As Delani Miner reaches the end of her cross-country road trip, she also reaches some conclusions about love and relationships.
By Delani Miner
I’m sitting in a hotel room near the Salt Lake City airport. The room smells like dog piss. It’s raining. The Mormon vibe is pervasive. The interior of my car looks like it could be featured on an episode of Hoarders. One of my best friends, with whom I’ve spent the last week traveling back west across America, has returned home to Brooklyn. My dog has a case of the runs.
I have two more days left on this journey before I cross the threshold of the place I left just over a month ago. This would be the comedown portion of the trip. I’m tired. But I’m somehow not exactly ready to face the inevitable.
It’s pretty amazing what a month can do: what it can hold in terms of experience and one’s ability to adjust to a completely different lifestyle. I have changed. This much is certain. There came a point when I started each new day feeling like this existence was a completely normal one… that it was my real life. This is just what I do: hauling belongings in and out of motels, feeding my dog in gas station parking lots, picking out wrinkled clothes from the same damn bag, and driving towards the horizon like a video game. With each new day, I wasn’t merely getting on the road again, I had become the road, in sync with the flow of the ever-changing scenery and metaphorically etched into the pavement letting the lives of strangers wash over me. I have a distinct feeling that going back to my “home” will be very strange because of this. Potentially even a bit depressing, aside from my marital problems, at least for a few days.
Once I return home there will be no more breathtaking national parks to wander through. No front row to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, sitting among people whose values I can only imagine are at odds with my own. No more diving into a hot spring in Colorado or sweating it out in the beautiful desert terrain of Moab. No more sitting in a restaurant that looks both the same and slightly different from the last restaurant in some other town the day before, filled with people who look the same, but also slightly different from those previous townsfolk. Witnessing all these people interact, watching them relate to one another, feeling their happiness, their unhappiness…their love for the person sitting across the table.
When I asked my friend to come along for the drive back west, it was prompted by her own recent difficulties: her breakup with her live-in boyfriend and the death of her cat. She needed something to look forward to, a reason to get out of her situation for a minute, and we both like to wax philosophical about life. And, just like I imagined, we shared many great conversations on our ride. We grew up in the same hometown, so our upbringings are similar—-as is the foundation for much of our reasoning—however different our wants and needs may ultimately be.
To spare you all of the personal babble (and keep some things sacred), there was one theme to our talks: we both agreed that when we get into relationships, we change. We don’t just make necessary compromise. We attempt to become who we think we are supposed to be—as a girlfriend or wife—and often times when we make this change, we lose a big part of ourselves in the process. Oddly enough, it’s when aspects of our individuality disappear in the relationship that the resentment for our significant other begins. We’re quick to point the finger rather than take responsibility. “He does this” and “He does that.” This is only natural; an attempt to pinpoint the differences that we fear will destroy us. As we both stare down the barrel of the misfortunes of our most recent relationships, we’ve begun, maybe for the first time in our lives, to look inward for the answers we so desperately want.
My friend and I have both had a number of female friends tell us what we’re going through is normal, that they too had to give up emotional needs in their longstanding relationships. That this is just what happens; that men are often unable to provide emotional openness in the way many women desire. My friend and I have determined, have resolved through much exploration, both individually and together, that this particular outlook is pretty bogus.
Ideally, no one should have to give up having his or her emotional needs met. I’m not a certified counselor, but I’ve taken the time to specifically consider relationships. And so, my opinion is that if your emotional needs aren’t being met in a way that makes you feel warm and whole, you must pay close attention to that feeling as you begin combining your life with someone else’s. Because it’s quite likely he or she won’t open up emotionally, and, in fact, this closed-off attitude may only get worse during your time together.
However, one consideration is that perhaps the person you’re combining your life with is providing emotionally for you in ways you’ve never considered before. This is worth noting, even if in the end it’s still not enough. I guess I just wouldn’t be too quick to capriciously write the whole thing off because your partner didn’t tell you they love you more the God ever could. Ya know?
I know that, for me, this is the first time I’ve felt validated honoring the emotional connection I want from love; I’ve been silencing my inner voice for far too long. During the course of my road trip, I have realized I’m not getting what it is I need emotionally or physically from my relationship, and I haven’t been for a really long time. The kicker is that I’ve realized it’s not my fault, and not his fault, but probably the fault of the fact that we are very different from one another. Through therapy and this road journey, it’s been made clear that I can no longer keep acquiescing to another, looking to my partner for both validation and the answers to questions I should be able to answer on my own. This search for validation is my baggage, and the baggage of a lot of people who fall into a pattern of co-dependency. But beyond that, it’s not healthy for us to keep trying to convert each other.
The frustration resulting from this type of pattern, at least in my case, doesn’t seem rectifiable. When I go home and see Husband I have no expectations that something grand will take place to erase all of what I’ve come to know of our marriage and its shortcomings. It’s an incredibly sad conclusion to come to the end of this journey, but it’s also an outcome I was at least somewhat prepared for. We played a hand, and that’s more than a lot of people I know can say.
What’s not sad is that I have found more of my inner voice and confidence in being honest about what it is that I want from this rather short life. My honesty may make life a little tougher, but the hope is that I’ll ultimately be granted access to something real, something authentic. My aim will be true. And most importantly, I must say, I’m not going into the end of this journey with disdain for love or marriage. I still believe that love is enough.