We have been married for 22 years, and everything was fine until, 12 years into it, we had kids. Our children changed us. They brought out in Benjamin a love so fierce, so focused, that I fell off the edge of his world, plunging straight past him and into some sea where, no matter how much I flounder and flail, he fails to toss me a line. As for me, in the sea, my children often appear to me as apparitions, floating forms, people of poured plaster or glass, ghostly and beautiful but beyond my reach.
I recently told my husband that if we want to save our marriage, we need to find time to spend together without the children. “It works like this,” I tell him. “The husband and wife are a team. That team has to be the prime priority, or the family collapses.”
“It works like this,” my husband tells me. “We need to pay attention to the family. We need to do more things together. If we were a more coherent group, if you would join us when we play Scrabble or Clue, then our marriage would improve.”
I don’t know who’s right. I suspect I am. I suspect that the dyad needs to be diamond-hard to survive the assaults life throws its way, the challenge of children, the bland familiarity that rides on the tail of time. I can’t see how Scrabble could possibly restore the romantic bond that drew my husband and me together way back when: he with his strawberry-blond hair and pale-sky eyes, me with my mahogany hair and hands the size of starfish. We made our wedding invitations ourselves, taking pictures of our faces and cutting them in half and then pasting them together. I found a copy of the invitation the other day, and I can see now that the joined faces do not present a whole but rather look like some kind of crash—and if you peer closely, you can see the ragged rift between the half husband and the half wife, a subtle seam of white between us.
My husband and I have always been radically different people, so I suppose it should come as no surprise that our differences have deepened. He is an engineer and a committed rationalist, evaluating every problem, no matter how slight, by breaking it into its component pieces and searching for a solution. Feelings, Benjamin says, only obscure the necessary steps. Over the years, we have become clichés. I, of course, approach problems by listening for their emotional undertones to discern the hidden issue: life as layers, me peeling back, lifting lids, while my husband draws graphs and composes computer code.
Not long ago, he brought home two boxes and lay them side by side on the counter. The labels read “23andMe,” and the picture showed a pop-art X chromosome. “We spit into the test tubes,” my husband said, tapping the top of one box, “and then send it off, and in a few weeks we’ll get back our genomes, all analyzed.”
“I don’t need to have my genome analyzed,” I said. “I already know I’m Jewish and come from Eastern Europe, and I know that breast cancer runs in my family, as does diabetes, so…I don’t want to.”
“You might find out that you are not as Jewish as you think,” my husband said. “You might find out you are at high risk for a disease you could do something about.” (23andMe no longer provides information about disease risk; the FDA ordered the company to stop until it completed the agency’s regulatory review process.)
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