Monday, March 08, 2004


After I posted my blog about togetherness, someone on the SlowTrav message board asked, “Is the honeymoon over?” Come on, people! Isn’t this something that everyone goes through? I know I tend to say out loud those things that most people only think to themselves, but for us, and for any couple planning to make a major move like we did, or even couples who are planning to retire, isn’t this a subject that deserves some thought and discussion?

It’s not like I’m manic-depressive, but I DO have a quick temper, and I do have mood changes, much more so than Art. In our situation, alone in a strange country, the stresses of daily living can be overwhelming. There’s the frustration of not being able to speak or understand Italian as much as we would like. And of missing our kids, and especially the grandkids! And of not being able to jump in the car and run to Target. For me, just being able to jump in the car to go anywhere would be nice. When you’re missing the kids, or feeling frustrated or depressed, there’s only one person around to take it out on…what would you do?

Everyone jokes about the husband who retires, then drives his wife crazy, hanging around the house, getting in her way, disrupting her schedule. This is certainly like that, and more so. We are both still finding our way, still scared, still nervous. Part of the frustration with not speaking or understanding Italian as well as we want is the underlying fear…will we EVER speak the language? Will our comprehension improve? When? Yes, I am understanding more, but never as much as I would like. I still can’t carry on a “normal” conversation. Art is much more advanced than I am, but I know his skills are still very basic, and it’s frustrating for him too. What do you do with that pent-up frustration?

I want to be able to go to the garden center, tell them I have a shady yard, and that I would like plants that require minimal upkeep for maximum performance. I would like to be able to ask what types of climbing, flowering plants they have. What colors are available? Does it continue to flower all summer? How high will it grow, and can I keep it pruned back? What about ground cover? Something low maintenance, but not too aggressive? And so on…just so that I can make an informed decision. And the fact that I can’t do this is very frustrating.

In the states, I had many friends to talk to. Sometimes it would be my sister, sometimes it would be Sherry. Or Beth. Or my daughter. When I needed a good sounding board, my mom was the best. She would always listen, and only when I asked for advice would she offer any. Most importantly, I wasn’t always dumping my problems or concerns on the same person, as I am now forced to do. I think most people have friends in different categories…friends you work with, friends you share special interests with, friends you have known for years. With each of these friends, you share specific problems. I would never dream of discussing certain things with my daughter…things that I would only share with my girlfriends. Now, Art is forced to be all these people rolled into one! And worst of all, he’s a man!!!

I remember reading in the “Venus and Mars” books that one of the basic differences between men and women is how they handle and solve problems. From what I recall, men are “fixers”. They want to fix the problem; they offer solutions. Women, on the other hand, often just need to talk it out. They aren’t always looking for solutions… they just need to talk about the situation, the possible solutions, then make a decision later. And this is where the problems can occur…when a woman is “venting” to her male friend, he wants to “fix” the problem, and gets upset when she doesn’t take his advice. He can’t understand why she asked for his help if she didn’t really want it. But for the woman, all she really wanted was a sounding board; someone who would mostly listen, maybe offer some sympathy or words of encouragement.

For people like us, who are each other’s only friends, this could cause problems. Art might find it difficult to only listen. He has solutions, and he doesn’t understand why I don’t take his advice. He might think my “talking it out” is just “bitching” or “whining”. Women know that these words are often used to describe what we say to our husbands or boyfriends. And women also know that this is not a fair assessment! For me, all I want (NEED!) to do is hear everything said out loud, know that Art has truly heard me, and then I’m okay! However much we might love each other, he can’t escape the fact that he is a man, anymore than I can escape the fact that I’m a woman! Disagreements are inevitable! It’s how you handle those disagreements, and being able to step back and realize what’s happening, and why.

So, no, the honeymoon is not over. Neither one of us has any doubts about our relationship. We “clicked” on our first date, and have never had any second thoughts or regrets. Neither one of us has ever doubted our decision to live in Italy. But, that doesn’t mean that we never disagree. We would have had disagreements had we stayed in the states. We would have gotten on each other’s nerves. Now maybe this wouldn’t have happened as often, because we would have had fewer frustrations, or maybe the frustrations would have been different. What I’m trying to say is that any relationship requires work, but most of all it requires awareness. And right now, we are both very aware that in the end, all we have is each other. And for us, that’s more than enough.