Soon after my now-husband, Raj, and I became engaged, I worried that I did not know how to merge identities with my future husband and not lose myself in the process. For the previous ten years, I had been fiercely protective of my individuality and identity, and suddenly, I needed to learn to become part of a unit. I had fought too hard for my independence and for the right to my particular journey to let love replace them as my most precious commodity. How was the puzzle going to come together with a life partner in the mix? What would I have to sacrifice? Would I give up myself?
There was no class offered in my Master’s program on “How to be a modern woman and wife 101” (let us be honest, 601).
One of the things that prompted me to begin this blog was the sense that I had forgotten who I was, or didn’t know who I was, or what I wanted, or what I did not want. All I knew was that I like to talk it out, and I needed a low stakes environment in which to do it (famous last words). I had been living downtown for ten years, and a year ago, we moved to the suburbs in a house three times too large for us. This is no ordinary suburb; this is where I grew up, a place to which I had sworn never to return. And here I am. My parents—my father especially—wanted us to move close by, and all of his arguments were logical and valid. Had I wanted this? Do I remember asking myself what I wanted? Or did I agree because it was rational?
Having now been married for five years, I recently realized that the whole in which I lost myself was not my marriage. It was my family of origin.
If I sound like someone who is in therapy, it is because I am. A year ago, I started seeing a new female therapist from Argentina (let’s call her Emma), who specializes in psychoanalysis. After a decade of being in and out of talk therapy with white male therapists, I had gotten nowhere. I had the strange sense that they had found me fascinating and were content to reinforce my way of life. My new therapist made me question everything.
I was prompted to find a new therapist because I was unhappy in my marriage. Things were a lot harder than I thought they ought to be, and we were absolutely not getting along. Asking myself “was the house a mistake?” led me to ask “was this marriage a mistake?” She has helped me realize that so much of my struggle against and with my husband is really a struggle to break free from my parents.
The gravity my family wields is so strong that nothing can escape it (except perhaps my sister, having moved hundreds of miles away). A black hole, if you will.
My family is progressive and they’ve been really supportive; but for certain circumstantial and some underlying reasons (which I’ll get around to explaining in the future), the family is consuming and I’ve allowed it to happen. Not only has this hindered my own individuality and journey, but I’ve realized I haven’t really been in my marriage 100% this whole time.
Emma says some families are like cakes and others are like salads. In a cake, each ingredient comes together to make a uniform product such that you can’t distinguish the individual elements (who has ever bitten into a cake and said “yum, that’s really great flour!”). In a salad, the ingredients still come together to make a dish, but they retain their individual characteristics. There’s a dressing of course that flavors everything, but it doesn’t consume the ingredients.
We’re a cake.
And I’m trying to reclaim my radish self.
Sometimes the whole—no matter how wholesome—is a hole. And you have to climb your way out. This is me learning to climb.