It was a long time coming. For weeks my husband and I ignored the elephant in the room. All you need to know is that it had to do with finances, the usual arena for arguments in my marriage. On this windy, miserable Saturday morning with the kids away or still asleep, there was no avoiding it any more.
Oddly enough the fight started with a review of our plans to go out on a date tonight. Ha!
My husband: “Well, I don’t know how much fun this is going to be. We have some serious stuff to talk about.”
Me: “I know that. But can’t we be serious and still have a pleasant time?”
My husband (with that patronizing look on his face that makes me so mad!): “I don’t know. Can we?”
Things devolved from there.
At one point I had to leave the room. I knew I would say something bad if I stayed. Sitting upstairs in the home office I fumed and fought back tears. After over twenty-five years of marriage, you’d think I’d be good at this. No, not really. I think it’s because we have this old fight/flight thing that kicks in whenever things go wrong. I already ran away. The next thing was to resist the urge to go back and smack him. Hard.
It takes effort to override the autonomic nervous system, take a deep breath and face the conflict with a clear enough head. There was a choice to be made: Either continue fuming which would only serve to feed the angry beast, or be a grown up, go back downstairs and try to communicate. There was risk in talking to him again (what if he never gets it?) but the alternative was worse. So back onto the battle field I went.
Even good marriages have moments like this, when you’d as soon see your dear husband covered in honey and tied over an ant hill then standing in your kitchen being a jerk. A favorite author of mine, Mira Kirschenbaum, just posted about this on her blog. In Sometimes I Hate My Husband, she wrote:
“The truth is that sometimes you hate the person you love because that’s what it means to be really close. When you’re close you’re vulnerable. You take the unattractive parts of yourself and plunk them right down on the table. And when you do that sometimes the other person doesn’t say, “Oh that’s wonderful.” Sometimes he says, “Yechhh.” Just what you didn’t want to hear. And to be close means daring to hope that things that have never changed will somehow change anyway someday. And when they don’t you can be really disappointed. So much so that for a moment you just hate the other person.”
Mira said it. Pretty damn close to how I was feeling this morning.
After going back downstairs, it took an hour of swallowing hard and standing my ground (as you can tell, I’m much more a runner than fighter) but we got through. It helps that I have a (usually) reasonable husband whom I love and respect deeply when he doesn’t make me furious. He is an excellent partner to me. I can’t imagine a better one.
Once again I am reminded that having a fight is actually a good thing for a marriage. It’s a good thing for a marriage because as long as we manage to get to the other side of the conflict feeling heard and emotionally safe, we feel stronger and closer for the struggle.
I’m so glad that’s over. Now we can look forward to our date and have some fun!