When I was in graduate school, I watched a video in class about a woman who due to brain damage had permanent anterograde amnesia. This is the loss of the ability to create new memories. Every time her husband entered her hospital room she greeted him like Penelope greeting Odysseus. “It’s been so long! I’m so happy to see you!!!!” There were hugs and kisses and more hugs and kisses. And if he as so much as left the room to use the restroom, the whole thing started over again.

This woman knew enough about the past to know that this man was her husband. It was pretty close to “living totally in the present” without her greeting him as a stranger every time she saw him.

Taking the husband’s perspective, the interchanges looked painful and exhausting. His wife clearly adored him but how could they move forward? Clearly, they could not. In time she would be distracted by the vision of herself in the mirror. With time, she would not recognize herself due to aging. And the same would be true for her husband. Time would pass and she would be confused by his appearance and then likely, view him as a stranger.

Making memories together is important in a marriage. It is a shared history that is constructed together. For day to day life, the logistics of life, it is crucial to have routines and shared understanding of not only the division of labor, but of what tasks are needed in order to run the family, the marriage, and individuals lives.

I have a very good memory for routines, agreements, and history. It is a strength that I have and that the rest of my family does not. With my daughter, her flightiness, her memory problems, her statements of “I did not know I was not supposed to do ______” despite countless conversations and experiences to the contrary, is frustrating but after all she is a child and furthermore, MY child.

My husband also forgets the mundane aspects of life. The agreements, the logistics, etc. I know he does not do this on purpose. He is a loving and a hardworking person. But sometimes, every day seems like starting over from scratch. We have a shared history, a deep and loving history together as a couple. We know each other and like each other. We’ve had wonderful vacations, traditions, and family traditions. We have a MEANINGFUL and RICH life together. But when it comes to daily life, the mundane stuff we all have to do, or even the less mundane agreements we have about parenting or communication, it can be like starting over. Like a whole new day when I want the old day, yesterday, when we made a plan together. Today, I did the dishes, for example. I also made dinner. I did not know who was supposed to do them but didn’t want to fight about it. So, I just did them because I didn’t want to start from square one, as a couple.

It can be exhausting. It can be guilt-inducing because I know that my husband loves me and his family. I can feel resentment because I work hard to communicate and at times, it just doesn’t seem to matter what I say or do or what we communicate to each other. I am also trying hard to move forward to live in the present. But living in the present when the recent past does not always exist is much harder than it sounds. When I provide the same rationale over and over for the same decision that I thought was already made, I get perceived as a “nag”. I totally understand why I come across that way. But I am also in an understandably frustrating situation. And he is, as well.

We are intensely working on our  marriage; we are trapped in the present. Eventually, the present will be an illuminating and freeing place.

Right now it is hard.