I wasn’t always this cold.
Once upon a time, I was a warm romantic, lost in a young love military marriage. I showered him with hugs and kisses. I’d run us baths with lit candles to surround us, inviting him to join me.
Sometimes, he didn’t even show up. He didn’t know that I would sit in the tub crying until the water became cold and frigid. I was young and energetic, but also naive. He had just returned from his first deployment when we married. I met him at fourteen; we dated for five years and at 19, I thought I was ready. I thought, at 21, he was ready, too.
During that deployment, however, he lost his best friend. The boy I knew was gone. He’d returned a man, but not just any man.
He became hardened against the realities that lay beyond anything I’ll ever be familiar with. Things the rest of the world will likely never face. There was a void in him and what was once filled with joy, playfulness and romance was now empty, protected by a barrier of anger and guilt.
I don’t blame him.
Still, hard as I tried to break through it, he pushed me away. He lost himself for hours in video games, hiding from the rest of the world in an alternate reality where I wasn’t welcome. He’d drown himself in work and school, fill our free time on weekends with the company of others.
Now, I realize he was more than likely just afraid to face me, afraid of the questions and curiosity his new, young wife in a military marriage might have.
He was burdened with survivor’s guilt, something that at 19, I didn’t understand. Having never gone through what he did or seen what he might’ve seen, how could I possibly know?
I knew military marriage wasn’t going to be easy, still, I didn’t expect it would be so hard.
In the years that followed, we were faced with two more deployments, each more difficult than the last. We lost more friends to the war and some to illnesses.
I raised a daughter and infant son on my own; the kids and I took trips alone, even once driving from Washington State to California.
I became independent and self reliant- and I loved it.
I paid off credit card debt, stayed on top of bills and began photographing everything. I had found something within myself I didn’t know I had.
I became the wife others came to if they needed their car battery jumped or replaced. I changed windshield wipers and tail lights and, for me, it was a big deal.
Intimacy was not even on my radar. I seldom thought of it; I didn’t need it (I was the girl that at 17 was still a virgin and okay with it).
I was alone and responsible for two little ones whose needs came first and foremost.
Oh, and my husband was constantly away, so there was also that.
When he wasn’t on deployment, he was out to the range or the field for several days at a time. Or he was on the ever dreaded trip to The National Training Center (NTC) in Fort Irwin, California.
In becoming all these things, my confidence grew, but with the coming of a new self-reliant me, my military marriage suffered.
I forgot about him- I became as detached as he was.
Then, the inevitable happened. After years of struggling with depression and anxiety, I hit rock bottom. For reasons I still don’t know or understand, I rolled my car in the middle of the Mojave Desert. I didn’t even care that I could have died. On the contrary, I’d wished it.
He was angry. I was angry. And I left.
In time, he began to change, to save our marriage and to save himself. He became far more attentive, he was kind and loving.
This is who he is today– facing my cancer last year only strengthened his resolve. While I… remain unchanged. Facing illness and undergoing treatment has only weakened me and left me with very little desire to be intimate.
Now again, I face the very same challenges from before.
Only this time, it’s me.
It’s ME who’s angry and riddled with survivor’s guilt. It’s ME who hides in the confines of my own mind, in a world where no other person is welcome. I am now the hardened one left with the task to save our marriage. The one to own up and change, if I can’t who knows what could come of it.
HE’S done all HE can and he NEEDS ME now.
It is suddenly, now, that I realize how complicated life can be.
Why didn’t anyone tell me this would be so hard?
I have, before me now, a long and arduous road. For while I attempt to save my military marriage, I will also attempt to save myself.
And in order to do that, I need first to know who I am. What is left of me and who I need to be.
And perhaps I’ll find that I won’t always be this cold.
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