Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Cheerleader for Love

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This morning, as I'm brushing Mae's hair during our mad morning dash, I hear the front door click shut, followed by the roar of Yossi's truck backing up the driveway. This is the third morning in the row that he has left the house without saying good-bye.

I tug at another knot -- "Ouch, Mommy!" -- and try to remind myself that he isn't trying to be mean-spirited. He's probably on his way to a construction site, and he has a million details on his mind, like picking up a building permit and measuring the size of the new deck. Also, like many Israelis, he can be abrupt; maybe it's a cultural thing. Or maybe he simply forgot to say, "Bye, honey."

I'm trying really hard to let this go. One-two-three-four ... I'm counting to ten because sometimes that works. Sometimes, but not today, because it's not like I haven't brought this up before, as in: "Sweetie, I'd really appreciate it if you gave me a little loving before you go out the door in the morning."

"I'm sorry, I forgot," he said.

He forgot. But I want to be remembered.

When I glance up in the mirror, my eyes are filled with tears. I quickly brush them away so Mae won't see.

Yossi and I have been living together for just three months, and something is wrong. Last night during my weekly dinner with my single mom friends and our daughters -- otherwise known as "Girls' Night" -- I tried to talk about it, whispering as the girls played in the other room.

"I can't put my finger on it," I said, "but I just feel, I don't know, unfulfilled."

Siobhan sighed. "I'll put my finger on it for you," she said. "You deserve to be adored."

Arden nodded her head. "Yes, adored."

When I first met Yossi in 2006, these friends -- in addition to my family -- were my cheerleaders. Last summer, when I announced I was moving in with him, my Mom and Dad beamed. My friends, on the other hand, were more cautious.

They were having doubts, they told me. He didn't seem to cherish me as I cherished him. When I woke up every morning, my eyes smiled at him, and I reached up to trace the stubble on this chin. He, on the other hand, moaned and dragged himself out of bed. "What I would do not to have to work," he said, tugging on his jeans and patting the dog on her head.

My girlfriends pointed out that I bent over backwards for him -- cooking dinner for him every night after work, scrambling for childcare on weekends so we could get some grown-up time -- as he sat back, a casual observer.

"Where's his passion?" my friends wanted to know.

"I really love him," I said.

"We know," my friends said, but neither of them was smiling.

They were also concerned about the fact that at age 44, Yossi had never lived with a woman before, let alone been married, or had a relationship that had lasted for more than a year.

Instead of feeling wary, however, I was amused and excited. I felt as if I'd "caught" the last-standing Bachelor. Lucky me!

And what did I do with my friends' advice? Hurt by their lack of enthusiasm, I ignored it.

~

By the time I drop Mae off for school this morning, I'm all worked up. Before we shacked up together -- when Yossi was staying in my apartment for six months as he remodeled his house -- he was gushing with affection for me. He never walked out my front door without embracing me, without planting a kiss on my lips. Now it's as if he doesn't see me.

I dial his cell phone.

"Hello?"

"The least you could've done was said good-bye this morning," I attack him. (Note to self: attacking the one you love is not a good idea.)

"Good-bye," he says, trying to be funny. "I said it."

"C'mon, I mean it!"

"I'm holding a beam above my head," he says. "I have to go back to work."

I wish this didn't bother me so much. But I feel like I'm his roommate who splits the bills, not his girlfriend. I try counting to ten again ... One, two, three, four ... I remind myself how good Yossi is with the Kid and the Dog. Every night, he carries Mae into bed and sings to her in Hebrew. Then he watches TV on the sofa, with the dog in his lap, petting her until they both fall asleep.

But what about me?

When Yossi comes home, I'm sulking with my head buried in a book, curled up in Mae's bed.

"I'm sorry," Yossi says.

I exhale.

"I'm not good enough for you," he says.

"That's not true." I lift my head and look him in the eyes.

He smiles with his lips.

I keep telling myself that we're going through a rough patch: moving in together is a big transition. I push my friends' worries to the back of my mind, wondering if I might regret this later. I scold myself for being so whiny. It will get better. It must get better. But I also know that the success rates for cohabitation are dismal: only four out of every 10 cohabiting couples with a child present will get married. Those who do marry experience a 50% higher divorce rate, according to The State of Our Unions 2005, The Social Health of Marriage in America.

Yikes.

Still, here I am, a cheerleader waving her pom-poms, Hey, hey, go, love, win! Hey, hey 'til the end! I might be all alone on the field, but I've taken the leap of love, with my skirt flying up.


Rachel Sarah lives and writes in the Bay Area. Her first book, Single Mom Seeking: Play Dates, Blind Dates, and Other Dispatches from the Dating World (Avalon/Seal Press) was published in 2007. She is also the author of the Literary Mama column, Single Mom Seeking. Rachel has written for Family Circle, Parenting, Tango, Bay Area Parent, Ms., Hip Mama, and American Baby. A journalist for the past decade, Rachel is also the single mom columnist for LifetimeTV.com. For more information, please contact Rachel through her website.


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Ah! I love this blog - down to the cheerleader's skirt flying up! Always helpful to (gently) point out our gripes to our partners. More helpful when they actually listen to us...but somethings you just gotta accept with the territory.
Silly stuff mainly. For a guy who does mainly manual labor at 44(!), he's got a lot on his mind. Passion is what we make of it. It's where we find it. You're settling into 'established' couplehood by now. Things tend to cool off. Some of this is almost certainly cultural, but Yanay is passionate about some things, as you are not. Perhaps that is weighing on his mind too. But mainly this is the ever present attack of the 'grass is greener' over there syndrome. Yes, you might find the perfect guy out there. Someone who is no doubt more perfect than Yanay. But that may take another decade of searching. Or worse, perhaps you finally find Mr. Perfect and you have a few spare hours of perfection together, and that's all fate allows. What you have now is worth saving. That's worth working with Yanay on the outstanding issues you deal with on a weekly or daily basis to get to a place you both feel more comfortable with. And that 40% figure for cohabiting couples with kids is higher I suspect than without. And a decent chance at a good future with a good & loving partner is nothing to sneeze at either. Cheers & Good Luck, 'VJ'
Interesting...I just went through a cycle like this-- with my partner of 12 years (we've been co-habitating for 11 years, married for 9). I felt this way for a few months (so of course I acted it out by being passive-aggressive...creating even more problems). Finally things came to a head and I just blurted out "I feel like you don't adore me!" Well, I'm here to tell you that is a very loaded statement-- lots of ego junk around that "adore" word. I mean, don't we want equal partners? Adore implies that you are up on a pedestal. Anyway, after making this point, he replied "I do adore you" and listed off the things about me he admires and loves. His personality, culture and family upbringing all combine to make it so that he doesn't always show "adoration" like I imagine it should look like. Sometimes I have to remind him of my "needs", sometimes I have to give him some latitude. But honestly, I have an amazing partner, he's not perfect (neither am I), but I wouldn't trade him for anyone. It's easy to forget how much the little things mean, but communication is your greatest tool. Best of luck. ~S
I just want to thank you for the great advice -- and for opening up here. You all sound like super women. I'm glad you're out there. Best, Rachel Sarah
I am married to a lebanese man who is 42. It is an ongoing mark of our relatonship that i wonder if he's noticed me. Sometimes i remind him to say good morning and have have to ask him to kiss me goodbye on numerus occasions. This ended us up in therapy at one point. But, i know he does adore me. He's extremely busy in his work, a business he built from nothing after emigrating here. Sometimes I feel he's married to his work as well as me and it's hard to share. I've experienced plenty of phone calls and conversations when he's at work and they'vebeen similar to the one you describe. My friendshaven't always been hs best fans but they do know that he loves me enormously. When i'm beginning to wonder if i've been seen, all his passion and affection comes back.
Emma, thank you. This is very insightful. Rachel
Rachel, I just want to say that no matter what you are going through, you have this amazing spirit. And your writing is so honest and real; I appreciate your grappling with these things in a truly gracious way. A big rah rah for YOU. oxoxo
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