Lessons Learned From Writing A Book About A Terrible Marriage

I have known my husband for almost thirty years. A lot has happened in that time. We’ve moved five times, had two daughters, changed jobs about a dozen times, opened and closed a small business, and weathered cancer treatments. It wasn’t until I sat down to write Overlook, in which we witness a marriage in crisis, that I thought about what makes a marriage successful. Writing about Kitty and Seth Haskell’s dysfunctional marriage shed light on what was and was not working in my own marriage.

Here are a few of the lessons I’ve gleaned from the last two years of writing Overlook:

  • My husband is a pretty great guy. Writing about Seth Haskell’s jerky behavior made me appreciate what a decent individual my darling husband is.
  • Communication is key. Kitty and Seth don’t talk to each other about the important things in their marriage. If Kitty had an honest conversation with her husband about their intimate relationship, years of pain and dissatisfaction could have been avoided. When they finally have that conversation, too much damage had been done. My husband is not “a talker.” He avoids difficult conversations whenever possible. Writing about Kitty and Seth has encouraged me to corner him and tackle those tricky conversations.
  • A gilded caged is still a cage. Kitty has all the accoutrements of a perfect life, yet she is trapped. Her life is not her own. She is controlled by her husband, and to a certain extent, her mother. Writing Overlook reminded me that if you want to live authentically, you have to live your life on your own terms. No one else should be able to tell you how to live. My husband has toyed with the idea of leaving our secure suburban life behind and going on some big adventure after our girls are on their own. I think I should encourage him to pursue that dream.
  • Nothing is perfect.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. You live with someone long enough, you will find them annoying. Get over it. My husband has this annoying habit of leaving his belt everywhere – on the back of chairs, on the stairs, in the middle of the floor. It annoys me (especially since I slipped on one of his belts in 1992 and fell down a flight of stairs) but it is not the end of the world. He also gets coffee grounds all over the kitchen counter every single morning. It bugs me. On the other hand, my seeming inability to put my shoes away annoys him to no end.
  • Compromise requires two people. If one spouse is constantly giving in to the other, that’s not compromise. It’s submission. Kitty told herself that she and Seth compromised on the tricky parts of their marriage. Not true. He what ever he wanted and she also did whatever he wanted. Two people who share a life need to compromise.
  • A mother will risk everything for her children. I don’t want to give away the ending of Overlook but suffice to say, Kitty does have a breaking point.

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