Sunday, November 20, 2011

View From Up Here

It is common knowledge that life has peaks and valleys. I doubt the theory needs any more explanation from me. That's just the way that life is; however, just knowing that peaks exist doesn't necessarily help get you out of a valley and knowing that life may get better doesn't instill confidence that it actually will.

Marriages have the same topography—the heights of love and the lows of loathing—but I think the valleys in marriage are especially frightening.

I originally followed the preceding sentence with the word "because," but then realized I had to replace that word with a period. The valleys in marriage are just frightening period. I have some theories, but it doesn't really matter why they're so scary. Maybe it's because we usually start out on peaks in love and don't have to work at all to get there the first time. Maybe it's because we rarely see examples of couples who have gotten out of valleys. Maybe it's because we're experienced enough to know that the dizzying highs we feel in a new relationship are chemical reactions that are impossible to recreate in a long-term relationship. Maybe your reasons are different from mine.

When our daughter was born, I mean right after she was born, I felt more in love with Peter than I had since we were dating. I couldn't tell him enough how much I loved him. . . that feeling was short-lived. The third or fourth time I got up to feed Lydia and a sleeping Peter muttered an unconscious complaint, I thought, "I hate him so much," and for several months, even though I tried very hard to choose to love, I didn't feel anything akin to love. I loved my baby girl. I mean, I loved my baby. . . No, I mean, I looooooooooved my baby girl. Peter, I could take or leave.

It was scary.

I told myself that this was just a valley and it was just temporary, but it didn't feel temporary. It felt like I'd done the love thing and now I'm doing the parent thing. I thought I just needed to accept that this is a different stage of my life. . . one I don't like it at all, but one we're stuck with.

Why do I tell this story? So that I can tell the ending. Turns out, it was just a valley. And after Peter and I walked far enough through it, we reached its end and the ground began to rise beneath our feet. Our relationship just gradually got more and more friendly, more and more loving, more and more passionate until I feel like we're in as good a spot as we've ever been.

Peter and I went on a trip to Arizona last weekend and it was like a second honeymoon. I hadn't really even realized that we were climbing out of the valley until I saw the view from the mountain top and realized we'd made it.

I can't tell you how we made things better—at least, my goal here is not to offer any relationship advice. I only share this story to encourage you that there really are more peaks out there. Keep going. It's worth it.