Intelligible, and cute as Cupid

I got a little zealous this morning. Not overzealous, I don’t think. But I decided that I should write down what I was going to say in a letter, and I went to where K. is staying to deliver it. I didn’t throw rocks at the windows or bang on the door. I just called a bunch of times, had a frantic and hectic session at Kinko’s printing it out, then, when I was done running around like a chicken with its head cut off, left it on the seat of his (our) car, to which I have a key.

I debated putting it up here or not. But this is, I guess, my space to write letters to the world, and you, dear reader, can be the judge of whether you should be privy.

Today is the fourth anniversary of the day you and I stood before a marriage officiant in San Francisco. I don’t have a poem in me yet, but I do have something to say. So here is this letter.

She said, “Marriage is a full-time job,” and we were married. Christoph and Kevin took pictures of us kissing in the tree-lined square in front of City Hall. We went to dim sum, where I think you enjoyed shocking Mona. We contemplating buying rings on Market St. We had tapas, we went back to Stacy’s, we went to bed.

I know that you’re aware of how much we joked about that line. “Marriage is a full-time job,” we laughed. And we also, I think, felt a bit proud: proud that we knew that, that we knew what it meant. Proud that we had a sense of purpose in what we were doing.

“I’m so excited about our happiness.” You told me. In many ways, I think we were both aware of what a bold and unusual and unlikely move that was, the choice to get married, for different reasons for each of us. And, too, aware that it represented a great challenge and a great opportunity. That the possibility for happiness was now greater. And that in some way, the possibility for strife, work, conflict, and drudgery was also greater.

I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.

I know that you are not feeling that way now. You have articulated, clearly, that it’s over for you. That you can’t go back there. That you don’t want to be with me. That this is not about the kids or the family; it is about us and it is about you. And that you are not going to do that.

You are very stubborn. You know that. It is a gift and a curse.

Since this started on Dec. 5, and before, I have tried to be compassionate. I want to offer you the space you need. I want to support you.

I want to support you because I love you. And because I am aware of the commitment we created together. Not the commitment that society expects of us or the one that the law mandates. The commitment that you, of your own volition and moral code, and I of mine, articulated.

We articulated that marriage is a full-time job. We articulated that divorce was not an option. (I know you said that you didn’t understand that as I did, that it was a kind of joke. But as you are fond of saying, all jokes are half true.) We articulated that we were not like those couples that gave up easily, quickly, unilaterally, or of their own whim; that we would not be like our friends who didn’t go into marriage with eyes open and who left with eyes equally not open, or open to only some of the concerns.
We articulated, explicitly and at length, that we chose not to be like my parents and give up drastically and quickly and damagingly. We articulated that we chose not to be like your parents and live in unhappiness without doing some concerted work to change it. Together.
We articulated that our family was the greatest value, that our love was the greatest value, that we had the will and the obligation and the commitment to see that through.

We made the promise. We made it for life.

We have made mistakes. We have both, in small and not-so-small ways, failed to do all that we could or should. But the promise does not disappear because it is neglected.

The promise is still binding. For life.

I have a responsibility to you. You have a responsibility to me. We have responsibilities to our family, to our love, to each other, to ourselves. The core of that responsibility is that we are not allowed to bail. We are not allowed to give up. We are not allowed to brush our feelings under the rug, to shift our values, or to take a quick road out.

It is easy to do that. It is particularly easy now, when the motion seems to be pushing us in that direction. But it is not okay. It is not consistent with your values. The ones you articulated. Your moral commitment to yourself, to me, to our children.
It is not consistent with mine.

We have an obligation to try to deal. With each other and in each other and in our family and with our family. First and for as long as it takes. We have an obligation that is forever. Like that promise.

However out of love you feel, however angry and disillusioned I feel, however hard it has been, it has not been consistent with the values and promises we establish. The commitments that we made to each other and to our children. That we expressed explicitly and verbally to our son. It is no wonder we react so angrily and so coldly. It is no wonder he does.

The promise remains. We are allowed to feel the way we feel. We are allowed to want what we want. We are allowed to work together, within our family, within our marriage, to get those things. There are many improvements and compromises that can be made. Many, too, that would not even be hard to make. That are already being made.

But we are not allowed to change the rules we made. In doing so, we destroy each other. We destroy our family. We destroy our love. And love is more than a feeling. It is a way of acting. It is a signpost, a guideline, a compass. Love is more than desire and satisfaction and want, more even than frustration and hopelessness and disillusionment.

You made the rules. We made the rules together. They are not being imposed on us. We have imposed them. If, at long last, we come to a place where we must relinquish them, together and mutually, then we can do that, though not without great cost to all involved.
We cannot change them individually. We do not get to jump this ship.

And having already jumped ship does not justify continuing. Having already betrayed that promise does not justify perpetuating. The promise remains. I hold you to it. You hold me to it. Our family, our love, and our children hold us to it. If we had better friends, friends who truly understood the importance of each of us honoring the code and the commitments and the expectations we set out, we lived by, they would hold us to it as well. Perhaps they do.

Today is our fourth anniversary.

Things are looking bleak. We may feel the line has been crossed. We may feel there’s no going back and nowhere to go with this.
But the promise is bigger than us individually. It is not about either one of us. It is bigger, and it is binding. It is the promise of a life. Of one life, two lives, four lives.

You are my husband. I am your wife. The ring is an apt symbol of that. It encloses us. Even when we take it off, it is unchanged. It does not need our permission or our agreement to exist.

The promise remains. We are bound by it. And we must begin.

Happy anniversary, Big. I love you.

I don’t expect that it will change things for him, though I do think it needed to be said. (Of course, I hope it will. But what does Emily Dickinson say about hope?) This is not about what you can get away with. This is about his promises, ultimately, to himself, which are binding. And about the truth I need to say, even if it falls on deaf ears.

Because, as Stephen Merritt implies, free fall isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.