so my brain chemistry was out of whack. When I’m down, it makes it much harder for me to have hard conversations. Well, it’s always hard for me, but when I’m emotionally raw, the last thing I want to do is talk about hard stuff.
One of the things on my October To Do list was to have a hard conversation with TN, but I kept putting it off. After we spent Friday night and most of Saturday alternating between ignoring and sniping at each other, I finally told him we needed to talk when the kids went to bed. I wish I could say it went well. The end result was good, but there were a lot of tears, accusations, defensiveness and more tears before we got there. I don’t like feeling vulnerable and telling him I was feeling neglected is the ultimate in vulnerability for me. I spent my 20s single and independent and not needing anyone, especially a man. Even after being married for 16 years, I still don’t like admitting that I need attention from him. But I did. I bared my soul and told him that I needed more. I needed more sex, but I also needed him. I needed the quiet cuddles while we watch TV in bed before sleep. I needed the laughing and teasing and joking while I’m cooking or working in the garden. I need his help maintaining the house and doing chores. (It’s even hard to write about these needs to a bunch of strangers. Clearly I still have work to do on myself as well.) When I told him the past couple of weeks had felt like we were back in the dead bedroom days, a lightbulb went off.
Once I had poured my soul out to him and we both committed to getting back on track, I lost it. Huge, heaving sobs wracked through my body while he held me in his arms. Earlier I had been crying hot, angry tears. These tears were something else. In hindsight, I realize they were a cleansing for both of us. My resentment and bitterness from the past month were released in my tears. But it was something bigger. I realize now that I was finally, once and for all, exorcizing the bitterness and the guilt that I had been carrying for a very long time about our lack of intimacy. I feel 10 pounds lighter.
The past 11 months have probably been the happiest of our marriage. There have been ups and downs of course and there will more in our future. But I know that we’ll continue to work to maintain and improve this new, improved us. We still need to discuss and negotiate the differences in our desires, kinks and fantasies, but now we’re working from a strong foundation. I know we’ll figure it out.
Oh yeah. The make up sex has been fan-fucking-tastic too.