Beneath The Surface

I keep thinking about all those stupid metaphors that talk about the work that goes on beneath the surface.

The graceful duck that glides along the surface of a pond, furiously paddling its webbed feet underneath the water…

The deceptive iceberg with its notorious tip, only hinting at the massive destruction it’s capable of…

We’re looking so good on the surface.

We play and dance and laugh and love.  We hang up Christmas ornaments and whisper sweet memories of years gone by.  We hold hands and have long talks, we cuddle on the couch and stay up late to watch football games together.  I smile and breathe more deeply as I watch us glide along beautifully, making progress and getting stronger together.

And then I bump into one of those god forsaken icebergs, and I fear we haven’t made near as much progress as I’d thought.  All this time I’d believed we’d were sailing along smoothly into the horizon of happily ever after, and then suddenly I think maybe we’ve just been ignorant to a slow leak in the hull.

I’m used to fooling the outside world.  Every relationship looks more effortless than it really is, even to those standing just a few feet outside of it.  We’re always shocked to hear about divorce or separation, asking each other “what happened?”, because no one on the outside ever sees the frantic paddling beneath the polite smiles and happy family outings.

But inside, we’re supposed to know.  I mean really, how can we not?  How stupid and blind do you have to be to believe that things are getting better if the only progress you’re really making is running around in circles?

Stupid and blind, party of one.

But maybe this is normal.  Maybe progress is made by taking three steps forward and being yanked two steps back.  But it’s kind of hard to tell if your net gain is one or none, what with there being no measurable steps to count and all.

Wouldn’t it be great if progress and healing came with a checklist?  If we could move through the pain and mark it done, once and for all, and know we were safe to move on to the next line?

Anger?  Check.  Trust?  Check.  Resentment?  Check, check, done!  And we wipe our hands together and breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that that bridge has been crossed, at least.


Apparently it doesn’t work that way.  It seems that, even on the inside, there’s no way to know how much lies beneath the surface still, until you bump up against it again and then Oh!  Look!  Still here!  I imagine if icebergs could talk, they would sneer and laugh and call you a fool for being childishly optimistic.

And so… what?  What do you do?

Do you crawl slowly through the dark water, never really trusting that it’s safe?  Does there ever come a day when you can enjoy a small sigh of relief, being able to look back and say that there, at least, finally, you have made it this far?

Will there ever be open water again?

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  1. Hilly says:

    Continuing the metaphor….I think you keep bumping into things until you learn how to outsmart and maneuver them more easily.

  2. Finn says:

    It’s a process, I think. As with anything I say look for progress, not perfection.

    And I agree with Hilly. Resolving a few issues doesn’t make them all go away. You probably have to try climbing Everest more than once to actually reach the summit. Each time you to it you learn something.

    • Finn says:

      *sigh* Eventually I will write a comment without a typo. Or maybe it will just stop bothering me when I do!

    • Hilly says:

      @Finn, It’s like playing Super Mario World…each time you play, you discover hidden treasures. Yanno, if you can avoid being eaten by those fuckers that throw things.

  3. avitable says:

    The icebergs will get smaller. Progress will become 10 steps forward, 1 step back. It will happen.

  4. but britt, you HAVE made it this far. and you will continue to progress.

  5. muskrat says:

    If I hit icebergs, I just allow Jack’s grasp to loosen and watch him slide beneath the icy waters. At least I kept the nude drawings he made.

  6. Nanna says:

    The thing is, better to uncover those things, with the added strength if the progress you’ve made, then to let them fester etc.

    Faith, sweet girl

  7. yknot says:

    A Phrase my Union President likes & often makes is: Change is a Process, Not an Event. Just because you have it in your head that “We are Happy & going to grow old together.” doesn’t mean that you stop making Sure that is the case, that both of you ARE,in fact Happy, that there isn’t anything you need to worry about. Many people describe life as if it were an event- “We were Happy until he cheated” or “Everything was going well until he hit me.” There may have been Warning Signs Ignored until some process , that was developing, made itself known. Happiness, real, honest-to-Goodness Hapiness is More the result of Intimacy,careful planning, Honesty and even then, at best-fleeting

  8. I think sometimes you have to take steps back before you can truly move forward. It might not make sense, but looking back at a lot of things I’ve been through, it just seems to be the natural course.

    Keeping you in my thoughts.

  9. Sybil Law says:

    I honestly have no idea. I always think of “Parenthood”, and grandma talking about roller coasters and enjoying the ride.

  10. Hockeymandad says:

    Adam is right in his comment. The progress forward will increase and the step backwards will lessen. As long as people co-habitate though, this will always be the case. Even if it’s not out in the open, there’s always disagreements of sorts.

    Also don’t worry about icebergs. Al Gore says they’re all melting so in a few years there’ll be none to hit. If you do bump into one, shave off a piece and let it melt for a tasty refreshment!

  11. Cara says:

    I can’t even come close to having suggestions or answers. But, I wanted you to know that even a marriage that is strong and happy takes work. Living take work and when you’re living together, you have to work together. My mom, contemplating the American divorce rate and our fairy tales about what marriage should, told me this once. The question is, is it worth the work?

  12. CP says:

    I think the problem is you are lacking patience. These resolutions don’t come easily. You don’t get to go to, say, six months of therapy and hope to resolve 10 years worth of damage.

    It’s like losing weight. It didn’t take you a day to put on 40 pounds. It sure as hell isn’t going to take you a day to take it off.

    You need to take some joy and comfort away from the little successes. Don’t dwell too much on what is still yet to conquer or it will seem insurmountable.

    One day at a time. One moment at a time.

  13. MidLifeMama says:

    I have been reading your journey but not commenting because you seem to have a lot of people supporting you and making great comments. But I will add that in my experience, you never get to a place where there is smooth, open water. You do however, gain the experience of a seasoned, salty, weathered captain who knows how to read the water, the sky, the wind, and knows how to navigate those elements with skill and knows how to get from point A to point B as quickly and safely as possible. That is when it works. You don’t ever get to a point where there are no storms, but you know how to batten the hatches and come out of it whole and minimally damaged. All of this work you are doing is necessary but at some point it won’t feel like work. It will become second nature and you won’t feel like you are slogging through mud forever. It is totally worth it.

    • CP says:

      @MidLifeMama, that was amazing. You should definitely comment more often. There was a LOT of wisdom in there from someone who has obviously been there and done that.

      And, I completely concur. It is TOTALLY worth it.

      • Bonnie B. says:

        @CP, I agree – that was amazing advice from MidLifeMama. May I also add that once you have many years of navigating the icebergs behind you, there is great satisfaction in looking back and seeing what you’ve weathered together.

        The problems don’t go away, you just get to where you’re handling them at an Expert level instead of a Beginner level.

  14. It seems like you have already paddled past so many icebergs already that someday soon I think you will be able to stop, turn around and think “hey, I haven’t seen an iceberg in quite awhile! Awesome!”
    Relationships are never easy, never perfect and always take work. I think even the happiest relationships hit icebergs now and again. You just have to fluff your wings, shake out your duck feet and keep on swimming.


  15. Lin says:

    Sadly, you may just have to come to a new level of trust. You may never be able to trust him 100% again. That doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t move on. You’ll just learn to accept that trusting at 80% is just fine with you. Accepting the 80% — or whatever 80% — will be the difficult part. At least that is what all those experts say about lost trust and moving on

  16. Lisa says:

    Will it upset you greatly if I tell you that I don’t think there is such a thing as open water? Relationships are hard; really, really hard. I don’t think that changes, I just think that as time goes by, and with help sometimes, you learn more productive ways of dealing with the icebergs. There is always going to be something that comes up, and maybe it seems like the same old iceberg over and over. But if you start to build a toolbox to deal more efficiently with it when it comes by again, its effect will eventually pack less of a wallop. One day it might even bounce right off you. Right now you’re gathering your tools and learning how to use them, so you really are making forward progress, even if it seems to move slower than you want.

  17. Becca says:

    I don’t have any words, but I do have ((hugs)). I’m sorry you’re having a rough time.

  18. Bre says:

    I’ve spent a LOT of time this week realizing how much my attitude really reflects my patients’ attitudes and I’ve found (not so surprisingly) that when my mood is bad, it affects their moods, therefore giving me a negative outcome. I’ve discovered two new mottos this week: fake it til ya make it (spoken to myself in times of pressure that is cracking my very core) and PROGRESS IS PROGRESS, No Matter How Big or Small.
    I’m a hyperanxious person by nature so I just have to tell myself over and over and over again that I’ve ovecome other obstacles that have felt hopeless and bleak.
    I think of it as classically conditioning myself, in a weird way…
    Then again, I am a weird cookie.

  19. Corey says:

    I agree with Adam. The icebergs get smaller. They are still there. You still bump them from time to time, but as they shrink, they are less devastating. And you must (both) be protective and watch for new icebergs, and not allow them to grow..

  20. Robin says:

    You sound like me, however I think you are making a lot more progress.

  21. Nadine says:

    Oh my… I’m remembering watching the synchronized swimmers when the Olympics was on– above the water was grace, beauty, big smiles. Underneath the water their feet are churning furiously to keep up. Oh, how I understand this! Both the husband & I are churning furiously to stay married when I am not attracted to men anymore. I do know that the churning isn’t forever and the swimmers move to new beauty. Maybe that is what I need to remember.
    Gahhh! It doesn’t seem to get any easier, does it?

  22. Maggie says:

    Britt – did you see your xmas pic on

  23. Rachael says:

    Nothing is for sure, but I believe in you guys. If it’s meant to work out, you guys are trying really hard, and you will do it. If for some reason it doesn’t work, you will both be okay. I know it’s not much of a comfort, but I know you’ll be okay in the end. (Hugs)

  24. Fantastagirl says:

    I think there will always be ups and downs – and icebergs. Time & patience. It will take a lot of time & patience, to learn to navigate around them.


  25. Kristine says:

    I have nothing to offer other than I understand your frustration and fear as I’m going through a similar journey myself.

  26. Tammy says:

    It’s strange how you can put into words exactly how I feel. Just know you are not alone.

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