Present and Accounted For

As a teacher, my biggest frustration is when a kid is absent repeatedly. Without fail, they ask for their work the next day and then at some point, come to me with the words, “I don’t get it.”

I usually respond with some version of, “I know. You missed the lesson. When can you come in to learn it?” And with this being middle school and math, online videos and parents are of limited help (for you parents out there, you’re not crazy – this math is taught differently than how we learned it). For most kids, they need some direct instruction to learn the material. And with limited time in the school day and material that continues to build, repeated absences add up to a big problem.

When I have a kid, even a struggling or not very motivated one, who is in class, I can work with them. I can watch their reactions during a lesson and clear up misconceptions before they build. I can observe them attempt problems and intervene when they make a misstep. I can encourage them when their attention flags and build up their confidence when they are afraid to try.

It’s frustrating to see them falter when I can’t do anything about it.

Presence comes before progress.

And isn’t that true in a marriage as well?

Even when things are rocky, presence matters. If you have a struggling spouse who is still present in the relationship, you can lend support. Missteps and mistakes can be corrected when both partners are vested. When one person’s attention wanes yet they are still in attendance, there is hope for redirection and re-engagement. When one spouse is fearful and able to show it, the other can sound the rallying cry.

But when one partner racks up the absences and is already checked-out?

There’s not much the other person can do.

Because that’s the mathematics of marriage.

1+1=2

But 2-1=0

It takes two to make it work and only one to destroy it.

And accepting that you cannot fix everything no matter how much you want to is a painful lesson indeed.

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10 thoughts on “Present and Accounted For

  1. That equation would be why I am divorced. My ex-husband stepped out of the equation, and left little of value in the marriage. Only in human relationships can 2-1=0. And, yes, it is a hard won lesson to learn, painful too.

  2. I wish the rest of the world understood that it takes two to make a marriage, but only one to break it. I got sick of hearing “well it was a problem between the two of you”. Um, no, it was a problem with my XH who acted like everything was good while he went behind my back and had an affair when our youngest was 6 months old. I had no say in the matter and was never given a chance to work towards salvaging a marriage that I didn’t know was broken until it was too late.

    Someone was saying that it is a form of victim blaming when others ask you what your part was in the demise of the marriage. Yes, I need to work on me, everyone does, but the line of thinking that says there was something broken between you implies that you weren’t doing your part in the marriage. In my mind this leads to the thought process that you have to be perfect to keep your husband from straying. No one is perfect and no marriage is perfect. I say it was on my husband to express his unhappiness and to work with me in keeping our marriage intact and thriving. Instead, he chose to smile to my face while behind my back he racked up debt courting a good friend of ours while I was busy working full time and tending to our toddler and baby.

    1. I couldn’t agree with you more! Your story sounds almost identical to mine. The big difference is I was married for 33 years and have adult children.

      1. Same story here (27 years for me) It is a story that I hear far too frequently. So many broken hearts and families destroyed.😪

    2. So true. I think people respond that way because it is safer for them to believe that you did something to “deserve” this and that, as long as they don’t do that thing, they can avoid the same fate. It’s scary to accept that your spouse can make the choice to leave independently of your actions and behaviors.

  3. I am so sorry that you ladies are also a part of this club 😕.

    I can say though, that although I would never choose to be part of this club, becoming a part of it has been a blessing in disguise. I am a much happier and healthier person now. I have so much more empathy and truly try to not judge (my former naive self wasn’t so good at that before). More importantly, I have come to realize that a vast majority of the people I respect the most are also part of this club. I only found out that tid bit after opening up about my pain to them.

    I really am praying that this experience molds me into a better person; more patient, kind, loving, forgiving, understanding, ….. And that I can continue to pay forward the love and support that I have received during this process.

  4. There is another part that I would like to add. Both people can’t work on a marriage independently and expect it to turn out well. My ex felt that we were both working on it at the same time just not together and that was enough. I say no it’s not. How can you fix the problem when you don’t identify it together and then figure out if the goal is the same. He checked out and doesn’t want to admit to it.

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