David and I have put our relationship through a lot. As life has taken its twists and turns, so has our relationship. Two different people with different desires attempting to live one life. “I’m tired of California, let’s move to New York!” “It’s been my dream to start a business, let’s make that happen!” Different cultures, international moves, opposite personalities. And then just as our 10 year anniversary came in to sight, we nearly faltered and fell. Because the truth of the matter is that running a business together has probably been the most challenging test that we’ve put our marriage through.
Logically and rationally, I knew that starting a business together would be challenging. A reader even cautioned me early on about going into business with my spouse. But I immediately buried the concerns, confident that the trials and tribulations that we had already faced throughout our 8 years together pre AlteArte would serve as our armor in protecting our marriage as we threw ourselves into yet another challenging situation. And during that first year with AlteArte, I smugly felt that we were prepared for this. Our years together had honed our communication skills and enabled us to survive apparently without any worse for the wear.
It started innocently enough. Like a newborn, AlteArte, in its first year, naturally required a lot of time and energy. I understood that the full weight of our decision to open a business would include long hours, late nights, and the priority placed on different things. But, after nearly a year, when I stepped back to find a bit more balance and establish a life outside of AlteArte, although I so wanted David to join me, I quickly saw that it’s not what he wanted and I knew that I couldn’t fault him if he couldn’t. We were both carrying the weight of the business on our shoulders, but, as I stepped back to focus on my writing and spend time with my friends outside of AlteArte, he voluntarily stepped forward to develop AlteArte into our own. And, I reminded myself that if I wasn’t ready to embrace this then I shouldn’t have made the decision in the first place.
Naturally, though, we fell into a routine, and, as we headed into our fourth year, David was spending so much of his time at AlteArte that I saw him more at AlteArte than I did outside of AlteArte. And I noticed that the very thing that we were trying to protect was actually the very thing that we had pushed into the background. And as we put all of our energy into the business, we had little left for our marriage. And we neglected it, assuming that it could survive with very little attention or care. And, slowly, our relationship began to morph as we unconsciously shaped it and molded it until I could no longer ignore the nagging feeling at my core, and it dawned on me that we had started to relate more as co-workers than as a married couple. In essence, our relationship followed the course of what took place at AlteArte, our conversations centered around the stress or worries of the business, and disagreements that were ignited by something that happened at AlteArte lasted late into the evening and seeped into the core of our relationship. And, soon, rather than it being the relationship that held us together and gave life to our business, it was AlteArte that was defining our marriage.
In an effort to re-prioritize the marriage, David suggested that we take a quick 3 day trip in April before the high season was upon us. I eagerly agreed, booked tickets and found a nice hotel in Santiago de Compostela in the North of Spain. We had heard beautiful things about the North but had yet to go, and I couldn’t wait to take some time off to explore this region of Spain together. But the day before our scheduled departure, David started hinting that he didn’t feel like he could leave with peace of mind. True, we were dealing with a particular situation and leaving in the middle of it was a bit stressful, but the trip had been planned. For me, it was unthinkable that we would cancel the trip. But the morning of our flight, he told me that he couldn’t go. He declared it, in fact. He had made up his mind and there was no room for discussion. I sat in shock for nearly an hour before I came to my senses and realized that just because he had decided he wasn’t going didn’t mean that I couldn’t go. Always thinking of us, I had to shift my thinking and think about me. So I packed my bags and caught the bus to the airport, but, as I boarded the plane solo, I couldn’t help but feel hurt that he wasn’t by my side.
And so, three months short of our 10 year anniversary, I explored the city that marks the end of the Camino de Santiago on my own. And, as pilgrims from all around the world entered the city and sat in the church square reveling in the present and enjoying a spiritual high having walked weeks and sometimes months to get there, I sat in the same square confused about what the future held having reached a low point after nearly ten years of marriage. And for three days, I examined how I – how we – had arrived at this point. And for three days, the rain held and Santiago de Compostela lent itself to me with its beautiful pedestrian streets and lush, green parks and gently filled me with peace and positive energy.
That was our wake up call. Just as all roads of the Camino de Santiago lead to Santiago de Compostela, we were heading down a path with a clear destination in sight. It was just a matter of deciding if that was where we wanted to go. What did we want? What did we want to fight for? Did we want the same things for the future?
In the months after that trip, we talked a lot, and we really examined what it was that we wanted. And, just when I thought we were going to lose it all, we found the strength to not give up. And over the past eight months, we have re-prioritized our marriage, we have reassessed what it is that we want, we have relearned what it is that we need to make each other happy, we have refined how we relate to each other, and we have reengaged in the lives that we started and have created together.
The reality is that 10 years is a long time and a long winding path with room for life to happen, changes to take place, people and goals and desires to alter. When I think back to the person I was at 25, I realize that I didn’t even know who I was yet – I couldn’t even see around the next turn – yet I was making decisions for the rest of my life. And, although AlteArte nearly tore us apart, in the process, it taught me a lot about myself, about David and about us. Most importantly, it forced us to stand up for what we need personally so that we could change the course of where we were heading together. And, by doing so, ultimately, it has brought us closer together.
We nearly faltered and fell but we caught ourselves at the last minute. And, on August 2nd, we celebrated 10 years. But a decade of marriage doesn’t just happen. You have to work at it, you have to fight for it, but, more than anything, you have to both really want it. So that you choose it again and again and again – even when you have changed and your partner has changed and the situation has changed. So that you stay the course and don’t lose your way.
We reached a crossroad and we were both given a choice, and, 10 years later and 10 years wiser, we chose each other.
*A couple of additional points I’d like to make:
– Those who know me know that I’m a private person, but I felt that this blog was an important one to write and to share. After all, we’re all human, and I don’t think that the fact that we have struggled is any sign of failure on our part. It’s just a normal part of the process and of life.
– David has supported me in writing and publishing this post. That, alone, shows me how much he loves me, for that is an action that speaks way louder than words.