Does it get better ?
June 3, 2011 2:33 PM   Subscribe

Wife due to give birth, house too small, housing benefit stopped, large arrears, neighbour murdered while we were on honeymoon, case unsolved, people visiting it like it was a tourist attraction. Any positive suggestions ? Any worse early marriage experiences ? Did you overcome them ? How ?

I don't really like coming out with personal stuff on mefi, but I guess I could use some input.

We've been married nearly a year, the circumstances mentioned above have been happening and pretty upsetting all round. I graduated last year and nothing really got sold, it was difficult. I was going for MFA courses with stipends, grants etc etc but nothing really came through at all - I got a place on a Msc and that's about it - we've done the rigmarole of advice places - little or no help - we've even asked the church for help and they really didnt offer much help at all, just a couple of lectures ... I've stepped up to the plate and I'm cleaning places every day to make ends meet now. If anyone has any kind of tales of overcoming early marriage adversity, i'd be very grateful and hopefully coming out with this will reduce the amount of snark i've been putting out for the past year.
posted by sgt.serenity to Human Relations (28 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
we've even asked the church for help and they really didnt offer much help at all, just a couple of lectures

That is pretty weird/sad. Not sure where you live, but it seems odd that they would just lecture you without offering any assistance or even follow-ups to see if you need more help.

If you think additional visits to the church even have a small chance of helping, I'd say do it. But if you get lectured every time, I would probably talk to somebody else at the church or even another church. If you can really level with them about what's going on, or hand them a list of your physical needs, you can usually skip a few steps.

I work with a lot of people who come to church needing assistance, and the better churches have a huge list of resources either in their head or on paper.

If you're a member of the congregation, it's not unheard of for church leaders to ask the congregation for assistance as well.

Anyway, aside from that I can say that when my wife and I had kids, we moved from a 2-bedroom apartment to a 3-bedroom one, thinking it would make us happier. But the effect was almost a wash. What's really made us happier is not being in debt and cutting other expenses, so if you have to stay in your old place for a while while you build up financial means, you might actually be contributing to your long-term happiness.

Hope some of this can help you! And yes, it does get better. Be sure to keep a journal if you can.
posted by circular at 2:43 PM on June 3, 2011

Well, first, if this is your first child, you really don't need any extra room for a bit (altho I agree it would be nice.) With my first we lived in a one bedroom apt. till he was six or seven months old, crib was in the living room, changing table in our bedroom.

Yeah, you will overcome. It's not easy, but you will. I could tell you a lot more stories but it wouldn't help you and it would depress me. But I made it and so will you guys.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:47 PM on June 3, 2011

Do you rent or own? To me it sounds like moving to a place that's more suited to your current needs (even if it's smaller - space isn't really an issue with kids for the first 2 years) would solve like 90% of what's going on.

Since your wife is close to term, I bet you could count on a "flash mob" of friends to make this happen pretty quickly if it needed to. Think about how great a nice quiet apartment far away from a murder scene would feel right about now.

Good luck & hang in there!
posted by Aquaman at 2:59 PM on June 3, 2011

I too could offer my "really hard first year of marriage with a baby in the way" stories, but our battles and hills to climb were different than yours and I am not sure how they could be helpful. That said, we put our heads down, plowed ahead and did what we had to do. It was not fun at all sometimes, but it did get better. A lot better.

In the end, I think the difficulties we faced helped me appreciate the peace and tranquility we have now more than if we had never gone through it.

Good luck and know that this tough time will pass and it will get better.
posted by murrey at 3:03 PM on June 3, 2011

There are, obviously, several worse things that can happen. It sounds like everyone's health is good, so you have that.

The neighbor thing is no doubt sad and annoying, but I don't think you need to take it on as your problem. It could just as easily be crappy traffic patterns on your street, party house nearby, some other crap that you can't do anything about. One day you'll move.

Babies fit in dresser drawers for a while. They fit on the floor for a really long while. You'll have moved by toddler time.

You need work, that sounds like the actual problem. Maybe put yourself on Jobs as a copywriter/editor? Use ALL your networks here and other places online.

I would encourage you not to think of this as a marriage problem. You have a life problem, and it's not your last by far, but the marriage isn't to blame. I know things are terribly stressful and it's hard to remember to try to be a team, but that's really important right now.

It's not really fair to compare one person's bad experience to another's, but there have been so many home- and job-destroying natural disasters in the past few months that one can unequivocally say yes, there are other people who are surviving without everything they (strictly speaking) need, and some of them probably won't make it but many of them will.

And one day they, like you, will be okay and look at each other and one of them will say, "Man, I was just thinking about 2011." And the other person will say, "Oh my god, fuck 2011. Little Serenity was the only good thing to come out of that shitty year." And y'all will shudder, but you'll also know it's one of the things that made you who you are.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:11 PM on June 3, 2011 [26 favorites]

We're still kind of in the thick of it. Husband's been undergoing an IRS audit, we've been poor, we haven't stayed in one place for more than a year, he decided to drop out of graduate school, my mother's cancer came back. Lots of chaos.

But it's kind of made me realize that life is chaos, and that the occasional lulls are just a bonus. And that marriage not having to weather the storm alone, because there's someone with you to go through it all.

I know it's hard, but try to find the schmoopy in that. Best of luck to you guys; I'll be thinking of you.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:13 PM on June 3, 2011 [10 favorites]

It's building character, and it's what makes up the foundation of your family to get you through the challenges later on. You'll be better prepared for rough spots than the folks who haven't had such trials. I know that's a platitude at this point but things always get better.

Can I ask though? Your house is in arrears? How did you finance a honeymoon? Maybe starting with financial counseling to put the priorities in order would be your best place to begin. Apologies if I am way off.

(One experience I will share is when my SO's employer closed up shop leaving us with many bounced paycheques. We had a newborn, a 1 yr old and zero cash. We lived on bread, bought cloth diapers one at a time and literally starved and worried for many months before a good offer came in. Now it's one of our family war stories.)
posted by pink candy floss at 4:47 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Good responses on the thread.

Short term action to get on the right side of the energy......

It's not the same thing. When my partner was going through breast cancer anything we would hear that would help us with the feeling of helplessness.

With that in mind, re: next door, bad vibes are bad vibes. Get some sage and smudge every room in your house. There is a reason why Native Americans use sage in rituals and sweat lodges.

Is there a farmer's market in your town? If so, go to it, suss out a vendor who is working hard or has a big crowd and ask if he needs help.

1) Most vendors will pay cash.
2) Most importantly the environment and interactions will make you feel good. I can't tell you how many times I've asked friends who were going through rough times to work with me. It's helped all of them.
3) You'll get discounts from vendors and other vendor from markets if they know that you work there.
4) It's a good networking site. Exchange cards though so you're not doing it on your bosses time.

If there is more than one a week, do them all even if you work with different vendors.

Last and very important. Hold each other when you sleep at night. You need each other. This is a good way to acknowledge that.

When my partner and I would wake in the morning I would bless myself, then her, then the relationship. She would do the same with me. Together we would then say together.

"I'm blessed to have this body.
I'm blessed to be a part of everything that goes on in me and around me.
I'm blessed to have all that I have
May the channels of communication remain open
May the playing field remain clear"

We did that every morning we were together up until the month before she left her body die to cancer.

You can do that or you own simple version.

Good luck
posted by goalyeehah at 4:58 PM on June 3, 2011 [15 favorites]

We were just discussing our experiences in 2007, which I assure you involved truly horrible environments and long dark nights of the soul, joblessness, shitty living situations. We were talking about when we moved past those things (which took several iterations, it wasn't like all of a sudden we went to awesomeville) but there was a moment where finally after a lot of awfulness we were lying in bed together and hearing silence (no gunshots! no teenage cigarette smoke coming in the windows!) and we'd moved to this nice place and seen deer in the backyard, and it was just awesome.

Part of going through shit together is it becomes part of your shared history, it becomes part of the language of your past and becomes part of the thing that binds you together. You'll tell stories about some of this stuff for the rest of your lives. When you go through good times, that will be swell and nice, but eventually something will be hard again, and you will need to be able to refer to this time as something you got through together and became comfortably a Part of the Distant Past.

So, it's one foot in front of the other until things are different, and they will be, because things always become different.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:01 PM on June 3, 2011 [10 favorites]

One more thing. My mom likes to tell me about how they had cardboard box furniture when I was first born. They had a teensy apartment in a rustbelt city, I slept in a crib in the "dining room" and their tables were all boxes with scarves on them.

Babies really don't need anything but to be held, fed, and kept warm and clean. Don't judge your circumstances by what you think the baby needs unless you're sure it's something the baby actually needs.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:04 PM on June 3, 2011

You do not need as much space as you think you need.

Dr.E and I had Toddler Zizzle while living in a one bedroom apartment in Allston, Mass. Anyone who has lived in Allston, Mass can tell you exactly how small that is. It's small. And Toddler Zizzle was 19 months when we got a new place.

Our new place is a two bedroom, and while significantly larger than our old one bedroom, is not really big at all. And we're having a second child. And we probably stay in this two bedroom for awhile. With two kids. And two adults. And two rabbits.

I GUARANTEE you that you could live in a smaller place than a house for a few years with an infant and do just fine, so seriously look at the possibility of going even smaller than you currently have (and smaller can often mean cheaper).

I also think it's commendable that you've found something to help your finances in the meantime. Working any honest job honestly earns my respect, hands down. And some of the best people I've known in my life have been cleaning personnel and janitors. Even though it's not necessarily what you want to be doing, don't let cleaning houses bring you down or lower your morale or what have you. You are more than what you do.

Love your wife. Be good to her. Let her love you. Let her be good to you. Take the rest as it comes and not before.
posted by zizzle at 5:07 PM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

This is not anywhere near bad as what you mention, but, after mr. tuesdayschild and I had a baby, i got postpartum depression and his employer hit a rough patch and gave everyone a 20% pay cut for several months. And the pay was not great to begin with. We made it with the help of family and the difficult times, as cliched as this sounds, made our relationship stronger.

Also nthing zizzle's comment: honest work is nothing ever to be ashamed of. Anybody who would sneer at cleaning is betraying their own lack of character, not yours.
posted by tuesdayschild at 5:21 PM on June 3, 2011

Oh, tuesdayschild's comment made me think of something else.

I recently went to a big dinner for a relative of my husband's. It was the man's 85th birthday, and his wife read this long letter that was pretty much an account of their early lives and marriage. It was incredibly honest, and discussed, flat-out, how she'd had postpartum depression after the birth of their second child and he'd had a drinking problem. They sent their children to live with relatives for several years. It was an uncomfortable moment in some ways--their family isn't terribly open about talking about these things generally. But the old man just kind of laughed and said, "We tried our best."

I looked around the room and realized that there were more than a dozen people there that wouldn't have been if it hadn't been for that couple. Legacies are created through marriages--lives are altered. And that's in spite of the dark times. Someday, you're going to be able to look back on these times, shrug, laugh, and say, "We tried our best." And then your great grandkid might make a farting sound or something, ruining the moment.

Which is exactly as it should be.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:27 PM on June 3, 2011 [20 favorites]

We have been through deep debt and bankruptcy; one layoff and one company failure, both times ending with both of us without a steady job; postpartum depression; a newly-acquired disability; and various other stressors. Some of it was difficult, some of it was hell.

It's been so important to keep in mind that we are partners. We are on the same team, and instead of fighting each other, we can work with and bolster each other. It's also been essential to remind myself that most of these things would pass. And it has taken a massive amount of personal effort and the repeated choice to keep trying, keep striving, with optimism.

When we were overwhelmed and couldn't find support in one direction, we sought it out in others. This has been key. We could not have pulled through this in isolation. Support has come in the form of information, people, and therapy.

This didn't all happen at once. We've had rougher times and easier times, but these days are much better than any we've had. Money's tight, but we have financial stability. I broke through the other side of the depression and feel far more emotionally stable and capable than I've ever been. The effects of the disability fade when I do my daily physical therapy. We're connecting better. I feel like we've grown the ways we wanted to, and that things will only get better.

You sound utterly overwhelmed. Keep seeking out sources of support. Find comfort in one another. Forgive yourselves and each other for whatever mistakes are made, and remind yourself that time marches on. Tomorrow is a new opportunity.
posted by moira at 6:22 PM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

We lived in a trailer. To the right, a rail line. As in, right next to the trailer. To the left, a prison. Across the road in front, the local bikie chapter. Across the railway line - the crematorium. Between us and the prison - a smash repair joint. I got a job sweeping floors at a local warehouse, an hour's bike ride wach way. She was a checkout chick.

I honestly don't recall how we got through it - it was just how life was. For us, things just got incrementally better over a period of maybe six or seven years - better (OK, different) jobs, a cheap flat (no furniture), a lot of soup and pasta, a lot of biking, back to school, then uni, then real careers. We never went to sleep on an argument, we always said 'I love you' first and last thing, and we always made sure the other knew that we knew they were doing their best. That was about it. We're still tight-arses today ;).
posted by obiwanwasabi at 7:43 PM on June 3, 2011 [5 favorites]

Sometimes it gets bad and it doesn't get better. I'm not saying that to scare you, but rather to caution you.

A few years ago things got really rough for me. My brother was in the hospital after multiple suicide attempts and my family was fracturing. I lived across the country with my boyfriend/partner/whatever and while I was back home being with my family I said to him, "I don't know if I can stay so far away from my family." And he responded "Well, I can't move to Texas."

Now, did I expect him to? No. Probably not. But what I needed to hear - what just about anyone needs to hear - in that really dark moment, is: "It's all going to work out. Everything is going to be fine. I'm here for you."

It's words like that that can make or break a relationship in tough times. So remember to look beyond whatever issue is at hand and reaffirm that you're on the same team. If you don't, well... I left him two months later.
posted by jph at 8:37 PM on June 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

It gets better. Some of the things you are going through now will be fondly remembered. It sounds like you are doing what you can to keep your heads above water. The neighbor thing is the event that sort of coalesced your anxieties right now. That may make you feel unsafe, but it sounds like it is a very unusual circumstance, if people are coming by to see where it happened.

There are government programs that might help a bit. Have you heard of WIC? I am not sure from your question if you have applied for assistance.
posted by annsunny at 9:44 PM on June 3, 2011

Yes, it will get better. Promise.

Love each other and the babe. Find things to laugh about. Go to the park and enjoy the sunshine.

It will get better.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:40 PM on June 3, 2011

I agree with Goalyeeha: Your house has got bad feng-shui or whatever you care to call it due to the circumstances next door. I'm not much of one for rituals of any faith or tradition, but sometimes gestures along the lines of what s/he was suggesting can really help. Smudge sage, plant a tree to memorialize the neighbor, call an exorcist, hold a pagan blessing ceremony... find SOMETHING to help acknowledge the departed/re-ground your sense of happy home.

I do applaud you for doing "whatever it takes" to (legally) pay the bills. This is a sacrifice you are making to hold the line for your family. Whatever you may think of your work, your efforts should be respected for that. Mine keeps holding out for a $22 an hour paycheck and the net result is I work the "whatever it takes" job, haven't seen more than 200$ from him in the last 5 months, and the babysitter is raising our child, and we're still sinking. Do I resent this? You betcha. I'd be grateful, delighted even, to see half that paycheck coming in on a weekly basis, because we would, at the VERY least, be sinking slower. Thank you for stepping up. Just keep looking around for better opportunities while you plug the gap.

As for the baby: They really don't care. No, belay that: They DO care. They want to be as close as they can get, for as long as they can, to their mommies. They want to be picked up, held, cared for, looked at, talked to, interacted with, etc. as much as they can get. Second bedrooms are so popular, but they seem counterintuitive to me; why would a baby, or even a toddler, want to be _farther_ away from their mommies and daddies, the source of all their care & the focus of their world? My bunchkin just turned 4. I DREAM of the day she'll have her own room. But never once, since she started talking, has she expressed even a hint of the idea that she'd rather be away from us. That will come, and for all my dreams I will miss her terribly when it does. But it's not on her agenda and I promise you it won't be on your new baby's agenda either.

So re-consecrate your house, work hard for your family, and don't worry about your child having less. This is the time of his/her life when s/he'll notice the least. Give your wife a hug, and try to take joy in what you do have and what you have accomplished. There will be many tomorrows and who knows what they will bring.
posted by Ys at 11:31 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thankyou to everyone for your replies.

I'm going to read them all a bit more in depth later when I get back from - but some some further info -

we got married in poland, money gifts, wife ringfenced the money for the honeymoon - a wee week in tenerife.

we are with a Housing association (dunedin canmore ha)that has went from being a charity to a corporation - they're now working with people who were David Camerons Bullingdon club members, they're not very helpful anymore. They were allocating houses to people with drug problems, not that that's bad but it's been a bad mix of people - there were huge arguments in the stair between neighbours prior to the murder. The chap that died, was pretty near the 'you've hit rock bottom and here's some people I know at the rehab' speech. I went to the HA and pointed out they should have allocated better, the only response has been to have the rent benefit retrospectively cut off.

We didnt know if we would even be here - we were holding out to see what came back from the MFA apps. (which was my dumb idea)

The church ? Catholic church, this one here - you can kind of see there's not a lot happening there, which I could be pretty ranty about - bit of an eye opener really.

Anyway, seeing the responses here and in memail is really nice, heartwarming and all that - wow. Thanks so much for responding. Very much appreciated.
posted by sgt.serenity at 12:28 AM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

"...overcoming early marriage adversity..."

1) Sense of humor

2) Shared us-vs-the-world sentiment
posted by Jacqueline at 1:18 AM on June 4, 2011

we got married in poland, money gifts, wife ringfenced the money for the honeymoon - a wee week in tenerife.

Your wife needs to get a grip on the financial implications of stuff like that. You guys have no money for things other than paying rent and putting food on the table, especially in light of the pregnancy.

Go to the local citizens advice bureau and get proper advice about your benefit entitlements and what to do about your debts. There is no reason why the wife can't go on Monday and start that process. You both need to work at this to make it better.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:12 AM on June 4, 2011

Sarge, how is a housing association able to cut your housing benefit off? Surely that comes through the council? Have you tried speaking to your local councillor? Also your MSP and MP are unlikely to be Tories, and may be interested in taking up your case. Bear in mind that via your List MSPs you have access to people beyond the usual parties like Margo Macdonald the independent, and Alison Johnstone (Green). It may be possible to raise a stushie over the Housing Benefit withdrawal, as it surely cant be lega for them to withdraw that because you made a complaint. The Evening News might take something like that up if it could be established.
posted by Flitcraft at 5:20 AM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

( I'm assuming you're in Lothian as that seems to be where Dunedin Canmore operate)
posted by Flitcraft at 5:29 AM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Sarge, how is a housing association able to cut your housing benefit off?

They have an agreement with the housing benefit people in place - they work in close cooperation. They can say what they want, when they want and they said it as a result of me going in to complain about their own letting procedures not being followed.

Go to the local citizens advice bureau and get proper advice about your benefit entitlements

I've been to see them, they told me they are short of advisors, they wanted a very large amount of information and I don't trust them. I think things have changed with regard to welfare advisors generally. I'm going to go to this new bunch of advisors that have started in the new church across the road.
posted by sgt.serenity at 9:00 AM on June 4, 2011

That stinks and it really needs to be highlighted. If you haven't done so already, try your councillor on the off-chance that they are a decent one and will raise a ruckus about it. If that doesn't work, it's time to blow the gaff on it to the MSPs. It also might make a news story, if you want to go down that route. I'm assuming that you've made a complaint to the housing benefit people and are escalating it up? If you are too busy, then your wife could be doing this. Judging by the Church you mention you must live quite near to me, if there's something I can do or someone I can go bother for you, let me know.

I don't usually use the mefimail, but maybe you could mail me, and I could give you my normal email address and see if I could help in anyway?
posted by Flitcraft at 9:42 AM on June 4, 2011

I've been to see them, they told me they are short of advisors, they wanted a very large amount of information and I don't trust them. I think things have changed with regard to welfare advisors generally.

Are you sure you're not paranoid? None of the things you quote are reasons not to go to the citizens advice bureau or a charity that supports people in financial difficulties to seek advice.

And yes, they are all going to be short of advisors - even if their funding stays the same there are a lot more people seeking advice after a major downturn. So yes, you may have to wait etc.....

And the not tursting them is ridiculous - you don't have to do what they suggest, but it sure would be a good start to gather as much information as possible.

And the guys at the church (or anywhere else you go) will need a lot of information to be able to advise you properly - any time you talk to anybody about benefits or about your debt level they are going to want to have pretty much the same amount of information you have to provide when you fill in the application for xyz benefit or a complete picture of your debt and income to help you with the debt problem.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:35 AM on June 4, 2011

Response by poster: Are you sure you're not paranoid? None of the things you quote are reasons not to go to the citizens advice bureau or a charity that supports people in financial difficulties to seek advice.

Well, I've had a bad experience with embedded 'welfare rights' officers, so i'm understandably cautious. CAB are a government funded organisation, they started asking specific questions about 'where i worked', which has no bearing on my previous hb claim and I felt that was somewhat intrusive. I have a reasonable amount of experience with these kinds of agencies and no, I don't trust them. Which is not to say I have some kind of blanket ban on trusting anything. An independent advice place is quite fine.
posted by sgt.serenity at 10:14 AM on June 5, 2011

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