Is Love Enough?
“Uhhh, so what?!? Love is not enough!”
The words slammed into me like a baseball bat. Shocked and shaken to my core, I quietly sat; not daring to say another word. I could feel the words still floating around the room – watching me, waiting for me to say something else so it could remind me again. A voice, deep inside spurred me, poking me: “Come on, man! Fight back! Do it for love… do it for you!”
But I remained silent.
I’ve always found it odd how there are times I can’t recall what I did in a single day, yet I can remember back to a single moment in my past and recall it in such vivid detail. Maybe it’s because of the impact it had on me, or that I still carry around the invisible scar these words left behind. Or, maybe I’m making too much of it, and it’s just how our brains work. But I will always remember this day – this conversation, for the rest of my life.
It was Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010. My wife of almost a year had just levelled me with the same impact as what I assume a punch from Mike Tyson feels like. Luckily, my wife does not hit like Mike Tyson, or anyone for that matter, but her words… that’s another story altogether.
If you know anything of women from New England, you won’t find it that surprising. Most people from that area have a certain something about them, in their speech and delivery, that can put you on dream street (not in a good way) real fast. On top of that, my wife is highly educated, so confidence is not in short supply.
We were watching MSNBC, and they were discussing the news that former Vice President Al Gore and his wife of 40 years, Tipper Gore, were divorcing. I was floored; saddened at the thought of love losing yet again. I exclaimed I couldn’t believe this was happening; they seemed so in love. How could you be in love with someone, high school sweethearts, and then wed for 40 years, and just quit?
And then it happened. My wife of 11 months, the woman I just returned home from celebrating a delayed (but worth it) honeymoon in Barbados with, said something, that looking back now, definitely contributed to everything that would transpire over the next 8 years.
“Uhhh, so what?!? Love is not enough!”
Delivered with a heavy dose of matter-of-fact, a smidgen of annoyance, a pinch of dismissive attitude and sprinkle on some insulting laughter for taste, and VOILA! You have a husband, emotionally reeling on the couch; questioning everything he knows… or thought he did.
But that’s OK, because she wasn’t talking about us. We had love. Our love was enough.
I have always been a bit naive when it comes to matters of the heart. I will be the first to admit, I’m a hopeless romantic, and before I met my wife, I was more hopeless than romantic. I was never one to have much luck with woman. I have never been assertive or confident. I was never the guy who walked up to a woman and hit on her. But on the occasions that the universe found fit to bring love into my life, I was in… all in.
It was no different with my wife. I fell fast, and hard… she did not. I respected that she wanted to take things slow. She shared stories of past relationships where she was hurt, and didn’t want to have that happen again. It also made sense the more I got to know her. She was calculated; almost methodical in her thought process before making a decision… it made choosing what she wanted to eat, or movie to see, super-fun, let me tell you.
She eventually said she felt what I felt; though, I have always had my doubts. I can’t say I really ever felt love “from” her; at least not the way I loved her – true, deep, passionate, to-the-ends-of-the-universe love. But, I also understand that I’m a very open kind-of person; almost gregarious in a way. Some might find it smothering. The amount of love I send out in a relationship is only rivalled by the amount I’m looking for in return – an unfortunate side effect of a child raised by an emotionally/mentally abusive mom. That’s a tall order for anyone to fill – and unfair, too. It definitely took its toll on my wife, and for that I am sorry.
You keep thinking that love will be enough, until one day, you turn around, and it isn’t…
Don’t misunderstand me; I do believe my wife loved me, but it always felt, only so much. Like she was rationing it out. I guess the more apt thing to say would be that I’m not sure she was ever “In love with me”. But, it was going to be OK, because…
We had love. Our love was enough.
Life together eventually found us uprooting from where we met; my home of 30 years, San Diego, CA, and moving all the way across the country to a place neither of us had ever lived – Washington DC. I didn’t want to move. I wasn’t ready to leave my life behind, but I didn’t want to lose the woman I had fallen madly in love with… and I knew she was going, with or without me. I feared what each day would bring. How long could I hold off the depression? Would I be able to make it out here in DC? No friends, no family, no idea about anything. I just had one person… and she was quickly growing tired of my leaning on her. But, it was going to be OK, because…
We had love. Our love was enough.
You keep thinking that love will be enough, until one day, you turn around, and it isn’t. Or, at least you think that, because the person you love, constantly reminds you your love is not enough. Allow me to clarify…
I’m in no way saying my wife walked around every day announcing my love wasn’t enough. In fact, there are plenty of times she boosted me up, and supported me. Hell, that’s the main reason I really wanted to win Dad Blog of the Year at Mom 2.0; I wanted to thank her… she was my first fan, and that will always mean a lot to me.
But, eventually, you start to notice the feeling of love is just a little bit less than it was the day before. The annoyed tone in how you talk to each other seems to be increasing. Bickering has turned into exchanges of mean comments. You notice their level of tiredness has increased, and bedtime seems to always come right after the kids are in bed. You don’t share the same laughs together anymore. Date nights are all but a thing of the past. At least when they do happen, you make sure to post on social media how happy you are; you know, to fertilize the grass and all.
Then things go to another level. The mean comments become hurtful stabs. Someone uses something from the other’s past to shame them. Someone makes a hurtful comment about the other’s appearance, or makes constant jokes about the other’s family.
We did all these things to each other, and more… but why? Why wasn’t love enough then? Why did love fail us when we needed it most? Maybe she was right: love isn’t enough. Maybe it never was.
That’s not fair. This isn’t love’s fault. Love didn’t insult us. Love never told us we were unworthy of it, or unlovable. Love didn’t prevent either of us from getting the help we needed early on, or abandon us when we needed it the most.
No, love was always there, and it still is. When my wife said those fateful words, all those years ago, she was wrong, but she was also right.
Love isn’t the be-all, end-all of a relationship. Just like the day you get married is not the end of the race. It’s not the goal. It’s the starting point. Everything else was training just to get to the starting line. Love is the foundation; the slab if you will, that your house (relationship) is built on. It’s enough to be what you need it to be. If you want to build that house, cool… but you have to put in the work. If you want to stop at the slab, that’s cool…you’re just gonna be cold outside. So keeping each other warm and safe will take work too. It’s all work. It takes tons of work.
Sometimes the house burns down, but that’s not the slab’s fault. The slab is there to tell you, “Hey, sorry about your house, but I’m still here. I’ll always be here, just in case you want to start over. I’m enough.”
But, what happens when the slab gets damaged? Sometimes it’s a little damage, and sometimes it a lot of damage. And you have to decide if you really want to fix that slab. But, it’s not that slab’s fault. It did its job… it was enough.
Our slab broke about six years ago, and unfortunately, it seems we weren’t honest with each other about the amount of work we were doing to repair it – or, sadly, the desire to even try and fix it. And over that time, we did plenty of more damage. But, everything would be OK, because…
We had love… oh, wait.
April 11th, 2018. I said the words I never thought I would say. I told my wife I wanted a divorce. It was the hardest thing I have ever said in my entire life. I’m crying right now as I type this. We no longer had love. Our foundation had become nothing but rubble, and it was clear to me, my wife had given up on me.
I don’t know where to go from here. I literally have no idea what I’m doing. I person I fell madly in love with (to me) no longer exists. And while I can only speak for myself, I assume she feels similarly about the person she loved all those years ago.
The weeks since I said I was leaving have been… well, strained at best. There are moments of peace, but more often than not, it’s a lot of tension. But, that’s to be expected.
I’m sure people will ask why now. The reason is… I’m 40 years old, and I have come to realise that I don’t love myself. In fact, I have a very low opinion of myself. And a great deal of that is because the person who said they would love me forever and convinced me that it was OK to trust and love again when they met me, gave up on me… and when they did, they went the same route that others had when they too tired of me. Some of that I get; I had not been doing the work to take care of myself, until the last couple of years… but I guess it was too late. I just wish she would have told me sooner – or continued to believe in me like I always have in her.
In case you find yourself wondering if I have any regrets. The answer is no. Because, although it may sound cheesy, I truly believe I am the person I am today (stronger, wiser, in better shape), because of those very hurtful situations. Plus… my kids came out of those too… and I love those two like no tomorrow.
Although, I will say if there is one regret, it’s that all this will make Her feel like she was right. No, not her…Her. The Her, before she became Her as well.
The Her that left the following message on my cell phone the night before I was married:
Hello Michael, we hope your wedding day is beautiful tomorrow, even though you have chosen to abandon all your “real” family for those people. That’s right; we’re your real family, and you know it. So, enjoy this time. Enjoy these moments, because they won’t last. You’ll never be one of them. They don’t even like you. She’ll throw you away like the trash you are, as soon as she’s done with you.
Mum always did have a way with words.
But, she’s not right. Well, some of it was right… but not the important parts. I am not being thrown away; I refuse to let anyone have that kind of power over me anymore. My wife may have given up on me, but I’m the one leaving. I’m closing this book in my life… not just a chapter, but the entire book up this point. Because I let everyone else write it, and in doing so, allowed them (including my wife), to tell me who I was, and what my worth was, or how little it was.
I’m starting a new book… a better one. One where I can say I’m proud of me; where I alone determine my own worth. Where I surround myself with people who actually want to be in my life, but most importantly… where I’m happy.
Thanks for reading all this. I hope you are still here for the next journey because something tells me… it’s only going to get better.
To read The Dad Website’s interview with Mike, click here.