Rock bottom. Not a fun place to be.
If you haven't been there already, it's quite possible (inevitable maybe?) that you'll be there at some point in your life. I was there on Tuesday night in my relationship with my boyfriend of nearly three years. It was gut wrenching, agonizing, and just plain awful but at the end of that night, when we looked up, way up and through the tears, there was a light shining at the top. Now begins the climb up. Climbing every single day. There is no option for failure here. There will be no coming back from another trip to the bottom. He and I both know this.
How does one get to rock bottom? There are as many ways as there are people, I would imagine. I don't know exactly how I ended up there. I do know that along the way I became complacent and comfortable. I stopped looking deep into his eyes and soul and instead just looked at him. While I didn't stop telling him I loved him, I did gradually stop telling him he was beautiful, not because he stopped being beautiful to me but because I just stopped saying it. Without all of that, the doubts about "Is this going to work?" creep in and instead of forever being a given, it becomes a concious possibility that maybe we won't be together in five years, let alone one or two. And if we're not going to be together possibly, or even probably, do I really want to sell my house? Where will I live when everything falls apart? Maybe I should take those web design and programming courses that I want to take now instead of later when things might be even more stressful. And on and on it goes.
I remember, back in the early months, sitting on his lap on the couch facing him and the both of us just staring - gazing - into each other's eyes, hands caressing faces, lips murmuring endearments and heads shaking in the wonderment of it all. He is the love of my life and I am so angry with myself that despite the close calls we've had in the past, it had to come to this. We both play a part, don't get me wrong; neither of us is solely to blame, but each of us holds the power to change ourselves, which is a huge part of restoring the relationship.
Thankfully for us we are not struggling to learn to love each other again. Our challenge is to change in ourselves the things that need to be changed in order to be better communicators, better at showing the other person every single day just how much they are loved and appreciated, better at prioritizing in all areas of our lives, and better at taking those leaps of faith and stretching personal comfort zones. Our challenge is also to find a common ground in a few big issues and to stop saying, "We need to work on that," or "We'll need to figure that out before we merge our houses into one," and instead just do it. What better time than now?
Last night as I was struggling to be consistent and steadfast in the face of one of my son's lengthy meltdowns, I found myself repeating in my head, "I'm doing this for my marriage." As I was finally tackling the mountain of plastic containers beside the kitchen sink, I was repeating in my head, "I'm doing this for my marriage." I found myself repeating it as I emptied the dishwasher and loaded it again so that the counter would be clean in the morning, as I scrubbed the sink with a scrubbie and a little dish soap, as I worked at clearing the clutter off the kitchen counters, and at other points throughout the day. Is emptying the dishwasher going to make or break my future marriage? No. But making changes and creating new habits is, I believe, going to help me be a happier and more organized person, more relaxed and able to be spontaneous, less worn out and irritable. Each little change as it becomes routine affects me and my household, which affects my boyfriend and his household, both of which affect our separate lives as well as our life together, which affects our relationship, which will ultimately, when the time comes, affect our marriage. Making the changes now is the only option. If I don't start now, I know that for us, there will be another rock bottom and that is where the relationship will end.
One of the mundane-yet-highly-important things I'm doing is striving to get my house, and consequently myself, in order. Both have become cluttered from complacency, lack of motivation or drive, tiredness, being overwhelmed at the job at hand, and from a bathroom renovation where items were displaced and piled. I will get my house in order so that each room is comfortable and pleasant to use on a daily basis and so that each night all that is required is to quickly pass through and tidy up a few small areas. I will develop habits that enable this. I will keep my counters clear and free of dishes. When the dishwasher is clean, I will empty it and re-load it. I will wash plastic containers on a daily basis and ensure that they are all washed by the time I go to bed. I will follow the cleaning schedule I created a couple of years ago, which involves cleaning only a few areas a day, adding up to the whole house being cleaned on a weekly basis. The degree of cleaning depends on the level of dirtiness or untidyness.
I will make the changes necessary in myself. I will be myself wholly and completely. I will learn to be more confident, less fearful, more willing to take risks and to laugh at myself. I will be openly passionate about the things I love instead of keeping some of them in the closet. I will reach out and be blown away by the positive response I'm so afraid won't be there. I will show the Love of my life, each and every day, that he is the Love of my life. That just as he often tells me that he remains amazed that I am with him, I am amazed that he chose me. As we both work on the things that we need to change in ourselves, we are building a fortress around our love, a love that is so worth fighting for.
A rock wall at Toronto's Casa Loma. Photo by Neil Gordon.