December 30, 2007 by Marj Hatzell
This has been one of the worst weeks of our marriage. Ever.
The tension could be cut with a knife. The bickering? Non-stop. Barely a conversation. No eye contact. One of us stays up much later than the other. Sleeping in different beds and no time spent together. It is making me insane. I love my husband it this hurts. Bad.
For starters, Christmas is always a difficult time for us. Without divulging too much information, let’s just say that Darling’s relationship with his father has always been stressful. He was barely around when Darling was a boy and Darling had to figure out how to be a man, all by his lonesome, while being raised with three women. It was not an easy time. When Darling’s father was around he was inappropriate, passive-aggressive, controlling and materialistic. He’d hurt Darling’s feelings time and time again, and then try to make up for it by buying expensive gifts. It is a wonder that Darling and his sister survived. They are both truly wonderful people, they just have a teensy problem with trusting others with their emotions and both tend to be very guarded with their feelings.
Then, two years ago, on Christmas Day, Darling’s father let us down again. We decided that it was the last straw. Plus, he told us we were dead to him anyways. Ouch. Darling says, “Oh well. I’m used to it.” What a rotten thing to have to get used to. Last Christmas was awful. Things came to a head and I gave Darling an ultimatum. I could not stand him being so miserable and making the rest of us miserable on purpose. I told him either he goes to a doctor for some counseling and gets himself some happy pills or he can let the door hit him in the arse. I had no idea at the time if he’d accept my proposal or if I’d be the single mother of two autistic children. All I had to do was mention that he could make a choice and change the future. He could continue to allow his father to dictate the course Darling’s life would take or he could break the cycle and decide to be a different man, a different father. We love him very much but CHOOSE.
And he did. It has been the best year of our marriage. We are closer than we’ve ever been, we have far less arguments, we truly enjoy the time we spend together. He doesn’t yell at me for buying groceries (long story). But Darling knows how to push buttons and I know how to push back. When he made a crack at our family gathering at my sister’s the other night, I snapped.
That snap caused damage. It caused friction and tension. And so for the past week we’ve barely been holding on.
Today I hit the bottom. I SCREAMED at him. In front of the kids. I really, truly regret that because I don’t want them to ever see us that angry (even though I know it is good for them to know we can settle arguments, the ugly stuff doesn’t need to be seen). Then I did what any mature, rational adult would do. I stomped up to our bedroom, flung myself on the bed and sobbed for an hour. I had ugly thoughts running through my head. I nitpicked all the things I find wrong with him. I thought, “Screw it. He’s in charge for the rest of the night. I’m on strike.”
Now, the old DG would have done exactly that. I would have gone on strike. I would have pouted for hours. Then I thought about it. Is this how I want to live? We’re both extremely stubborn people. We’re both passive-aggressive (yes, me. Believe it or not, I am.). Not that I believe in horoscopes, but we’re both Scorpions. I’m told that is a recipe for disaster. One of us has to yield at some point. This isn’t the War of the Roses (don’t waste your time. HORRIBLE!). This is our life. This is our marriage. Do I want to keep things spiraling out of control or do I want to be the rational and mature one and get it back on track? After all, I’m the one who came from the intact family (and while my family puts the fun in dysfunctional, I think we’ve turned out just fine). I knew I needed to be the one to make the choice to either keep arguing and escalating or to repair it and get things back on track.
I calmly went downstairs and started dinner. Once my body language changed, his body language changed. As soon as my face softened and my movements slowed, his shoulders dropped and his nervous drumming and tapping (I swear he could have been the next drummer for Def Leppard, the guy is an air drummer extraordinaire!) began to slow. We managed to get through dinner with some light conversation. He even insisted I call my sister and offer to take her son because she was sick and he knew she really needed a break. I felt peace washing back over me again. I felt the calmness and tranquility of our life begin to return. The kids seemed calmer and happier at dinner. We went out to get my nephew and to run errands and we managed to go to three stores with three rambunctious boys (five, six and seven years!) and did not want to strangle any of them. MIRACLE!
I made a change. I made a choice. I am chosing to change the way I react. I am going to make an effort to count to ten, forwards and backwards and in three languages if I have to, just to give myself time to calm down before I react. I know it is my job to keep things calm and happy in our home. Yes, we all have a job to do. Yes, he and I share the blame for the rotten way we’ve treated each other this week. Yes, we’ve both acted like nineteen-year-olds. But my job, my purpose as a mother, is to nurture my family. I am the one that is supposed to show them how to love and forgive and forget. I am the one who JUST TODAY was telling my child that he could not hold a grudge against Little Miss just because she wouldn’t share the air hockey paddle and that there was no point in holding onto anger. Now, if I don’t live that example how is my son ever going to learn it?
Believe me, it is not easy to swallow my pride and be the humble and forgiving one. My instinct is to be a big, pouting crybaby. My kids have learned to stick that bottom lip out just like their mother. They may win awards for their dramatic performances some day. I am just not going to let anger and hurt destroy out lives. Nope. Not gonna do it. Not this family. We’ve come to far and gone through too much to let it all go in the blink of an eye.
And next week? I’ve decided I need to go back on my own happy pills for a short time. I’m seeing the effects of S.A.D again and I know it isn’t helping things…