On Wednesday night I shared how I did something different, and how for the first time in many, many, many months, my husband and I finally had a good night.
If you’re wondering how our appointment with the therapist went today, that will be the final installment of the story.
Consider this Part III of the Not Your Average Marriage Miniseries.
For those of you who need instant gratification, here are the cliff notes:
Our session began with my husband and I happily entering our very surprised therapist’s office.
And it ended with me storming out of the building.
We got into a fight about thirty minutes into therapy, and I was so angry that I left.
Like I got up off the couch, left my husband and therapist in the room, and flew out of the office, the building, and the parking lot as quickly as I could.
I WAS SO ANGRY.
I felt extremely misunderstood.
HOLY COW DID I FEEL MISUNDERSTOOD.
And massively unappreciated.
I know we have a really really really REALLY long way to go.
I am not naive enough to think that one good night would solve all of our problems.
Or any of them, really.
This isn’t my first time at the marriage rodeo. There is a lot of work to be done.
And as soon as we started talking about money, I knew we were playing with fire.
Money is our biggest source of conflict.
Actually that’s not true.
Communication is our biggest source of conflict.
Communicating about money is nearly impossible for us.
So attempting to discuss anything having to do with money in the first 48 hours of just speaking to each other again was, um….
Maybe stupid isn’t the best word.
Maybe ambitious would be better.
We are not ready to discuss and hot button topics.
We shoulda just stuck to talking about what was going really well.
Or baby goats.
So I felt completely attacked and misrepresented and blamed and judged and shamed, and I could feel the emotions coming.
ALL THE EMOTIONS.
You know when you forget about the pasta on the stove and it goes from bubbling up very close to the top of the pot to just completely overflowing everywhere — all over the stove — in like .2 seconds?
That’s me in my marriage.
There is not much time between the lots of bubbles and the volcano-esque overflow of the pasta water.
In the last few years I have worked really hard to keep the water in the pot. I know when the bubbles are getting very close to the edge.
There has been no overflow in a long, long time.
But in order to avoid that, I have to remove myself from the situation.
Which is what happened today.
After I left the office, I had to run a few errands, and I spent the entire time I was in the car fuming.
My husband was not getting it.
He would never get it.
I was upset, but mostly I was hurt.
Which is what it really comes down to.
He said some things which hurt me so deeply.
And he did not see how they were hurtful.
To be so wounded by someone else’s words and for them to have no idea what you are even talking about is extremely frustrating.
Hopelessness was returning.
Fear that he would never get it and that as long as I remain in this marriage, I will never be understood. Ever.
To think that I will never be truly heard in my marriage and by my husband is terrifying to me.
And I obsessed over this for a quite a while this morning.
And then I thought about Number 7.
I thought about the turkeys and the picture in front of the Christmas tree and I thought, Nope. You don’t get to quit already.
And then I remembered what Bryan Stevenson said on that Oprah podcast.
Mercy is like a mirror. I think mercy is what you give to others with the hope that it will come back to you. It’s what you give to people who don’t deserve it. It’s what you give to people who haven’t asked for it.
And then I thought about that pot of pasta.
Boiling over used to be a habit for me.
In the early years of our marriage, when things got to the boiling point, I would explode.
I would yell and scream and sometimes throw things.
It was an automatic reaction.
I had to work very hard to change that.
It has taken tremendous amounts of self-control and self-awareness and energy and WORK to change that habit.
And the change has been to remove myself from the situation before I can become out of control.
And that’s certainly better than than going ballistic.
By the way, I’m only talking about me here.
I don’t believe this is all on me.
My husband is absolutely just as responsible for our troubles as I am.
But the difference is that I cannot control what my husband does.
I can’t force him to act differently.
I can’t make him acknowledge his part in any of this.
The only thing I can do is take care of my stuff.
by taking care of my stuff, it will encourage him — either consciously or subconsciously — to examine what he is bringing to the dysfunction table.
Normally when we get to this point where I have to physically leave the room my husband is in, we will go into standoff mode. Silence. Complete avoidance.
This can last anywhere from hours to days to weeks to months.
This is our habit.
The only way things will change is if we change our habits.
I’d love for my husband to change his habits, but again, the only person I have control over is MOI.
So, I made a decision right there in the car.
I was going to call my husband, I was going to talk to him, and hopefully we’d get back on track.
I called him.
I attempted to communicate my feelings effectively.
He hung up on me.
And I was back to square one, feeling misunderstood, invalidated, and most of all, hurt.
I started a new pity party for a while, and then I thought about something I often encourage parents to do with their kids.
I have a decent sense of humor.
I’m told I’m funny.
But in my marriage, more often than not, I feel cranky and angry and bitchy.
That’s not the wife or mother or human being I want to be.
So, I switched gears.
In fact, I did a complete 180.
If I want to effect change in my marriage, then I need to do something(s) differently. Because what I’m doing now ain’t working.
I need to develop some new habits when my husband and I are not effectively communicating.
Does my husband also have work to do?
But I can’t control that. I can only control me.
And perhaps by taking ownership of my stuff, he will eventually take ownership of his.
If not, I’ll certainly be growing and improving as a human being in the process, and so for that I should be grateful.
Whatever the outcome, I will be a stronger, more evolved and more compassionate person a week, a month, a year from now.
But up until thirty minutes into our therapy session, we had been doing so well. We were moving forward. We were making progress!
I WAS NOT GOING TO GO IN REVERSE, DAMMIT.
So I texted my husband.
He didn’t reply.
I sent him a series of texts that were so funny I was laughing out loud.
Did he think they were funny?
I don’t know. I didn’t ask him.
But they got him to finally pick up the phone.
And they sure did change my mindset.
I went from fuming to feeling hopeful. Just by making the conscious decision to change my attitude.
And I was able to tell my husband that I loved him, to apologize, and to make it clear that I wanted to keep moving forward.
He said he wanted to do the same.
You know, they say there are no bad students, only bad teachers.
There are no bad swimmers. Only bad coaches.
There are no bad teams. Only bad leaders.
If I want to see change in this marriage, if I want to improve communication, if I want to really be heard and understood and it’s not happening now, then it’s on me to communicate more effectively.
I so quickly go straight to my husband and point the finger at him.
That’s another habit, I guess.
So that’s what I’m focusing on.
Not on what my husband isn’t getting.
But on what I’m not giving.
Being a grown up is hard f*&%ing work.
But no matter what the outcome is, I’m finally ready to tackle this aspect of the job.