July 20, 2022

Year four: Marriage is like looking in a mirror and wanting to punch yourself

Rachel Varkey

It will be four years married and five years together for us.

And this latest season has been a doozy, y’all.

When Charles and I met five years ago, there was no doubt in my mind we were lifers. He had big dreams, an even bigger heart, and his consistent certainty made me feel safe in my ever-changing, ever-feeling body.

I never imagined I would meet someone who could love me the way he did so naturally — with such ease, with no question.

I melted into his goofy child-like affection without ever looking back.

Growing up a child of great Indian expectations, it wasn’t a crazy leap to go from living my single girl life right into the arms of this hairy big-shoulder Indian man.

I wanted the absolute fullness of a relationship with him — and not having much stamina for living half truths and keeping my relationship under wraps from the people I loved (like my family) — I knew the only way I could experience the life I wanted with Charles was to marry him.

At the time, marriage felt like the very natural next step for me. I wanted it and was eager to get into this relationship. We met and wed within a year.

After marriage, I learned very quickly the meshing of two opposing and unique lives led to conflict I never expected.

Marriage revealed parts of myself that were extremely broken. I wanted to change — not just because it was the right thing to do, but because I couldn’t keep hurting him with my woundedness.

I went years unraveling and re-wiring harmful narratives of my life before him, ones that uncovered many coping mechanisms I had in place to feel safe in my world — hyper achievement, a complete disregard for rest, people-pleasing, over-doing until my body finally would shut down.

I started to see how the situations of my past had brought me to these traits. The recognition and working away from them put me in a happier and healthier place.

I felt transformed — moving in the right direction.

But of course, life kept moving, and in turn, so did we — halfway across the country — where we became faced with a global pandemic, financial instability, grief and loss in more than one way, the highs of building and strengthening relationships with each other and with others, and everything in between.

We continue to keep moving forward. Now in a new season of starting a family, we find ourselves at odds with each other, processing our deep sorrow of what we thought it would be, and what it actually is, putting us at once again, at odds with each other.

This season has exposed how conditional my love has been for the one I love most. This side of me is ugly, raw — and sometimes, something I am deeply ashamed of. I spent years of my life believing I was not this way. And quite frankly, there was no reason to believe it because I didn’t have much to lose.

But now, as I strengthen this beautiful love with the person I love, I find conditions I hold him to. "Lessons" I want to teach him for not demonstrating his love to me the way I want it.

This "Loch-Ness-like" monster lives inside of me. When awakened, overwhelming feelings engulf me. I attack and cut deep with harsh, unfair, and often one-sided words that are only meant to destroy and hurt him.

I am desperately looking for a reaction, I want to be seen and understood — knowing full well his whole being has always been consistent, desperately wanting to see me, and trying to make sense of the big feelings inside of me.

But even in the midst of that, the pressure I feel — knowing my rights as a woman are constantly being politicized, knowing full well that the privilege he carries in his cis heteronormative body puts him at an advantage.

Even if he steps up, I will likely carry more of the physical and emotional burden of the next chapter of our lives.

As I grieve how lonely that can feel — knowing well that the world is likely not ready to flip this narrative — or even acknowledge how unfair it really is for the caregiving partner — we will continue to journey through this difficult season and many more to come.

I can safely say I understand why marriages end.

It is so, so, so hard to have your partner hold up your reflection. As you look closely, you might see behavior that looks dangerously similar to something you hated in your upbringing or other parts of your life you’d like to forget.

Maybe even exposing deep sadness of a life you weren’t anticipating.

Or worse, realizing you might have to change.

Marriage’s magic is in its ability to position you into repentance. As soon as you think you have it together, you find yourself again, carving painfully away at new layers of brokenness, both in yourself, and within your relationship.

Knowing both those knives require precision, skill, and accuracy.

Knowing that the mutuality of working together will bring you to a safer and brighter future.

What can I say about these four years?

Without a doubt in my mind, even in its ugliness, even in its complexity, Charles Samuel is the only person in this world I can even fathom doing this with, or for. This latest season has been the hardest I have been in. I have seen parts of myself I have been surprised by.

But, despite it, as we say in our house, "I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to try."

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