Upset, I once screamed to Phil, "We’re only ever happy in the grocery store!" Because when we’re there, we can live our dreams, and our only limits are our imaginations. Needs and wants can actually be met. Sometimes the "What do I want?" part is hard, but unlike life, you can leave, return things, or abandon them without remorse. Or you can toss it all into your cart, then skip down another aisle of wants.
It’s our greatest frustration, wanting to be heard, to know the other feels the way we do. He wants me to know how selfish I can be, how when I think first of myself, and not of "us" or of what he might like, it makes him feel like an idiot for thinking of me. I want him to know how scared I feel when he yells at me. I want him to know what it’s like to live with someone who expresses rage over not closing a bathroom door on the same level one might use if they’d discovered their spouse was cheating. But we have a hard time giving each other what we need, telling and actually hearing what it is the other is saying, taking it to heart and saying, "Even if you’re not right, even if you’re completely wrong, I’m going to give you what you need because it’s important to you." I think if we were both able to say this and mean it things would be easier.
They’re actually not even hard or strained right now. It’s why I’m able to get some height over it and figure out what I can do to be a better wife. Though the thing that kills me is, as much as he does (and he does plenty, and when I seem to act like I don’t realize all he does, he sends me lists of all he’s worked so hard to do) I don’t think he ever thinks, "what can I do to be a better husband for her?" He constantly strives to make my life easier, to worry about the things I hate having to think about. He argues with insurance people and interviews people, talks to the press for me. He handles things. I need and value all of that. And if he didn’t do those things, he tells me, "they wouldn’t get done." And I think, they wouldn’t get done your way. And I’d also throw up my hands, bitch about it the whole time, and hate it. But what I really want is for him not to yell or be sarcastic and to not have to strive so hard to make a point. I don’t want him to negotiate with me.And I don’t want any more lectures or lessons.
I need to know how best to react when he lashes out. To let him know it’s not okay, that it’s not setting a good example for our children. What can you do in that situation? Leave? Walk out on your family? I’m not doing that. Say,"I won’t speak to you when you talk to me like that?" Then spend days in silence? I don’t want to live like that.
So I asked if it would be okay if I read him this post when he walked into the bedroom. He says sure, unsure about what I’m going to read. I thought it could be a window into a conversation, that he’d see I was really thinking of things, that I wanted to know what he thought worked and what didn’t. But apparently my timing was off.
"I can’t believe you just blindsided me with this. How selfish can you be? I’ve been working all day, and the three hours I get where I don’t have to do anything and I can just watch some stupid TV, you come to me with this? Don’t lie to me and say you want to be a better wife. All you want to do is force me to think like you do. How selfish are you to even bring this up right now? There are so many untruths in what you just said."
"Okay, do you want to talk about it tomorrow then?"
"See what you just did?" he says more than he asks. "You just brushed it away. I just told you how I feel, and you just ignored it."
"No, I didn’t. I was respecting what you just said, listening to what you just said and doing something about it."
"No, you were sweeping my feelings under the rug. You have no idea how mean you are to me all the time."
"Listen to how selfish you are!" He screams.
And I wish we were in a grocery store, where voices couldn’t be raised without scenes. Where everyone is happy. Where we can feed each other samples. Food fixes things, even when it can’t.