Over the years, there’s been a change. I’ve changed. It looks like this:
In the Beginning:
Me: Is something wrong? Are you mad about something?
Me: Are you sure… you seem upset?
Him: I told you no!
Me: Please just tell me if you are. We can talk about it. I love you…
(Jump on the wheel, search frantically for my offense or error. Pretzel myself. Finally, despair and depression. The day and moment finally arrives when he behaves sweetly again. (As long as I completely ignore what just happened and however he behaved…I’m left feeling drained and afraid of it happening again.)
A few years pass.
(Oh crud. He’s upset about something.)
Me: Are you upset with me about anything?
Him: (cold look) No.
Me: I wish you’d talk to me…
(I think I know what it might be. It could be X, Y, or Z… I’ll just fix and change all of them just in case.)
(No result, and he doesn’t seem to care… Escalation is happening. Reactive behaviors on my part that make me look like the angry, bad person often arise. I lash out, and he explodes about the X, Y, or Z that I already tried to fix. Sometimes, something entirely out of left field, QBCrazy, is launched at me as the reason he’s upset, his reason for the behavior that he simultaneously denies and excuses by blaming me for. I’m exhausted, as though someone threw me in a spin cycle.)
Further Down the Road:
(He’s upset and resenting something…I know he’s upset!)
Me: Something wrong?
Him: No, why do you ask?
Me: You seem upset.
(Who cares why he’s upset this time! What is his problem? Why does he always have to do this? I hate this! I’d like to give him a taste of his own medicine!)
(He keeps pushing buttons until he gets a reaction out of me. I try not to react, but at some level I’m dimly figuring this out, and feel almost vindicated to react. Except that afterwards, I don’t like myself. All my energy is getting sucked into this relationship, and my kids are falling through the cracks because I’m falling through the cracks. I don’t know who I am anymore. I can’t recognize myself, and I hate myself when I react this way!)
Not Long Ago:
(He’s obviously upset.)
(Whatever. Go about my day.)
(He crosses my boundaries.)
Me: That was so wrong. (Hurray! I finally know it’s wrong, and I have words for it!)
Him: Excuses, blah blah, blame, blah blah, divert, blah blah, blame, more excuses, accuse!
Me: Hmm. Let’s not discuss this until I make a counseling appointment. The counselor can hear both sides, and sort this out with us.
(He gets quiet. The wheels are spinning as he realizes he’ll look like an irrational, unreasonable jerk.)
Him: I’m sorry, I need to apologize for X, Y, Z.
Me: Yes, yes you do. Thank you for apologizing. Please stop doing those things. I also apologize for B. I need to own that.
Him: Thank you! I’m getting so tired of this whole thing. I can’t take much more of this. Maybe you’re right. Maybe we need to separate.
Me: Okay. If that’s what you think is best.
An Hour or Day Later:
Me: Stop that now, please. You’re doing again what you just apologized for.
Him: I’m sick and tired of having to apologize to you!
Me: (I could almost laugh at what he just said… except I can’t) You know what? I’m tired of you behaving in ways that you need to apologize for, and I’m tired of hearing them!
(Hmm. Observation… That behavior/action of his was unacceptably detrimental to my well being and/or the kids.)
Me: That (X, Y, Z) was unacceptable. Non-negotiable unacceptable. Stop that, or today we’re done. Your choice.
Him: I do the least little thing, and you talk about leaving?!
Me: That’s my bottom line, and that’s the only thing you seem to understand, so yes.
He glares, fumes, sulks, mumbles, starts to rant at me..
Me: Stop! Stop now. If you want to be done, fine, let’s do it. Otherwise, stop.
He stops. (still glaring at me as he walks away)
Peace. Go on with life. Refocus on my goals. Try to gather my energy back.
The irony? Later he’s usually as sweet and cheerful as a kid after a much needed sleep.
He walks in like a seemingly normal, helpful, decent, responsible man and helps out with something.
He makes me laugh. I breathe a sigh that the storm has passed again.