Monday, September 6, 2010

Working Through It

Sunday morning Z asked if it was cool to invite a mutual friend over for a campfire out back that night. 
“Um,” I hesitated, “Um, I guess.  I mean, I might not hang out with you guys.  Is that OK?”
“Yeah.  Listen, if you want I’ll just ask her to meet me at the bar.”
“Oh.”  Long pause. “Um, I don’t know.”
“Look.  We need to deal with this in different ways.  You need to withdraw and be alone.  I need to be around people.”
“Can we talk about it a little later?”

The thing is it is completely legitimate that we deal with this in different ways.  Seven years ago I would have felt so abandoned by Z’s reaction to this situation.  Therapy, wonderful therapy has taught us so much though.  We know we are allowed to have whatever reaction we have.  Truth be told I am pulling away from him as much as he is pulling away from me.  I just want us to sit silently on opposite ends of the sofa for hours on end.  Shockingly that doesn’t sound appealing to him.  He needs to escape the house, escape the sadness, rely on the small chance everything still might be alright. 

It doesn’t help that he has, for reasons unrelated to our relationship, had a hellish week.  By the time we got to the doctor appointment on Friday he was running on fumes.  And for the first 20 minutes of the appointment he was corralling a very unruly almost toddler while the doctor and I chatted.  As soon as it became clear things were not as they should be his only goal was providing me with whatever comfort he could. 

In fact, he was so focused on trying to comfort me that I forgot until I got home that he was suffering a tremendous loss as well.  That isn’t unusual with Z.  It would be an understatement to say he keeps his emotions to himself.  There is a thin line between stoicism and repression.  He keeps it all stuffed inside until he just can’t anymore and then there is a pretty unpleasant eruption. 

It isn’t like my method of dealing with the hard stuff is so much better.  I completely fall apart followed by sitting for hours in an unresponsive semi-vegetative state, not wanting to interact in any way, but wanting Z to be right here waiting quietly.  For what I am not sure. 

So I need something different from what he can give to get through tough times.  So he needs something different from what I can give to get through tough times.  An example of why opposites attracting doesn’t always make for the best situation.

What do you do?  I don’t know.  I’m not a relationship expert.  I like to think we have a good marriage, but we certainly don’t have a perfect one.  Thankfully we are both invested in hobbling through and we love each other. 

Why write about the bad stuff?  That one I do know.  I feel like it is OK our relationship is not perfect.  It’s OK we can’t help each other 100% of the time.  The minute I start expecting perfection from him is the minute I’m setting myself up for a lifetime of disappointment.  The vast majority of the time we are there for each other.  We have fun together, we crack each other up, we cheer each other up when one of us is blue (You guys read my facebook status updates.  I never make that stuff up.  Z actually is that funny.)  Most of the time we have a wonderful knack for pulling ourselves together when the other needs to fall apart.  But nothing is good all of the time.  Sometimes we need to fall apart at the same time.  Writing about all the good stuff isn't helpful.  But writing about the bad stuff is going to help both of us get closer to figuring each other out. 

This is our first real hurt since T was born.  The complications after T’s birth were sad for both of us, but they were really just happening to my body, so while Z was outraged by my treatment he wasn’t sucker punched by grief.  He doesn’t like to see me in pain (duh), and there was a little bit of running away because of that, but we were able to talk about it and work through it easily.  I mean, I am a bottomless sinkhole of need.  That is an incredible amount of pressure to put on anyone.  It is literally impossible for Z to live up to my expectations. 

This time we are equally in pain.  And we need different things.  And both of those needs are legitimate.  Welcome to marriage, no easy answers.  I still wouldn’t trade it for anything.   

Note: Again, I have Z’s full support in posting this.   Over the last few months he has seen how much it helps me to write about the issues in our life and he is being extremely generous by letting me post my uncensored feelings about our relationship. 

Also, we ended up having a pretty great day yesterday all things considered.  Concentrating on T makes both of us feel better and keeps us laughing.  Our friend did come over.  I even hung out with them for a while around the fire.  Z stayed up too late, drank too much, didn’t talk about it with her, and not only was it incredibly good for him he also got up at 6:30 with the boy and let me sleep late.  Lesson: when he gets what he needs it can work out for me, too…

Pointing out the sights at Green Lakes Park


  1. Wow -- beautiful writing. And great relationship advice. I learned a thing or two that I am going to try to carry through in the next couple of months. Thank you for this post.

  2. I'm thinking of you and glad to have you as a friend...And I'm glad you and Z have each other too, even if it can be hard.

  3. You're doing a great job. Being human. Being a wife. Being a mom. Writing. Mourning.

    "It’s OK we can’t help each other 100% of the time. The minute I start expecting perfection from him is the minute I’m setting myself up for a lifetime of disappointment." True, true, true. No one person can answer our every need, and shouldn't have to. I'm such a firm believer that when you are able to draw on the pearls of strength that reside in the hearts of your emotional community, outside of your marriage, then you can draw more strength into your own small family.

    Look around, see yourself surrounded by big strong hearts, wide open arms, and the loving silence of all of those who love you.

  4. Karen, thanks for writing about the hard stuff. We are not dealing at all with the level of hard stuff that you two are, but through this whole planning process, not to mention six months of joblessness, we've come to learn that we deal with things in very different ways. And sometimes you just want the other person to deal with things they way YOU do, and the way you NEED them to... and I think it's especially hard when they can't do that when they HAVE done that in the past. Like, "You've been able to do what I want before, why can't you do that now?" Of course it doesn't work that way...
    It's so good that you're seeing what both of you need, even if it isn't the ideal, and letting him and yourself need what you need.
    We're still thinking of you guys over here. Thanks for sharing such real stuff.

  5. Shiva-if you come for Thanksgiving we can talk more.

    Janine-I'm glad to have you as a friend as well.

    Emily-I love the idea of drawing strength from friends into my family. Thank you for that amazing thought.

    M-We are sending you good wedding thoughts. I think you guys are going to rock marriage. And thanks for thinking about us.