It isn’t going to bed alone that feels wrong — I am not above admitting that by time Game of Thrones ends I am fucking tired — it is waking up alone that bothers me, especially in the middle of the night when I am tangled in our cheap Target comforter and clinging to all four pillows. I usually lay in the dark for a few minutes and listen, but I rarely hear anything more than a cat kicking kitty litter or my downstairs neighbor coughing in his sleep. (He apparently has a wicked cough in the middle of the night, a smoker’s type cough.) Usually the house is silent. Dead silent. It is then I come to find you, toying around on your computer or playing video games on our couch. It is then, at 1:00 in the morning, that I need you most.
I know I look atrocious, my hair tangled and an errant breast peeking out from my behind my oversized top. I know I am demanding; I don’t ask you to come to bed, I tell you. But I know our daughter will be up sometime between 5:00am and 6:00am and I need you. Do you know we can go days without saying that? I can go days without saying that? But 1:00am always puts my priorities in perspective, and I need you.
Having a child changes everything. I was warned about the sleep deprivation and the way my body would never forgive me (though it has), but I was never told how much a baby can change your marriage. I was never told just how difficult it could, and would, be to keep divorce out of every conversation.
I miss the way you looked at me when I was pregnant, not sexually but in awe. Your eyes didn’t turn toward my breasts or down to my ass; instead, they stayed transfixed on mine and when they did drift they landed on my stomach. Instead of being self-conscious and trying to “suck it in” I smiled. I saw what you saw, what I still cannot explain.
Unfortunately that honeymoon-like feeling ended shortly after our daughter was born. Not the first week or the first month. No, that time was still a doe-eyed sleepless blur. We loved being parents and we loved seeing each other in a new light, the same light that shown on me during my pregnancy. But as the newness wore off, and the foggy filter of 3:00am feedings subsided, we fought more. It started over little things. I resented you for not knowing how to calm our daughter in my absence and for assuming I would tackle every late night diaper change. I was angry when you complained about being tired or stressed, and I was livid when you tried to initiate sex. I didn’t want to be touched or held. I just wanted to be alone…for five freaking minutes. I just wanted to sit still and cry.
I could have tried to tell you that but I didn’t. I didn’t have the words and, in many ways, I still don’t. Instead I watched you pull to one corner, a bottle in one hand and your phone in the other, while I sat in another, wiping my silent tears on the corner of a burp rag which — despite numerous washings — always smelled like baby powder and sour milk.
As the year went on small problems festered into larger issues, and before long the walls of our 1,400 square foot home began closing in. Before long I was certain divorce was our only option.
Marriage is hard, damn hard. When they say “for better or worse” it should be clear that that good times, while amazing, will seem small in comparison to the bad ones, and the best moments can also be the worst.
No one tells you better and worse can be one in the same.
I know I waste many evenings talking about trivial stuff, like laundry, sticky floors, or our recycling can that, thanks to strangely powerful winds, blew away for the fifth time today — I even discuss the number of times our daughter crapped (and the color and consistency of said shit!) — but that is because I don’t always know what to say. That is because I don’t always have something important to say. And that is because the things I should say, the things I need — like you and love, and even a simple hug — are too hard to ask for.
So I’m sorry for finding you in the wee hours of the morning, a disheveled, sleepy and emotional mess, and telling you what to do. Know that it is my strange way of saying I love you. I know it’s far from perfect, hell it’s not even right, but know I am trying. This is all so new, this version of you and I, and I was never good at dating. Know that this is not what I imagined our marriage would be, but know that what matters is not what was but what is — and at the end of the day we are still together. I still want us to be together. And know that while I don’t always say it, and certainly don’t always show it (especially around, say, 7:00pm on a Thursday), I’m better with you, and because of you.
This essay originally appeared on Mamalode.