when a man loves a woman

In ALL, LIFE OBSERVATIONS, MOVIES by Stephanie Klein

It had to have been a Meg Ryan movie.  Just had to be.  In one of them, When A Man Loves A Woman, I’m pretty certain there’s some bit about how no one can make us feel.  Guilty.  Apologetic.  Useless.  Small.  We do that on our own, permit ourselves to feel ugly, stupid, unworthy.  And I’m not talking about the dressing room of a department store.  In our everyday lives, forget that we can be unapologetically cruel to ourselves.  That’s not what I’m talking about.  As adults, the film inferred, no one makes us feel anything.  We listen to what someone has to say, pay attention to their body language, then determine how we feel. About them, the situation, ourselves.   

While that might sound reasonable, it isn’t the way it works.  Forget for a moment that people make us feel loved, adored, special, and sexy.  As adults we can choose what we accept, can weigh the words of others and come up with our own conclusions about what’s valid, then decide to reject the rest.  That is, when we have a chance to think it all over, when there’s some breathing room, when we get an opportunity to step away and assess.

When I take that opportunity to figure out how I feel, I’m always fucking hungry.  It’s completely inappropriate.  Here we’ll have one of those, "I don’t feel like talking to you right now" fights, and I’ll storm off to a room by myself.  Shit, it’s never the kitchen.  I usually just dive into the bed, sinking my face into the pillows.  Then I scream or cry.  Then I get really pissed because now I’m stuck in the bedroom for our childish standoff.  I should be using the alone time to reflect on what’s been said. To make some sense out of how I’m feeling and how he must be feeling.  I recognize that thing I said, just because I knew it would piss him off, how I subtly attacked his manhood (not that manhood) and let him know I expected more of him.  And it’s in these quiet moments with myself that I should realize what I’ve done wrong, where I need to apologize, and also, where I don’t. But at least part of my time in isolation is spent thinking, "I picked the damn room."

Sometimes he makes me feel like how I feel or think is wrong.  And upon those sometimes, I sway his way and question it.  Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe he’s right.  And other times, I go through this same process and say, "No, this time, it’s not my issue."  But I’m afraid, even when it’s his issue, it’s still my issue, because I’m with him, and it’s our life.  And truthfully, the line gets blurred and I sometimes don’t know if I should be the one to change my behaviors and beliefs or if it’s him, or maybe a little of both.

I hate having to say I’ll work on something if I don’t see anything wrong with what I’m doing in the first place, when I think it’s he who should be working on things.  And I’ll do what I can to help support his change.  But it’s never that.  Ever.  It’s always my having to change.  I’m always the one who’s wrong. 

Here’s what’s interesting.  In my last relationship, I was always right.  Of course neither is true, but it speaks to the balance of things.  Of the dynamic between the people.  Who feels they must always bend, who feels they’re pulling the relationship up, and who feels they’re always apologizing for shit they don’t even do. 

I don’t want to be with someone who’s always trying to teach me a lesson, and the lesson always seems to be on how I can be more like him, because that’s "the right way."  I want to live our way without having to change my way.   I think you can be who you are without having to change.  I think it’s possible to change certain behaviors and still remain true to who you are.  But it’s not easy to always recognize when it’s something you should just let go, or when you should dig in your heels and insist the other person needs to work on their issue.  Even harder is coming up with something that works for the both of you, that requires you each to bend toward the middle.  Because someone always needs convincing that they need to be a participant in all of it, and their actions might require change, too.

I will work on not changing who I am, as I always say, but on
changing some of my behaviors.  I’ve decided to look at it that way,
instead of stubbornly saying I refuse to change.  I will continue to
be me, as that is who you fell in love with, but I will work on
changing certain behaviors that will bring more joy to our lives,
specifically: being responsible and proactive (not putting my head in
the sand, as you’d say) and setting a good role model for our
children (that a woman can take care of things without help, if need
be).  It takes two people to fight, and it’s very important to me
that our children don’t see us fight or raise our voices at each
other, disrespect each other, etc., so I will try my hardest to leave
a room, take a time out, whatever I need to do to enforce that rule.

I storm off, pre- or mid-fight, and then I wonder if I picked the right room.  The bedroom has everything I need.  I have clothes and blankets, a television, books, light, and a comfortable bed.  But there’s no kitchen.  If I am brooding downstairs I think, "if only I could sleep on the sofa."  But I never can.  I need to start hoarding food in this bedroom of mine.