Now, first of all, let me dissuade you of some of the problems that you may have heard about: Gini and I are fine. Wonderful, in fact. A Happy Gini

When we moved down to Cleveland, our marriage was in rather serious trouble. We were in a horrid loop; I was clutching and possessive, while Gini was oblivious to her feelings and couldn't tell me what I was doing wrong. Gini would sullenly resent me and take it out on me in passive-aggressive ways, and I would feel that resentment and start interrogating her: "Is everything all right? Is everything all right?"

"Of course it is," she said sweetly - because she had been trained to comfort people no matter how she felt personally. Only problem was, she didn't bother to follow up the comfort with the unsaid (but still felt) "asshole."

I knew something was wrong... But Gini wasn't honest enough to tell me and I wasn't smart enough to figure it out. She was coming to despise me, and I was so nerve-wracked that I wanted to leave just to get it over with.

So when we moved down to Cleveland, things were kind of bad... But we both thought (but did not say) that if worst came to worst, at least we would both be in the mainland again, where moving was a snap.

But then a miracle happened.... I went away on a terrible vacation where all I could think about was how awful things were at home, and I realized three things:

1) My family loved me and reassured me... Effectively. If Gini thought that I was weak for needing constant reassurance, she was wrong; my family could comfort me quickly and easily - which meant that I wasn't hopelessly insecure, but rather that Gini didn't know how to talk to me so that her comfort worked.

2) Since I was so loved by my family and friends, I was a good person. Gini had been coming to despise me, and in turn I had come to believe that there was something wrong with me. There wasn't. If we didn't work out, it's not because I was fucked up but because we just didn't mesh. That was kind of a revelation.

But the third thing was the kicker:

3) We didn't talk for three days when I was on vacation - which I took to mean was something was terribly wrong. Those three days were agony. On the third night she called me, told me she missed me, we chatted and hung up the phone... And I began obsessing about how I had offended her this time.

Things had been fine. Intellectually, I knew they were fine - or as fine as they had been lately, anyway. But still, my mind kept circling around that conversation, analyzing it, pecking it to death and exhausting me with every terrible possibility that could have come of it....

I realized I needed medication.

I was very loathe to get on neurotropics, mainly because I had been on Prozac very early on and it had crippled me as a writer. I couldn't remember the right words for things - a fairly common side effect, as I later discovered. If I was going to get on medication, this was a choice: I was willing to give up my writing career for my marriage. Worst case, I could give up the drugs later.

I got on the lowest dosage of Paxil possible, which took the edge off some of the more circular thoughts I had. It did not interfere with my writing, which was a positive.

I came back on drugs and ready to cope with the relationship with a renewed zest. I became a very good husband. And then, because I was being so good, Gini had to fess up:

She didn't love me anymore.

This was a problem, because until I had actually changed and gone on the Paxil and become more understanding of her privacy, she had been unconsciously planning on leaving me. But now that I was being a more-or-less flawless hubbie, this left her in a rather awkward situation: She had finally gotten what she wanted out of me, and she didn't love me.

What excuse did she have to leave now?

Really, this is funny. I had to laugh.


Oh, she wanted me around; she still liked me. Enough that even if she wasn't sure whether we should be married, she liked my company - a positive sign, to be sure. But she had been trying so hard to deal with my insecurities and to make everything work that something had burnt out, oh, say three months ago... But because Gini didn't have a good handle on her feelings, she didn't know that. She was willing to keep going on autopilot until something happened - either she'd fall back in love with me, or I'd get sick and leave, or she'd finally decide to leave.

I stayed. At least it was free room and board and we still had snuggles at night... If ya know what I mean.

What happened then was kind of a revelation. We discovered that we had a rather nasty feedback loop; since I could feel Gini's dishonesty - I mean, I had known that something was wrong, but since she always denied it, what could I do? - that made me more paranoid and more clutching. In return, she drew deeper into herself. In return, I felt her drawing away and asked her what was the matter....

She had to admit that a) my paranoia was not always irrational, since my canary-in-a-coalmine nervousness had sniffed out problems long before she was aware of them, and b) that she was doing some fairly sneaky things that were hurting our relationship. In return, I had to admit that a) that a considerable portion of my paranoia was irrational, and I had to cope solo with it, and b) I do not allow Gini to have freedom -she has it on her own.

And you know what?

She fell back in love with me.

Things have been splendid for the last eight months or so. Sure, we've had some blow-out fights.... But they're speedbumps on the way to the future now, not sledgehammer blows driving us apart. She tells me she loves me; I'm learning how to support her, and she's learning how to support me. She's teaching me how to give her space, and I'm teaching her how to be honest.

She respects me and loves my flaws; I respect her and tolerate hers.

It works.

While we were in the thick of things, neither of us could envision a future together. Maybe we could see each other six months from now, sure... But when we were courting, we spoke for hours of just getting a trailer when we got old and driving around the country, meeting people and exploring the United States.

We lost that for awhile.

It's back.

So anybody who talked to me and heard my despair: Relax. It's coo.

Incidentally, for those of you who know these things, we cleared out our penny jar with three weeks to spare.

NEXT: A Cottage In Cleveland