Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Planting a Seed

I am coming out of a very rough few days. Nothing momentous happened, but a culmination of weeks (months? years?) of hurt feelings, unmet expectations, and futile attempts at change came to a head and we had the worst, nastiest, longest fight of our 14 year relationship. There was a period of time I was not sure our marriage would survive. We barely spoke to each other all weekend.  The "4 horsemen of the apocalypse" were all in attendance.

I won't take all the blame---he definitely has his part in this, his angry and out-of-control reaction to my disgruntled attitude was way out of line.  But as always, I know that my lack of communicating my feelings before things built up did set the scene.

I've mentioned before that our marriage suffers from some terrible communication skills on both of our parts. I have a hard time talking about emotional issues directly, I tend to beat around the bush and eventually end up in tears. For his part, he instantly gets defensive when I mention anything that isn't perfect in our relationship and takes it as an attack on him "oh no, what did I do now, sigh I can't win, can I? Its always something" even when I use the "I feel..." language and even preface it with "its not something you did or didn't do, this is just how I feel". I also have a really hard time (its basically impossible) for me to ask for what I need from a relationship. This obviously comes from a fear of rejection---if I ask for a hug, or for "words of affirmation" and he can't do that for me (or more likely, does it grudgingly instead of willingly) what does that mean?

For the past few years, I've definitely felt that something was lacking in our marriage. We have talked about it multiple times, with only the most minor and temporary improvement. I've talked to my therapist, read "marriage blogs" and discussed it multiple times here and got some great advice. But eventually I was starting to feel that things would never change and that perhaps I was expecting too much. Maybe I have absorbed too many Disney-fied versions of romance and love and my expectations to be loved and cherished were completely out of reach in the real world. Maybe all marriages are like this, eventually, and I just need to come to terms with it if I'm going to be happy.

So I worked on that. I worked on myself. I compartmentalized, shut off the lonely side and focused on other things. It works, until it doesn't. And then I had several things recently remind me that 1) things don't seem like they are ever going to change and 2) no, every marriage is NOT like this. Some people have real relationships that are based on more substance than "oh yes, we share chores and household duties very equitably".

 I felt hurt. And hopeless. And that led to anger and the resultant behavior. And then he felt hurt, and confused (because I didn't really tell him what was going on) and then angry and had his own unkind behavior. Which eventually blew up in a spectacular fashion.

I made the first move and apologized and we talked on the phone for a few minutes. And then I did perhaps the smartest thing I have ever done, and wish I'd done it sooner. I wrote him an email.

It took a good chunk of time to write and I edited it about 10 times after. I took out whole sections because it was all too much at once and I wanted to stick to one central theme for this email. I changed words to make it very neutral and focused on myself. I added positive things and then mor positive things. I made it very direct, with no half-truths or vague wording.

And then I sent it to him, told him to read it, think about it and not feel like he has to respond right away.

Its been 2 days and he hasn't responded.  He did address one concrete thing I mentioned in the email---something I'd asked him to do. He is doing it. I'm traveling for work, I'll be home tonight. I think he will want to talk about this, but I'm tempted to ask him if we can continue this over email, because it was so amazing to be able to say what I was feeling without my heart-racing and tears flowing and anxiety choking my words. I'm GOOD at writing and editing and getting my point across! I do it constantly for work, not to mention here (though I don't edit, obviously).

I am feeling hopeful. This may be stupid on my part, and I may be in this same place 6 months from now, but I'll take it for now.


  1. Sending a huge hug. You know, I used to do that with my parents when I was younger. I couldn't say what was bothering me, but I could write it. So I would write them a letter and leave it on their bed. They could read it, talk about it for a moment, and then come in my room to talk to me. Once the conversation was started, I could finish it, I just couldn't get it started. If you've found something that works, I think it's brilliant and you should go with it if he's up for it, too.

  2. Huge hugs, hun. My god, I know about those terrible fights. I am the exactly the same as you- I have a terrible aversion to conflict, and often bury things for long periods of time, until everything comes to a head. But I can write about my thoughts and feelings, and remain rational while doing so. I have used this strategy with my husband, too, and we have had a lot of success with it. And now, we are even starting to be able to talk to each other again without getting defensive. Writing each other is a fantastic strategy, and has the potential to open doors for the two of you. I sincerely hope you find that a great deal of the tension has lifted when you get home tonight, and you are able to have an honest conversation with your husband. Thinking of you...

  3. I think it was brilliant of you to write that note and that's good reason to feel hopeful.

    Even if he doesn't respond in the way you'd like, finding a way to express your feelings, concerns or needs is a big accomplishment on your end and would be for me as well.

    By the way, it's not all your fault that you struggle with this with him. The responses of his you're describing show contempt. That's likely to shut a lot of people down because why pour your energy into it if you know he's going to give a contemptuous response?

    With the writing, he may be able to slow himself down and give some thoughtful responses instead of the automatic responses he's been in the habit of giving.

    I love your blog by the way. Found it a few weeks ago and this is my first comment.

    Best of luck to you.

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