Husbands and Wives and Fighting… Oh, My!

Marriage sometimes sucks. There is as much pain and disappointment in true love, as there is joy and happiness. Why do the fairy tales, and ever-popular romantic comedies, never tell us that?

You would think that by observing the dynamics between our parents (or parental figures) that we would know that; but there seems to be an inherent disconnect between knowing and feeling – at least, in me.

As a child, I thought my parents had a “happily ever after” romance. Sure, they sometimes fought (mostly over my brothers and I); but I remember them being happy more than not.

As an adolescent, I noticed cracks in the public veneer of their relationship. It seemed they fought more (and perhaps they did… they had three surly teenagers to deal with – one with fairly severe mental-health issues), and they sure as hell talked far less. They didn’t do things together as often, and were definitely divided more than they were a united front.

My brothers and I, at that point, often wondered out loud why they stayed together. We imagined that they would be happier apart, and assumed that they would split after my youngest brother moved out of the house.

They didn’t. They’ve been married forty-five years; surviving – together – the tragic loss of their middle child.

From the outside, they seem stronger than ever… and I wish I knew their secret.

Mitchell and I are somewhat similar to my folks, but definitely not the same (in both good ways and bad).

I am a very passionate, emotionally driven person (like my dad); with a huge bleeding heart (like my mom). I have always romanticized love.

I think love should be so beautiful, and powerful. I want to be swept away by love.

The Man in the Moon, 1991

Mitchell is a very reserved, logically driven person (like his – and my – mom); and doesn’t really care for humanity as a whole (like his dad). He was a romantic once (albeit, never at my level); but seems to have lost interest in passionate matters of the heart, especially as they relate to us.

Opposites attract, as they say.

Of course, they also say that the thing you are originally drawn to in a mate is the very thing you’ll eventually end up hating about them.

I don’t hate my husband, nor do I hate any one thing about him. I’m disappointed in him. And, I know he’s been disappointed in me.

I cannot effectively communicate with him anymore. I don’t know that it’s a failing on my part; but often, it feels like it is.

When attempting to tell him something, he often gets hung up on specific words and their precise meanings. He does take the time to explain to me what he’s hearing… but it’s commonly not what I’m trying to say.

If I want to have a conversation with him about something that’s important to me, I literally have to prep for it. I have to choose my words carefully, and have an outline in my head.

Unfortunately, I always make some kind of unintentional semantic error (Seriously, it never fails.); usually, right out of the gate.

He gets frustrated. He explains why he’s frustrated. I take a moment to rephrase what I’m trying to say. He gets more frustrated – either by the silence, or by the newly chosen phrasing (that also doesn’t seem to make any sense). I get frustrated. My frustration turns to tears and breathing exercises. He leaves the room furious, accusing me of being passive-aggressive. I remain in the room, feeling utterly destroyed.

Today is one of those days… when my marriage feels like an exhausting exercise in futility.

It’s exacerbated by a couple of factors:

  1. I haven’t been feeling well, and am demonstrating flu-like symptoms.
  2. Mitchell’s allergies have been kicking his butt, and he’s doped up on antihistamines.
  3. We’ve been locked in this house together, day-after-day, for months (much like everyone else who’s taking safety precautions).

We’re both aware of the exacerbation, but it doesn’t make dealing with it any easier.

Mitchell actually screamed in response to my frustration this morning. Literally. In my face. Screaming (and swearing).

I have learned – through decades of therapy – not to respond in kind. (I used to try and one-up him, when things like this happened.) I try to stay calm, but can never stop my tears. (Which makes me feel stupid, and extremely vulnerable.)

I did, at one point, tell him (without raising my voice) that he was an “asshole when he’s mean.” (I regret saying it; but it was warranted, and far less hurtful than the other things I wanted to say.) He continued yelling, and then stormed out of the room.

I did the only thing I could to prevent the vengeful harpy that rises as my protector from emerging: I closed my eyes, took deep breaths, and used practiced mantras. You are safe. You are okay. This will pass.

In the midst of this exercise, Mitchell returned to the room and tried to apologize. He had calmed from the skirmish. I had not.

That’s the trouble with being a Borderline. I continue to feel hurt; until I can do something about it.

That “something” used to mean giving the harpy carte blanche to set the world on fire. Hurt Mitchell. Feel guilt (over hurting Mitchell). Hurt myself. Only then, could I return to any semblance of my “normal” self.

Now-a-days that “something” looks more like a scared little girl, crying in a corner, acting the victim. I hate feeling like a victim. Being made to feel that way, just further pisses me off.

So, I write. And believe me, I wrote a lot of other sh*t prior to what I’m writing now. Hurtful, angry sh*t that made very little coherent sense. It helps, though.

It helps if I allow the emotional wound to bleed until it’s cauterized. (Only then, can I be a little more coherent; and share what I’m going through with you, Dear Reader.)

No longer bleeding, I’m left clicking away on the laptop – wondering (yet again) how two people who clearly love one another (because we do love each other) can stand so very far apart.

How is it that we have lost the ability to effectively communicate with one another? And how – how – Dear Reader, do we find our way back?

He is not a bully. I am not a victim. We cannot remain in these roles, if we hope to survive.

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