In the midst of some painful and draining current events, my husband is behaving well. So far, we’re tag teaming to deal with a lot of stuff. I’m thankful it’s going this way, but I can’t trust in it because the years have taught me not to fully trust him. There have been too many horrific moments and abusive incidents that taught me that my vulnerability was not safe in his hands. But this is a good stretch, and so I try not to think about it ending because dwelling on those thoughts would waste precious energy that I need to sanely process and proactively cope.
During the times of good behavior, anyone from the outside might think I’m the problem. Heck ya, how many times when he’s being industrious, helping with the kids or something in the house, and behaving in ways that seem oh so sacrificial, kind, and loving, have I then wondered… What is wrong with me??
Add to the mix my own sins, my faults, weaknesses, and mistakes, and my less than shining moments as a human being.
One of my favorite bloggers wrote this post recently: pity party and it resonated for me. She wrote: “My husband took one of our cats to the vet for me to day. He made dinner for me this evening. He offered to rub my feet for me tonight.”
This is the part where outsiders look and think… “What?? He does all that and it’s not enough??”
What outsiders don’t know is that we long for those things to be acts of love. We give him the benefit of the doubt that those are genuine acts of love (and perhaps indeed some are attempts to love us), and we want so much for those kinds of acts to be building blocks towards intimacy and growth. We want so desperately for that one safe space that’s real, where love is real and safe and we can trust in hope. We want hope to be real, sane, and safe. Sadly, what I think most of us have learned is that when we allow ourselves to hope, we’re taking that step towards the crash.
The crash is the awful moment when love just isn’t there. I don’t mean flawed or imperfect love, but the total absence of love. We reach out for love, and there’s an empty space because he’s withdrawn affection and intimacy. We reach out for love and there’s a gaping cold void that no real lover would leave for his beloved. We look in his eyes hoping to see the same pain and distress that we’re feeling at the canyon yawning between us, but instead his eyes stare back with cool, implacable dispassion. The hope that was like a small green shoot pushing through the obstacle of hard rocky history gets stunned and withered by the acid rain of his relentless resentments.
We want to be loved by the man who tells us that he loves us. We want to believe that the behaviors that look like love are real. We want the moments of feeling loved to be safe moments, not co-existing with a niggling fear that the rug will be pulled out from under our feet. We want the loving acts to be something done by him because he takes joy in our thriving.
It’s just a matter of time before the amazingly nice guy, the charming and lovable man, switches to the critical, aloof, resentful, and lukewarm roommate. Not a lover, but a platonic roommate. I get to hear about what he did for me later when he uses it as a weapon to remind me what a great guy he is. How dare you feel hurt by what I just did to offend you, harm you, or neglect you? Bam! Out come reminders of each and every thing he did for me.
If he did it for me, why does he throw it at me? Why does he use it to sting me, and as justification for hurting me?
Right now he’s helpful, friendly, and decent. I need that so much. He just cleaned the litter box for our daughter’s cat, and cleaned up a furball icky mess the cat launched nearby. He helped clean and make space for our son coming home. He’s helping with the garden. He helped with dishes last night. (Never mind the dishwasher he hasn’t had time to install for the past two years that just sits in the shed. It doesn’t matter. I’ll still feel absurdly grateful for his doing the dishes, and try to remind myself that he lives here too.)
His frame is made of dust, just as mine is. Compassion arises from acute awareness of our shared human frailty.
A passive aggressive man can be so lovable. I married that lovable, charming, sweet guy. I just didn’t know that he had an evil twin that would make it an eternal ménage à trois.