High Fidelity

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She wrote her story anonymously for O Magazine—the story of a couple trying to put their marriage back together after the worst kind of betrayal.

Sandwiched among a series of pieces on alternative relationships, I nearly skipped over it, especially when it began by talking about the days when she was “the other woman” to a married man. But for some reason, I kept skimming. And then slowed down. And then began drinking it in, word by word by word. The raw honesty. The fact that despite the hit to the core of her being, she was sticking with it for the long haul.

But the real eye-opener came three-fourths of the way through the article. “I had to admit I was partly to blame,” she said, “not for Sam’s affair…but for the cloud of disappointment and annoyance that had become a permanent feature of our marriage. I had grown to resent him when our kids were babies—a time when his needs, even his love, felt to me like just one more tiresome burden.”

It was a shot in the gut, but it got worse. “How could I (look at him adoringly) when he neglected to call and tell me he’d be home late from work again? Or left his underwear in a wad behind the bathroom door again?…A habitual mild bitterness, a casual scorn, became my default attitude…”

That was me talking. Not the actual incidents—Christian’s very good about calling when he’s going to be late, and he’s a far tidier person than I am—but the resentment, the “habitual mild bitterness.”

And I realized how easy it is to filter out all the good and zero in on petty annoyances—stuff that isn’t even important. The only thing I worry about in marriage is how easy it is to grow apart, not because either of us is doing anything wrong, but because we don’t have time to focus on each other. It’s so easy to view my husband as a parenting partner, to resent it when I feel (rightly or wrongly) that I’m taking a disproportionate amount of the work. It’s so easy to stop paying attention to that which drew me to him in the first place.

“It is very hard to fall back in love with someone you know as well as you know a spouse after 12 years,” the anonymous writer says. Which serves as a reminder I need: Don’t wait till the spark is gone to decide that the marriage is the primary relationship in the family. Fidelity is bigger than not cheating on each other. It involves standing together, supporting each other’s endeavors. Fidelity means growing together—not parallel, but together. It means looking for and drawing out the best in each other. And just like everything else in life—like attitude, like habitual anger, like love—fidelity is a choice.

I choose love. Love of this man, and all the beautiful things he is:

 Forever.

16 thoughts on “High Fidelity

  1. Missy

    I enjoyed this post and can soooo relate to the “habitual mild bitterness”…this is a good reminder about choosing to love…

  2. Dottie Sowash

    I just finished what I felt was a very good book. It’s a true story. It’s called Same Kind of Difference as Me. After the husband told his wife of his affair, she called the woman to thank her. I won’t tell you anything more in case you want to read it. It is a very inspiring, spirit filled book.

  3. “Fidelity is bigger than not cheating on each other. It involves standing together, supporting each other’s endeavors. Fidelity means growing together—not parallel, but together. It means looking for and drawing out the best in each other. And just like everything else in life—like attitude, like habitual anger, like love—fidelity is a choice.”
    You are so very right, and I actually have a feeling of dread when I think about this in terms of what is likely coming ahead for us. Right now it is pretty easy to grow together because it seems as if we have nothing else. But I know that the choice becomes so much harder as life gets fuller.

    Thank you for your great example.

  4. Sarah M.

    I agree with the above sentiments–great post! And something I needed to read (you seem to do that a lot! 🙂 ) right now as I keep reading that parents of children with special needs have a higher propensity for divorce because of the difficulties. It’s definitely important to remember that we can only be good for our child if we are good to each other first. Thanks, once again, for the insight!

    • It is something to keep in mind, but I don’t accept that I am at greater risk for divorce simply b/c of my daughter. I think that having a child with special needs simply requires parents to make a choice: to do what it takes to have a successful family, or not. And the spinning-out of that choice affects all else. And some families have it harder than others, for sure. Julianna’s a joy to babysit; there are many families who have trouble finding sitters b/c it’s hard work to care for their kids. That makes a big difference too.

  5. I read that essay, too! I couldn’t get it out of my head, either.

    I agree in theory with everything the essay & you said. But it’s so hard sometimes. We’re going through a really tough time right now w/ 2 small, very demanding kids, my husband’s very demanding job, financial stresses, health issues, etc. Some days it literally feels overwhelming to have to tend to one more person’s needs at the end of the day, even if that means just giving your spouse a hug. Even though I know it’s not his fault or his choice that he works such long hours, it feels so hard & unfair sometimes that I can’t help but take it out on him. I tell myself that these things will pass. Hopefully we’ll all stick it out until then!

    • I know exactly what you mean…know it in the place where I feel it too. But all the thinking I’ve been doing on this subject lately tells me this is one of those moments when I “get” to grow. You, even more than I (I think) have chosen to try to do it all–to be a full-time mom *and* a professional writer. Two very demanding “mistresses” in the cliche’d terms. I also think–often–that “this is the season I’m in, it won’t always be like this.”

      But Alex is starting Little League in a few weeks, and I had to rearrange lessons to accommodate it. Which makes me gnash my teeth and think that I may be deluding myself, that it will ever get any better…

      • Situations do not necessarily get better, but they do pass. Children get older or work situations change. As we have walked the obstacle course of our lives each hurdle overcome has drawn us closer together. It has definitely been worth it to stick it out.

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