How Did We Get From Saying I Love You

“I married a Canadian – whom I love very much – and she introduced me to a great band called Great Big Sea. And this song is in NO WAY dedicated to her. At all.”
We needed this cruise. More than I realized; more than I can really explain.
Different couples deal with stress in different ways. Some argue, slam doors, and seek out space away from one another. Some look so far outside the relationship for comfort or for escape that nothing can be salvaged.
I have always been afraid that stress would pull my relationships apart. My family doesn’t have a good record in that area. Almost every one of my aunts and uncles who married found themselves in a hurtful and bitter divorce. My parents’ relationship was strained and uncomfortable for years, and ended the same way.
My first boyfriend abandoned me when my parents’ divorce made me “too goddamn sad all the time” and “annoying to be around.” I see now that it was an unstable and unhealthy young-adult relationship that was a bad idea from the start, but it crushed my 18-year-old self. I dropped out of college and floated through several months in a blur before finding the light again and crawling my way towards it. I went back to school. I tried to be sociable. But things were different. I had witnessed a relationship I thought was the most solid and reliable one in the whole world – my parents’ marriage – falling angrily apart in front of me. I had no good role models, nobody to look to for thoughts on a healthy relationship except the columnists at Cosmo and the couples on Friends.
When my husband and I were moving towards our wedding day, I was flooded with conflicting thoughts. Of course we’d last forever – we loved each other so much, understood each other so well, laughed so often together. But everyone must think that at one time, or nobody would ever risk the commitment of marriage. Who could say, then, whether our relationship could withstand all the years ahead, all the problems that would come our way?
It’s been a hard year for us. Members of my family, far away in Canada, have been sick and needing surgery. I lost one grandmother, and the other is 98 and fading. I’m far away and can’t be there for the ones I love, and the guilt eats away at me. I left my old job, which meant leaving some of my support group behind. Other friends moved away. I’m still striving to find my role in my career and in this world. Arguing with immigration agents. Arguing with health insurance companies. Struggles and loss. I got scared. Scared for us.
I tell my husband, often, how much I love him. I cling to him sometimes when we’re in our office together. I drape my arms over his shoulders, my cheek pressed into his beard, as he reads message boards and checks his email. I doubt. I worry, analyzing everything. I ask him again and again whether we’ll be okay, whether we’ll stick together, all the while hating myself for asking but not always able to stop. His answers are always the same, always reassuring, always patient, always yes, yes, of course, I love you and we’re in this for the long haul no matter what.
“How Did We Get From Saying ‘I Love You'”, by Great Big Sea, is a breakup song. It’s about running into your ex after the breakup and realizing you can’t find anything in common anymore, anything to talk about except the smalltalk of strangers. It’s heartbreakingly sad. My feelings of inadequacy and fear of divorce and loneliness make a song like this really resonate with me.
And my husband played this song for me, at an open mic night on our cruise. Knowing how much I love hearing him play music, my husband found a way to dedicate his performance to me without dedicating the song itself. A little gesture, spontaneous, touching. It meant so much. Maybe we’ve come from saying “I Love You” to the place where the words don’t matter as much as the sentiment, and maybe I can be okay with that. I am loved.

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16 thoughts on “How Did We Get From Saying I Love You

  1. Ericamos

    You have a wonderful hubby, and what seems to me, an amazing relationship. Doubts like to creep their way in, but keep pushing them back and take in the reality: You are loved. 🙂

  2. Natalie the Singingfool

    Doubts are scary, marriage is scary, life is scary – hang in there. All of that fear? It’s human. Your husband sounds like a wonderful man – I love how that song is “in no way dedicated to [you] at all.” 😉


    so much emotions in here and doubt and love. your parents relationship is not yours. we all have hard years. just keep moving forward, one smile at a time. it seems to me that you are loved.

  4. Erin O

    A few years into our marriage, my husband confessed that he spent the entire first year CONVINCED that I was cheating on him. That any day he would come home and find me with someone else. This had everything to do with him, and nothing to do with me. And anyway, I was completely faithful and never considered being anything else. We all bring some crazy s— into relationships, and I’m not letting myself off that hook, either.

    However, it was the paragraph about your first relationship that knocked me out. You captured heartbreak at that age so well. Anyone who has “floated through several months in a blur before finding the light again and crawling my way towards it” will relate.

  5. Chrystal McCoy

    Those of us that came from families with bad track records can have a good lasting marriage. It took me about 24 years of being with my husband (16 of those married) before I could let go and really believe that what we have is solid. To embrace the fact that he is my rock and my best friend and that he is committed to me no matter what. It’s hard to get to that point when all you’ve seen is failing marriages, but we can rise from that and be successful. Hang in there, it sounds like you have him for the long haul. You will get to the point where you have less doubts.

  6. Jen

    Listen to Chrystal, worry and doubt can do nothing good. I used to worry about other things. Thankfully, my husband is unshakeable. But my worry about my son’s health almost sent me over the edge, and threatened to break apart a healthy family. This was a beautiful and touching post, your husband obviously loves you, I think it’s OK to stop asking now 🙂

  7. Jared Karol

    You captured all the emotions of marriage. It’ll be ten years this summer for me, and I have doubts all the time. I think, somehow, that it’s just part of it. Sometimes I love being married, sometimes I hate it, and it usually has nothing to do w/ my partner. Weird stuff indeed.

  8. Your Doctor's Wife

    I think moving far away from family and the familiar would be hard on any one no matter what his/her circumstances are.
    You did a great job capturing and describing gamuts of emotions we all feel as we journey through marriage.
    Nice job!

  9. Esther

    I could feel your insecurity here; you express it very honestly. I’m sorry about the way you feel, but it sounds like your husband is good support — with that enviable pairing of humor and savoir faire 🙂

  10. IASoupMama

    The last year has been stressful for us, too. And my hubby has gone off the deep end with midlife crisis. I’d carry him to the moon and back if he’d let me, but right now I’m the last thing he wants.

    I hope that you and your husband continue to turn toward each other.

  11. Gina

    There is nothing easy about marriage and being far away from your support system and topping it off with stress makes it, everything, harder. Monday I will celebrate my 24th anniversary. Each year hasn’t been pretty but many have been gorgeous. A fool believes they don’t have to put in the work every day. It’s a challenge. Your hubby gave you a wonderful gift! Cherish it!

  12. Michelle Longo

    Sounds to me like your husband is a wonderful and caring man. We are going through some stress too and it’s hard to stay focused on the important stuff when everything around us is pure chaos. But even though there are so many that don’t make it, there are so many that do. The ones that make it don’t do so because they don’t have hard times, but because they work through them.

    I hope things look up for you soon.


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