M and I have been married nearly 20 years, together for more than 25. A long shared history.
However, we both had lives, friendships, relationships before we became a couple. Like everyone else. Not so stark difference with us is that vast majority of my friends pre-M have become part of the fabric of our lives post relationship. In fact, many of my old friends became close (or sometimes even closer) to M through the years. M, however, took a 20 year hiatus from ALL his closest friends in his long running career. I mean, zero contact. It’s made for an interesting integration in the years since he began running again and crossing paths, making inroads into the old trail running ultramarathon world.
And being absolutely honest: it’s really hard for me. After a few false starts where I felt trapped or ignored or minimized or any other range of negative emotions – only a fraction of which are all in my mind – we have come to a solution that mostly works for us: M attends significant events alone.
It’s not that the runner people are mean or unpleasant or don’t try to somehow integrate me into the conversations. No, not all all that. There is just this whole big giant block of shared history and then 20 years of catching up and including the shared history, and then there is this non-runner wife who is clearly bored AF by endless running stories and updates on new running adventures and yet more rehashing and retelling of stories and memories that have absolutely nothing to do with me or my life with M.
Even typing that, I feel the twinge of childishness creeping into my own judgment. It’s not like I haven’t tried; I have. But my own capacity and social skills have me hamstrung, and it’s hard to bridge the gap with folks who treat running as a religion and your husband as a trail running legend, if not elevated to demigod status, retired or not. Because of that, I must be equally special or gifted somehow with the fleet-of-feet sport, right? Fuck no. I’m accustomed to that surprise-to-incredulous expressions that cross their faces; sometimes I’m even mightily amused by it. Their eyes go from glowing in anticipation to anywhere but mine when they try to engage me. Because I don’t run. Like Ever. Maybe if I’m being pursued by someone with murder and mayhem on their mind, but since that has yet to happen to me, I cannot be sure. Possibly I could be persuaded to run under those circumstances.
I sound really small and petulant, particularly to myself. But I’m over it now. I’m tired of trying to fit in with the great unwashed asshat community that are many of M’s former competitors and “friends” in the racing circuit.
Anyway, when we have invited runner people to our home, I’m fine to infinitely better. We are hosting, I am busy, I have a relevant role. In another type of social setting – at a race, at a banquet after the race, at other running events – I feel like an unnecessary accessory. This does not come from M; that part originates with negative girl and persists in my general boredom. Bad, bad combination.
I’m wrestling with it again this afternoon. M is attending a wedding, the groom is his best friend’s son, and my hyper-responsible side is sort of squirming. M had said we would both attend, and after a bit of a snippy tiff this morning, we agreed it best if I stay home. I do not typically fail to meet my commitments unless the reasons are valid. My not wanting to go is not really a valid reason in my book.
Snippy tiff – still not sure if this was me picking a fight or me just expressing how I feel and it falling short of M’s expectations. Bride and groom have this magical and romantic love story, per M’s telling. Since I barely know them – the groom have met in passing a few times, have seen the bride from a distance on another occasion – they quite honestly mean very little to me. Wife of the best friend – we have nothing in common, and as far as she’s concerned I’m dumb as your average box of rocks, not at all socially prominent, and therefore someone to be polite to and then set aside. It’s fine with me; we are just very different. I will not fake what I don’t feel, and I quite sincerely wish the happy couple well, but I do not find anything especially romantic or extraordinary about their relationship. Maybe I was a lot too blunt about it, but I essentially said to M that they really do mean nothing to me. I’m happy for them. I hope they have a long and happy union. But I’m not all ooey-gooey about their romance and very special love story.
M thinks my outlook is dark. I think I am realistic and honest about how I feel. However, he felt it would be unlikely that I could avoid showing my indifference. The rest of the tiff – M’s joking references to A and K as “future ex-son-in-law” or “future first wife” have not set well with me and I have told him so in the past. But compared to his glowing optimism and joy about the “specialness” of this union, frankly it irritated me far more than usual. I saw or heard little of this sort of thing when G and K got married, although we both love and adore K and G and K as a couple. For C and A, there has been a conservative concern about their long-term relationship, because there are some unique challenges built in. Our concern as parents – we want our kids to be happy, to have healthy and thriving relationships – and the way we show it is just different. I get it. But since I’m already in a bit of an iffy, vulnerable state, it’s impossible to not feel a little hurt by the contrast.
So I am sitting at my desk pondering things rather than watching the this couple walk down the aisle and then eating and drinking and being merry at the reception. And we are all so glad. I’m actually happier here, and in truth it’s healthier for my own relationship that I am here.
But I wonder if I will ever be confident enough to withstand running-related events. M does not compete anymore, but he’s still highly regarded and respected in the running circles he travels. Many, many of his good old boy network is still active in local ultramarathon circles, including volunteering at races, mentoring others new or growing into the sport, crewing other runners during actual races.
Many of the folks M knows and hangs with now – I enjoy being around them and would gladly, happily go to their weddings or events. Thing is, these are relationships M has begun, fostered, built during our marriage. I am not just the woman he left racing to find; I’m the one who finds dirty, sweaty people standing on my pool deck when I get home from work. I have shared history with these folks along with M.
However I try to describe it, it is just different. And while our solution to my feelings seems extreme (even to me), it is also the only thing that truly works. Hating myself for feeling the way I feel does no good, and in truth M is comfortable with going alone. While he will never openly agree with me, he enjoys himself a lot more not having to be concerned about me.
By the time he left for the wedding, we were fine. Usual, typical, relationship normal type fine.
Like weddings, life and marriage are imperfect. Many a bride has hopes and dreams of the “perfect” wedding and something goes wrong or falls short of lofty expectations. Same with marriage. In my own, it’s fortunate we can be honest about our disagreements. M doesn’t always see the snubs and such that I feel, and I accept full responsibility for my own insecurity and social awkwardness. This world of his old friends, many of whom are athletically-snobby (M has his own strong and wide bias in this area as well) – I don’t belong there. It’s good that I recognize it and dial direct in dealing with it.
But I don’t always feel great about it. Human here, with my own little fragile ego to make me absolutely certain it’s real.