When I was young and my dreams were strong, I had the hope that there would be love in my marriage. I didn’t have ambitions for wealth, new cars, a big house, expensive clothes, or even care much for those things. My idea of a beautiful home included lots of books, music, art, and an interested and interesting mind to discuss them with. I dreamed of a busy kitchen with crayon drawings and extra mugs of tea for friends dropping by, kids bringing home their friends, a dog at my feet and a cat purring in my lap. I pictured growing flowers and tomatoes and an apple tree. In this dream, I’d gone to college and finished a few degrees, and we carefully used any extra money for music instruments and lessons, and saved to take the kids on trips to see the amazing things to be seen when you journey away from your own front door. Most of all, I dreamed of and wanted love in my home.
I wanted someone to smile when I came into the room. Eyes that saw my flaws through a gentle filter, and loved me passionately. I didn’t know how that would look, but I believed that I knew how it would feel.
It’s the one thing that you can’t easily find with a passive aggressive man. Windows of love seem to be fleeting, even threatening somehow, and something about sharing loving interactions and space seem to send him in retreat, to an endless myriad of reasons to resent you, feel sorry for himself, and in that resentment and self-pity, to withdraw into what must feel like nurturing control. When you’re with a passive aggressive man, part of his feeling in control seems to come from holding the power to punish you. In his own mind, the punishment is justified.
He sees that you’re disappointed. He sees that you’re lonely. He sees that you’re tired, anxious, angry, hungry, cold, or exasperated. He sees all of it, but he rarely, oh so rarely, moves to address your hurt, pain, fear, frustration, or loneliness. Because in his mind, somehow it’s your fault. He’s misunderstood. He’s unappreciated. He’s resentful.
Last night as we were getting in bed, my husband asked me if I wanted to join him in a movie night tonight. I hesitated to commit to it. (Years and years of wanting such a thing taught so many lessons, and taught me to be wary.) I decided to wait and see how the day went. He started off this morning by communicating with a degree of false anxiety about work. I use the word false, because there were no deadlines pressing, nothing negative to be anxious about. Sometimes it seems that when it’s a time to be peaceful and thankful, he finds reasons to stir up what I called false anxiety.
He popped the announcement that he needed to go to a job site (not one word about this in prior meetings or discussions), and became resentful and anxious when I asked him about the meeting, and particularly about the timing of it.
It’s the kind of thing that shouldn’t be a big deal, but as I’ve tried to explain before, you have to pay attention to the little stuff with a passive aggressive man. PA’s will use selective information, withhold information, and manipulate information with unnecessary drama at times.
He seemed to come around, to pull back from what seemed to be passive aggressive escalating dynamics, and for some hours, all seemed well. I told him I was looking forward to spending time with him and watching a movie together.
Tonight when it was time to start watching, I didn’t come quickly enough to the couch after he sat down. I went to the bathroom, then noticed our sixteen year old wasn’t here. I called her brother to make sure she was with him (which was fine), and she was. While I was on the phone listening to her brother explain why they drove to town (also fine), I had facebook up on my screen. I wasn’t interacting with anyone, or messaging, or typing anything. I ended the call, and started to shut down facebook.
He asked in the most petulant, whining tone if I was going to finally come and sit down and watch the movie. I stiffened, tried to joke a little, and asked him if he could try that again in a more appealing way. He slightly reworded, but didn’t change the tone. I suggested he try telling me he was happy to be with me, tell me that he missed me next to him etc.
Then his resentment became unmasked. It’s ugly in his eyes when that happens. I sat up and on the edge of the couch and said, “This is why I hesitated about saying yes to your movie invitation. This resentment is unpleasant and uncalled for.”
He started right in on how long he had to wait, how he was tired, how I’d been on facebook, and that he no longer wanted to watch a movie with me either.
I told him, “I only wanted love.”
I logged in here feeling so sad and tired, and saw this comment left on this thread for me: “Just because you don’t receive love doesn’t mean you don’t deserve it. You do deserve love. You are deeply and profoundly loved by your creator.”
JoAnne, thank you.