After a particularly harrowing day of parenting during coronavirus, my husband Matt and I flopped down on our living room couches. As our asses hit the seats, we laughed in that uniquely weary way that couples with kids tend to do, except there was an extra layer of frazzled in there for good measure. We all know the reason why—parents everywhere are currently living in a global stinkin’ pandemic, and no one gave any of us a manual on how to raise our kids, work, or maintain our cortisol levels during one.
I looked around the room, marveling at what appeared to be the aftermath of a toy tornado that collided with a Cheerios hurricane and wondered if Matt and I still had anything left to say to each other. We were both totally un-showered, at that zombie-like point when coffee no longer seems to do the trick, and coming out of a week spent squabbling with each other over just about everything. So instead of going through the motions of talking just for the sake of talking, we sat there silently speaking to each other without saying a damn thing.
But then, after a few minutes of quiet, the battle stories began slowly pouring out of us with a beleaguered sense of nostalgia. The vulnerable, messy, and inconvenient memories that had been tucked away in our minds for a while re-surfaced in an epic showdown of who could remember the worst fucking thing we’ve been through. As my husband and I casually swapped darkly funny anecdotes about the roughest times we’ve survived in our relationship, one thing became clear.
Matt is the person I’d want beside me if we were unexpectedly facing the end of the world.
As ominous as that may sound, it’s also hilariously true. Not only is my guy handy as fuck around the house, but he’s the type who will stop at nothing to protect his family. Whether it’s a pesky hornet’s nest at the park or a shattered plate on the floor, Matt is the kind of person who jumps into action at a moment’s notice and doesn’t hesitate to solve a problem. We could chalk this up to his generalized anxiety, of course, but I also think it’s because he was the oldest of three kids and took the gig very seriously. My husband also has secret dreams to become the next Strongman, and according to me, he already kind of looks like one. So I think when push comes to shove, this dude would have no problem hacking a bunch of undead “walkers” if they crossed his path during the apocalypse.
While Matt’s brute force and brawny man-hands are certainly determining factors for why I’d want him to be the one boarding up our house to keep the Birdbox “creatures” out, there are also some mushy fucking reasons behind my decision. Don’t tell my husband about them, though. He’s a humble pie of a man.
Matt and I bumped into each other on OKCupid back in 2014 and have been going at warp speed through the full-blown realities of family life ever since. Both of us have been through rough divorces and have endured abuse at different points in our lives. Our hearts were aching for a new chapter, and we quickly found it together. Matt had a daughter from his first marriage who started calling me “stepmom” about a month in, and our honeymoon period lasted a measly seven weeks, because I got knocked up much quicker than either of us had anticipated.
In our first six years as a couple, we’ve worked through shit that neither of us wanted to or could turn away from. We know what it’s like to watch one of our only cars be permanently towed away because we couldn’t afford our outstanding parking tickets. We’ve figured out how to utilize the toddler play potty in our kitchen for emergency pee times, because the only bathroom in our house is upstairs. We’ve cleaned up poop-splosions so severe that it’s downright nauseating to talk about. And then there was that time we declared war on an unstoppable army of cockroaches in our old apartment and literally felt like we were in a bug-infested version of Shaun of the Dead.
We’ve also frequented food banks while leaning on government assistance, managed the chaotic curveball of a complex PTSD diagnosis that sent me to the hospital twice, figured out how to stay classy through half a dozen job losses, battled against uphill blended family struggles, come to terms with Matt’s lifelong ADHD and trauma-based anxiety, endured the death of loved ones, and have had more weeks with a negative bank account balance than we know what to do with.
And yet, we just keep showing up and surviving through it all. Just like those goddamn cockroaches.
At our lowest financial point, we’ve “enjoyed” nonstop dinners consistently only of canned beans and an eighty-eight cent box of pasta, learned how to exist without the heat on during the winter, and have been known to buy presents for our daughter’s birthday at The Dollar Store. At our lowest emotional point, the D-word was dropped with a vengeance. There were a handful of times when I really didn’t think we’d make it through.
To be completely honest, I almost didn’t.
You know how in Maleficent, the tables get turned as we all realize that the person we thought was a forever villain is actually the unlikely hero to root for? That’s pretty much how I feel about my marriage. The obstacles I’ve faced with Matt have become the ultimate cure for the unhealed wounds that were living deep inside of us both. When you get to that rock-bottom place of no return, you’re left with two choices. You can give in to the pain and believe the lie it perpetuates of the world, or your marriage, being better off without you in it. Or you can sit with the anguish and begin an excavation to find the origins of it. I’ve done both of these things, and they are as infuriatingly uncomfortable as they sound. But they also healed me. Meeting Matt and all of the cringe-worthy trial-and-erroring we’ve done as parents and people has surprisingly healed me. In fact, it’s made me realize that we can make it through just about anything. Even something as fucked up as a global pandemic that makes us hypothesize about the end of the world.
Once we finished our back-and-forth of spinning old tales together, Matt and I settled deep into those couch cushions, air-cheered the beers in our hands, and caught up on episodes of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Then we shuffled our tired asses up the stairs, stumbled into our only bathroom to take turns pissing, and parted ways. It’s been a hot minute since my husband and I have shared a bed, because our 4-year old daughter is a stage-five clinger who likes being the little spoon in an overnight snuggle marathon, and her 22-month old brother is known to randomly wake up in the middle of the night ready to host a party in his crib. And with all of the pandemic-ridden uncertainty both of them have been facing, we’ve decided to divvy up the sleep parameters so everyone can get a little shut-eye. It’s not ideal, but it’s also not worse than anything else we’ve already mucked through.
As I quietly opened my daughter’s bedroom door, Matt pulled me in for a surprisingly epic kiss and a sexy pat on my butt. We stood there in all of our first-base glory, staring at each other with dopey grins plastered across our faces. Again, we spoke words to each other without needing to say anything at all.