Disney Lies And Your Prince (Princess) Probably Needs Therapy (Because We All Do)

When two people decide to get married or decide to spend their lives together or get knocked up, instead of showering them with booze and lingerie or diapers, we should sit them down, hand them some Gottman workbooks and say, “may the universe be with you.” Partnership and parenthood take an enormous amount of effort. Even the most in-love people can ruin each other, the best-intentioned can live joyless lives, and the most paternal or maternal can severely fuck up their kids. I mean, like more than usual. We’re all going to damage everyone just a little bit because there’s one universal human truth it’s that we are wired for destruction.

My husband and I have been together for over a decade and we’ve been through an enormous amount of ups and downs. The ups super high, the downs really hard, and the past few years have been no exception. The only difference is that it seems, for the first time, we’ve both (in my opinion) sorta given up. We haven’t fallen out of love, just got to the point where we don’t know what to do next or how to make things better, neither one of us are particularly thrilled in the relationship, and our house has become a sort of cave where joy goes to die.

Why? I don’t know. I can’t speak for him, but I suspect his job is a large part of it and probably moving to the US where he feels out of place (we left Italy because I was struggling and have yet to come up with a compromise between Italy and the US). While I can’t speak for him, I can say this for myself: Over the years I fear that I’ve completely lost myself. Like, I don’t even know what clothes I like right now and I’m in this constant place of “is this me? Do I normally joke? Am I serious? Who the fuck am I? A nervous breakdown didn’t help. Living abroad complicated things. Becoming a wife and mom surely contributed to the unfortunate loss of self. I mean, I’m not totally gone. I’m here, somewhere.

I catch glimpses of myself during vacations with the girls or coffee with a close friend and I’m “like there you are, I like you!”, but overall I have not handled marriage or motherhood well. By that I don’t mean that I’m a terrible wife or mom, if I know anything to be true, I’m a pretty good wife and a really good goddamn mom. Like I will proudly give myself all of the gold stars because while I’m not perfect, I try so, so, so hard. And this is where my identity goes to die. I am the type of person who can very easily lose sight of herself when I get too caught up in making the people I love happy. Which is weird because I have an extremely strong personality that often makes other people uncomfortable. But I also have a tendency, that I developed during childhood, to not count on others, and to believe that my needs or care are less important than people around me. I don’t have the world’s worst parents, I love them, they love me, but they were young and more often than not, their shit came first. My dad’s work always came first, my mom’s boyfriends or husbands typically came first. This taught me the lie of lies which is “I can take care of myself, meet all of my own needs while making sure everyone else is doing the very best.” I’ve found myself shrinking around insecure friends so I don’t make them feel bad, devoting myself to my son so much that I can’t shower for a week, or allowing my husband–who is admittedly a fairly selfish person– to choose what we eat, and what we do, most of the time. All of this has made me sad, and lonely, and lackluster and looking for ways to glitter up this bitch. I’m not okay with the way things are right now.

Since I’m fairly bonkers (according to me, but “extremely resilient and well-adjusted despite everything” according to my therapist), I have to be really careful about letting myself slip away. Otherwise, I also slip into chronic depression (Yay!) and then panic attacks that never end (Wee!!) and then a breakdown (AAAAAAH). This means that as soon as I realized just how much I’m struggling, I went to my therapist (on ZOOM) who was like, “you need to see a couples therapist ASAP.” But then Coronavirus happened. The next best thing? The 7 Principles For Making Marriage Work by John Gottman, apparently.

I am an eternal skeptic. I’m afraid of doctors and meds and everything until they’ve proven to be good and no longer scary. But I ordered the audiobook and dove in. I’m on chapter six and I have to say that this book is amazing (despite some annoying gender things that I’d like to erase out) and I wish that I’d read it before we got hitched. Friends, we need to normalize couples’ therapy and couples’ help before diving into a life-long commitment. I blame Disney, honestly. We’ve been taught for so long that all we need to do is find our person and then the love will carry us through a magical life. But nothing could be more fucking stupid than that because we are not the same for our entire lives and nobody can fix you or show up for you if you don’t actually know what you need or how to ask for it.

“Find out what you need and then learn how to ask for it.”

This is a quote I live by and still somehow struggle with the concept. We, humans, evolve constantly. I know I do. I am vastly different now than I was in my twenties (holy shit, thank the universe!) and I’m already drastically changing every year of my thirties. Every time I read a new book or watch a new film or make a new friend or write something new or am hurt or fail or win, I change just a little bit. Every time. We all do. This means that I need slightly different tools for the slightly changed me and an effective way to bring my husband along for the ride, ideally by initially mapping the route and then arguing for two hours about how “that’s not actually the way” because marriage. Otherwise, we grow apart. And we become resentful. And I start saying their name the same way that I say “goddamnit.” I love my husband, like a lot. He’s funny and hot and simple (in a way that is a compliment). But love isn’t enough to secure a perfect life together, Disney, you lying liar, I’m looking at you. It’s not enough to make me the best parent I can be and it’s not enough to make me eternally happy with myself or my choices.

“Love arms us for battle but it sure as shit doesn’t conquer all.”

A happy life takes work. Like so much work. And therapy. And John Gottman. And a workbook of seven thousand fucking questions. And all of the parenting articles (even if I opt for a balanced approach and pick and choose what to listen to or ignore). But hey, hard work never killed anyone, right? In fact, that’s part of what I”m doing here on this blog. I’m rediscovering myself as a writer, woman, mom, partner, person, a human who is very into dark and weird things and bad, bad humor. So I’m buckling down, figuring out what I want so I can find myself again (maybe in the bottom of a nice Chianti?) and be my happy self who is doing what she wants and going where she wants and we can go back to being happily married and I can be the best mom I can possibly be and the best ME I can be for, well, ME.

7 thoughts on “Disney Lies And Your Prince (Princess) Probably Needs Therapy (Because We All Do)

  1. My Milanese husband who has just moved here also thinks this is the land of cuckoo. Shall I put him in touch with yours? They can commiserate together and speak fondly of the Mediterranean. At least mine will.

  2. hi! I apologize in advance, this comment turned into a chapter.
    I’ve been following you since 2015, when I first moved to Naples, Italy and decided to stay. I met my (neapolitan) boyfriend and was searching blogs online about life in Italy. Needless to say, I could relate to zillion things and every time I thought “WTF am I DOING and what the shit is WRONG with italian/neapolitan guys (e.g after a huge fight about me not showing enough emotion) that ended up with me shaking and having an anxiety attack because I was not used to being shouted at for no reason 🙄, I would read your blog and calm down and laugh and just learn about all this nonsense italians do and feel more normal. Your blog saved me so many times from completely losing it.
    And I am sure, there are SO freaking many other people who you have not only entertained but also helped and who have never left a single comment and have just followed your story silently.

    I think you should know though, that you have touched so many people about whose existence you probably don’t even know about, which just means you have done shitloads of stuff well in your life.

    For what it’s worth, life doesn’t necessarily have to be this eternal struggle and hard work. Yes, it’s hard to sometimes maintain a happy relationship/marriage or be the best version of a parent but that’s ok.
    I think we need to learn not to take every single aspect of life that seriously (this is something i’ve learned from italians), we don’t need to be offended so much and not care about every single thing and most importantly not overthink every aspect of our lives (I know while having anxiety that’s way easier said than done but it’s an important one)

    Think about the time when you felt relatively happy and content, what is it that made you feel that way, what is it that you really want to do. I thought about it the other day and realized that every time life has led me to great things, I’ve made some sort of scary decisions, that not everyone approved, challenged myself and done it anyway.

    And don’t stress about not knowing who you are or what you like. Most of us don’t know shit about ourselves, and that’s ok. Life happens today and there is simply no time to waste it for not being happy. Also, sometimes you have to put yourself first, to make others happy and not feel guilty about it.

  3. After 4 years of trying to figure it out and finally finding a way to make it happen after your blog gave me the balls to do it, I moved to Italy last fall for what ended up being a trial run. It started with having to get on a plane the day my dad had a 12-hour surgery he had a 10% chance of surviving (he lived), included the ‘Intro to Amore’ experience of having a majestically chest-haired Italian man shit my bed (literally), and ended with a pandemic detonating as I left Pisa on February 15th.

    After a sojourn in England, I landed in the US on June 5th and have miraculously circumvented a breakdown while enduring a summer of living la vida limbo in my parents’ master suite. I credit my tenacity, the twisted, soul-baring humor of your blog (takes one to know one?), and the weekly Zoom therapy appointments you inspired.

    I’m winging it on getting back to Italy, but what I’ve learned out in my 1.5 decade head-start on you is that there’s no such thing as having it all figured out or a perfect life, solo or partnered, and being happy would cease to mean anything if you were that way all the time. But contentment? That there is a sustainable baseline.

    You’re not at the bottom of a chianti bottle, but the nice buzz that is can be a catalyst to figuring who you are/want to be. I did a thing once where sober me wrote down all of the existential questions I was demanding answers to (Who the fuck am I? Where the fuck am I going? Why the fuck am I here? What the fuck do I care about?…you know the drill), and drunk me evidently decided to answer them. The brutal honesty was hilarious, mortifying, and liberating.

    After reading your stuff for however many years it’s been (5?), I know you’re more okay than you think, nailing it more than you believe, and that you got this…tranquillo, amica. 🙂

  4. I have enjoyed your writings and musings for years. Life is crazy, especially now. And you are so right, each experience changes you and who you are. One thing that my wife and I found which we never, in a hundred years would have thought of to help us get through and make sense of this world and even become much happier, believe it or not and I know how unpopular this might be, was praying and reaching out to God. He really brought peace to our lives and no every day isn’t perfect and I need to be better, but He sure has made a profound difference that we are grateful for. Just something that worked for us. Maybe it might be helpful.

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