Today (July 4th) is my 7th wedding anniversary…the year of the rumored “seven-year itch.” Besides being the title of the 1955 film staring a very sexy Marilyn Monroe, the phrase refers to the alleged boredom that sets in after seven years of marriage, making the union vulnerable to roving eyes and extramarital affairs.
The general consensus seems to be that seven years into a marriage, the “honeymoon period” of love notes and spontaneous sex romantic evenings is officially over, and is replaced with the less flashy, daily duties that come with the territory of parenthood and/or homeownership. Somewhere between preparing meals, yard work, grocery shopping and the endless cycle of laundry…staring lovingly into my husband’s eyes falls right below “Buy an iron” on my to-do list.
Am I bored? Hell yeah. However cheating on Phil is thankfully NOT the itch I need scratched (besides, who has the energy for THAT?). The thing is… I am not bored with Phil. I am bored with myself.
I think it might actually be impossible to be bored with Phil. He’s magnetic. His zest for life is undeniable, his enthusiasm for partying making merry is unparalleled. He brings out the best in people because he believes the best in people, whether they believe it about themselves or not.
He jokingly loves to hear me tell people about the night we met at a bar in Stone Harbor….how I was drawn to him immediately but settled for talking with his friend (we will call him Bob) instead, assuming that Phil “was way out of my league.” It’s true. He was so confident and charming, so at home in his skin. His eyes were boyish and sparkly, but the laugh lines that framed them made him seem wise and seasoned, like he could teach me a thing or two. With the help of a few cocktails I mustered up the balls to talk to him…and the rest is history. He was 30, I was barely 24.
That was almost exactly a decade ago; just yesterday I turned 34. We have covered a lot of territory in our seven years of marriage: two houses, one dog, two children, a bladder sling surgery and the removal of one large intestine-just to name a few. Through it all Phil has been unwavering in his love and loyalty. I can say with certainty that he would do anything for me. ANYTHING. And – herein lies the problem – I usually let him. Not because I am lazy (Ok, maybe a little bit lazy) but mostly because I assume that whatever it is, he will do it better. I deem myself out-ranked in capability because he is older, smarter, and savvier…because he is Phil. However, by taking on the role as the helpless ingénue, I inadvertantly cast him in the part of Savior instead of Spouse. In other words, I unconsciously found a loop hole in the whole “becoming a grown-up” thing.
Maybe I am “itchy” because I have outgrown the skin I am in.
In a conversation earlier this week, my kindred spirit Emily mentioned she was reading Anne Morrow Lindberg’s “Gift From The Sea”. Thankful for the reminder of this literary gem, I dug out my copy from my cardboard box bookshelf. Written on Captiva Island, AML shares her insights on marriage, womanhood, and the process of finding one’s self through writing and solitude. I have read it several times, and each time it takes on new meaning and texture, her insights growing with me as I age and (hopefully) evolve. In my current stage of restlessness I was struck by her following proclamation: “A woman must come of age by herself – this is the essence of coming of age – to learn how to stand alone.”
ALONE? I don’t want to be alone. That’s why I got married…right?
With that question, I understand why I played it small for so many years. (And I do mean “small” in the literal sense; I spent a month of our first year of marriage hospitalized for anorexia). With that question, I understand why on some unconscious level I have resisted the movement to wholeness I claim to want so desperately: FEAR. Fear of growing into someone my husband no longer recognizes…someone he no longer loves. It almost feels like a betrayal on my part: “Hey honey, now I know I SAID I was this submissive, slightly unhinged little waif, but now I have decided that I would ACTUALLY much rather be someone with balance and boobs and actual opinions…sorry! My bad! Are you ok with that?”
And you know what? He is more than ok with it…because as it turns out, that helpless little girl was not the person he fell in love with at all. I know this because I asked him. He said: “When I met you I saw a person with a lot of fire and fearlessness – I didn’t see smallness, I saw someone who emitted light and truth. I was fascinated by what outrageous statement might come out of your mouth next- you censored NOTHING. Even your hair – all crazy and curly – refused to be contained.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote that “the man I was to marry believed in me and what I could do, and consequently I found I could do more than I realized.”
Turns out, the seven year itch isn’t so bad if you have someone to help you scratch it.