Depression

I was depressed for a large portion of my late teens and most of my twenties. I was able to move through it and there were definitely “happy” moments. Right beneath the surface there was always something sinister lurking, threatening to swallow me whole.

There are many experiences that led to it, but I don’t think they’re relevant here. The important thing is I have worked out my childhood issues that led to the depression and have the tools, resources, and support to work through additional things as they come up.

I always refused the drugs offered by my therapists because I took so much medication as a child. I had terrible allergies and asthma and as a result had at least two major infections a year, even with allergy shots combined with daily allergy medication, including strep throat and bronchitis, and even walking pneumonia one year.

In addition to that, my brain chemistry is a little weird. I’m one of those folks who suffers from Summer Seasonal Affective Disorder (Summer SAD), which is essentially summer depression. It has something to do with my allergies combined with the summer heat. The chemicals released in my sinuses, called cytokines, travel from my sinus cavities to my brain and block serotonin and dopamine production. Great.

Although I know some people who have great luck with mood enhancing prescription drugs, I also know some, like an ex’s former assistant, who sleep walks and hides pizza cutters in her sleep. I have seen her do it. I know others who become oddly numb, like no emotion, happy or sad, passes through. I’d prefer to feel. Maybe that’s why I like that movie Equilibrium so much. It’s too much of a gamble, not feeling. I also feel like there’s a lesson in the pain somewhere. For me, the way out is through.

Not taking prescription drugs gives me the chance to work on things myself. I don’t even drink during those times. This method is not for everyone. No matter how deep it goes, I know I can find my way back to myself, with the help of a professional to talk to, even if I have to claw my way out. These days, I’m generally pretty even keeled, or have been for the last three years or so. That’s not to say that I don’t get upset about things from time to time. Clearly, I do, as referenced in the arguments SC and I have had. I allow myself to feel all of the feels and then I re-balance.

Awareness is key for me. I know what I need to do to feel like myself and feel well. When it first comes on, I feel like I am being sucked away into this sad place, a place that is not mine in a feeling that is not mine, trying to claw my way out. It fucking sucks. In the past, I gave in.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the dude I was involved with before SC, Ben, came in at the tail end of me dealing with some mental and emotional debris on top of moving towards a goal on a road filled with many unexpected hurdles and roadblocks. I was not depressed going into the relationship, just highly stressed. Depression came with prolonged exposure to Ben’s attitude. Dude was not helpful. He’d been depressed for most of his 40 years of life as an unwanted child with depressed parents devoid of affection, mourning the loss of the male child who came and died before he was conceived. Couple that with a failed marriage at the age of 22, a career path abandoned, and no support and he spiraled.

Thing is, we met after Ben had made it through. (Well, kinda. His progress is debatable.) He reminded me that he knew what it felt like all the while treating me like shit for having feelings relative to the things occurring in my life at the time. He offered no viable solutions only criticism. It’s bad enough feeling lost all the time and worse when your partner discredits your efforts, talks down to you, and devalues your goals.

I already felt like I had to fight for love, thanks to childhood BS, and then I felt like I had to prove to Ben that my struggle was worthy (more childhood conditioning) which created thought loops that led to another round of depression. Granted, dude told me he lacked empathy. It turns out he has narcissistic personality disorder. Fucker. I could blame him, but I packed up my things so many times and still chose to stay in that relationship. I needed to learn some things about myself and about relationships in that weird pairing that always felt something like purgatory.

Thanks to Ben, I know what it’s like to suffer from depression while being with a partner who is far from supportive, so when SC reminded me, “I am still depressed. Some of the events just before we got married have compounded it,” it all made sense. He still needs to get himself together as far as we are concerned. I can also operate with a gentler hand.

I forget sometimes because I see a light go on in him when we are together. I remember having that feeling when I first met Ben, like there is this person who shines a light in the darkness. Someone who you spend time with and forget all of the things that worry you, someone with whom you can be fully present…A SAFE PLACE.

The difference is, I’ve seen SC’s deepest and darkest. I allowed him to do that without judgment. Remember, he got that round of bad news a couple of months ago and I saw him through it. Through all of it, the anger, the verbal expression of an endless thought loop, the tears, the stomping, the yelling, etc.

He has been there for me and kept me from spiraling out of control.

SC is not a drain. Maybe he could be and I happen to know how to protect my energy better these days. I’m not sure.

He has some issues to work out. Some of them are rooted so deep and deal with things he has no control over. I remember being in my late twenties still angry at my parents for all of their bullshit. Some people never move past that stage. The one where you want them to know how much they hurt you and screwed up your life and you want that apology from them. You want remorse. The apology may never come.

I remember confronting my mom about some stuff while she was out here visiting me in the desert. It was 117 degrees and this woman got out of the car. She would rather walk 2 miles in that oppressive heat than confront some things. It wasn’t until this last year or so…7 years later…after I’d mentally and emotionally forgiven her and my dad, that my mom needed to absolve herself and apologize. My dad has yet to apologize for anything, but that is neither here nor there. His time will come or it won’t.

SC has got to stand up and work on the things he can control, which is something I see him doing in our relationship, which is pretty freaking amazing. Although I am not in his head, I do not think he wants to feel bad forever. Dude, he started washing dishes right after cooking; he did all of the laundry the past couple of weekends because he knows I hate doing it (even though I will, like tonight I will); he’s actually following a budget for the first time in his life; he cut down on his drinking after our blowout Wednesday. He’s adaptable. I hope he’s adapting because he wants to and not just to “prove” to me that he’s worth it. I already decided that when I chose to accept his proposal after turning others down. If he could just apply that to the things clouding his mind…

I’m holding space for him because that’s something I can do that’s helpful. Some of my friends reading this may ask why I’d bother.

  1. I signed up for this, for better or for worse.
  2. I changed my name already.
  3. This is a chance for me to hold space for someone. I had two friends in the recent past go above and beyond to hold space for me. They did more than that. They weren’t even friends with each other prior and they did not remain friends once I made it out of the hole I was in, but they came together for me. They made sure one or both of them was always at my place with me to ensure that I got up and out when I needed to. They passed me off between the two of them to make sure I wasn’t alone. They drove me to campus and walked me to class. If we had different classes, they left their classes early to meet me when my class was over. They made sure I ate and showered, made it to work and rehearsals. Yes, there is a chance I could have made it without them. There’s a huge chance I’d have killed myself or at least self destructed without them. This is a chance to pay it forward, to be present for someone I love dearly. It’s also a chance to do this service for the late teen and early twenties version of me who lacked support and always wanted the chance to give it if possible.
  4. I still spiral sometimes in the summer months. I can feel it and SC takes the time to help me ground.
  5. Working out issues is lifelong. I am a constant work in progress. As long as he’s doing the work, why judge?
  6. He’s not a wreck.

We’ll get through this, together.

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Progress and the Dog

Okay, I am not getting rid of my dog. I can’t do that. I feel like I’ve failed as a dog owner, but trainers have reassured me that we should regain control once we move. Now that that’s out of the way:

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I’m not big on holding grudges. I’m not big on holding onto anger. In my experience, it seems to do more harm than good. This is what it is. I am well aware of the fact that it’s not going to be all unicorns and rainbows all of the time. My parents have been married 38 years in September and I witnessed first hand what happened when they stopped making an effort. Part of that effort is being willing to move through together and learn from the not so pleasant parts.

So much has happened in the past few days since the argument. Argument does not seem like the appropriate word. It was more like a blowout.

That same night, I emailed links to the article I used in the last post and another highlighting the stages of relationships and the power struggle stage. I let him know that I believe we can get through it. It will take some practice, but we can do it. His initial response was not promising.

The next day, SC ended up working a half day from home, so he was there when I got in. I’d already planned to see the final dress rehearsal for a play at our resident theater with our mutual friend, Franc. I needed to get out of the house and I think SC needed some time to himself. Actually, to be perfectly honest, I did not consider his feelings on the matter. I was going out. I later extended an invitation knowing SC would decline.

I moved about the house as I normally would. I let him come to me when he felt ready.

The conversation was the epitome of dealing with a Gemini. Both twins were there. One wanted to understand what happened and the dominant one wanted to hold a grudge FOREVER. He asked where things went south and let me know he probably would not understand. I reiterated the fact that I knew taking a five minute walk around the complex to breathe and center myself would have been enough to diffuse the situation. I’d put these actions on the table as tools to remain calm on my end and he denied me that moment of peace. Instead he expected me to sit there and take the barrage of verbal insults without reacting defensively, or emotionally.

I recounted the places where I felt I was responsible and the things I could have done differently. I told him that anyone, including him, would have responded the same way I did to verbal insults and definitive judgments. Problems are more easily solved when we address the issue as opposed to name calling. I told him that his words were full of contempt and distaste and it is a rare being who can stand up to that without going on the defensive.

SC denied any wrongdoing. “People always say that, but it’s not true. They’re wrong.” (Really? All of them? All of those people say the exact same thing about your method of communication, but they’re ALL wrong? I didn’t say any of this, but I thought it.) He moved to go inside, effectively ending the conversation where it stood, with him being right and me being completely wrong. I continued talking slowly and calmly. I’m not sure why. I had the feeling that things would be okay. The message was the same as it was before, but I saw something wash over SC and click that time.

He turned to me and said, “You’re right. I don’t know how to communicate when I am angry. I’m not sure what to do about that.”

We effectively ended the discussion there. There was no resolution on the table or even a course of action. When I got home from the dress rehearsal, he was passed out on the couch.

The following evening, Friday, he was moving about the cabin as planned. He called his friends to ensure that they’d be over to help finish packing up his apartment and handle any necessary repairs and painting.

I wasn’t confused, but it was like dealing with a different person.

I watched him talk himself down from what looked like a panic attack Sunday morning as the guys were loading the U-Haul. It got pretty bad there for a second. He kept telling me he was fine, but his breathing was labored, he was shaking, and his voice kept doing weird shit. He was panicked about bringing so much stuff to the house and the emptying of his place. Still, everything has either been moved to storage or to “our” condo until we move.

I will probably have a panic attack of my own when we start moving everything out of my place into the new place. We’ve lived at our respective places for over three years. This move requires putting faith in the fact that we will be okay, that we made the right decision. Part of making the right decision means knowing that the cards don’t always just fall into place. We have to put them there.

On our way home from a long Sunday of moving SC turned to me and said, “I know we can do this. We just have to be patient. I see why people take all of the time to decide to get married and another year to work out the logistics, but we did it the way that worked for us. It might be a little bumpy, especially over the next 30 to 45 days while we execute our move. Promise me you’ll hang in there with me.”

I hope that means he will hang in there with me. There’s more to this, I’ll address it later.

I have no conclusion for this. Last week was the most confusing I’ve experienced in a long time.

 

 

He’s Always Right, Even When He’s Wrong

This could easily be my last blog post. My faith in this union was entirely premature. Sky (SC) is killing my soul.

In an article about overcoming the relationship power struggle, Bruce Muzik writes:

After a while of this power struggle, even the smallest disagreements get blown out of proportion leaving you feeling alone, abandoned and totally disconnected from the one person you love most.

Once you feel disconnected, you most likely become needy and demanding, desperately trying to reconnect with your lover…

…or you become withdrawn and distant, shutting down to protect yourself and taking time alone to process how you’re feeling.

Whatever the case, your relationship no longer feels safe.

Does this sound kinda familiar?

Am I close? Maybe you’re wondering if I’m psychic!

EVERYTHING’S OK

If you can relate to any of what I’ve just described, you’re normal.

I’ll say that again: You are normal and it’s OK that you’re fighting.

What I’ve described above is the inevitable journey from the Romance Stage of relationship to the Power Struggle stage of relationship. It’s not your fault – it’s designed by nature this way.

To some degree you lost yourself in your relationship while falling in love and have become dependent on your partner. This is not actually a “bad” thing and is a necessary part of the bonding process that happens when we fall in love.

However, it is not a sustainable way to live, so nature forces you to energetically separate and establish a new, more healthy shared power between you.

If you succeed, you graduate with flying colors to the next stage of relationship – mature love. If you don’t, you break up.

Is it okay, though? Is it normal? This journey…I feel like I’m crawling through the barren desert with a partner who takes the canteen full of water away every time I need a drink and castigates me for being thirsty and getting ill. HOW IS THIS NORMAL?!?!?!

I figured out the root of all of our disagreements. Every argument we have had has surfaced right after I have made a financial contribution. Last night it happened to be that I bought dinner. One almost happened the night before after I bought dinner (We usually eat in btw.), but I was able to diffuse it. Add in the dog disobeying him when he got home from work and the fact that I talked to a not so attractive male neighbor about the HOA and the ridiculous $405 monthly HOA fee for fifteen minutes and our world fucking exploded.

It didn’t truly hit me until I walked into work today. Luckily I have my own office where I can hide my tears.

I have done everything I can possibly think of. I followed all of the actions I set in place to keep calm and diffuse arguments where possible. I asked for five minutes to walk around the complex and clear my head. Instead of granting that five minutes, Sky told me I couldn’t stop him from coming with. He followed and continued to spew delusional, drunken garbage. I snuck out to the car to sit for five minutes and he accused me of doing that to beg for attention.

My trajectory was clear. I asked for a moment of time to myself. He did not acquiesce, so I took the space without “asking.” Where did he get begging for attention from that? He was gas lighting me. Go figure. Meanwhile, he did that later by telling me he was leaving and then sitting in his car and texting me for over an hour.

I begged him to stop name calling, stop making irrational judgments about my character, and focus on the issue at hand, but he crossed every line I drew in the sand. The boundaries, put in place to help me center myself, just inflamed him. It was totally okay for him to leave, though. It is always all about Sky. He says the relationship comes first, but he proved, yet again, that his ego does, even if it means our downfall and the death of our dreams for our future.

I already knew that there is a power struggle in relationships and all relationship articles I’ve encountered say that’s where most relationships end, at the disillusionment phase.  I sincerely believed for sure if we could just get through it, we would have a great union. That’s why I asked him to wait a year or two to have children. I knew there would be kinks to work out. This is normal, but Sky insists that I am a monster.

I take credit where I am responsible, always, at this stage in my life anyway. I have to say, I truly did not start this. I tried to diffuse and once it escalated I engaged, as one does when emotions are heightened.

My husband, however, is positive that he is infallible. I should have known this. In every story he’s ever told, even those where he has shown me text chains that would point to his degree of fault, it’s always the other person, never him. Then he wonders why people “hate” him.

So I don’t know what happens now. All I know is that I gave it everything I had and he gave me drunken, delusional critiques and put downs. I have to get my emotional life in order and the only way to do it together is if he does his own work.

I am still all for marrying someone right away if that feels right. With the right partner and directed effort, these things can turn out wonderfully. I have seen it before. Maybe I just played the wrong hand.

 

Shared Time and Television

I’m tired. My body is still recovering from the car accident back in March and some days I need more sleep than others. Surprisingly I need more sleep on the low pain days than the high pain days. Go figure.

All weekend I dozed in between packing and moving. As soon as I put my head in SC’s lap or on his chest, I would pass out. That’s not normal for me. I mean, I feel safe with him and comfortable, but it is a sign that my body needs more rest.

Yesterday, I knew I had to go to sleep early in order to survive the rest of the week at this job that has maybe 10 hours of design work for me to do each week, if I am lucky, where I am expected to sit around for the rest of the 30 hours getting paid to do NOTHING. Ugh! The contractor they had before hiring me full time clearly over stated the amount of time it took to complete projects.

SC has never really been a sleeper. I recall scrolling past plenty of videos and updates he posted on Facebook in the middle of the night about his inability to sleep. He sleeps now. His first full night of sleep in over a year was the night he slept on the couch at my place back in April. He sleeps pretty deeply now, but he still goes to bed late even though his body seems to crave rest. Case in point, we laid down for a nap on Friday after work at 5:30 pm and we woke up at 1:30 in the morning.

Let’s talk television.

Luckily there is some overlap in the shows and movies we are interested in, however, SC is not big on watching anything I suggest. Hell, it took me a month to get him to buy in on ‘American Gods’ even after his two closest friends vouched for it. Now he loves it. We wait all week for his friend to come over Sunday night to watch one episode.

I watch shows he’s interested in, but the three times I’ve wanted to watch something, he just “couldn’t get into it,” even when it’s a show he actually likes. I’m not suggesting things like ‘Jane the Virgin’ or ‘Scandal’. I can watch those on my own.

My gorgeous man-child husband, lounging around in a t-shirt and underwear, only wants to watch what he wants to watch when he wants to watch it. Occasionally I will pop ‘Last Week Tonight’ on and he’ll willingly watch it because it’s informative and funny and who doesn’t like John Oliver? Wait, don’t answer that.

On my way home from work I decided I would chill in the bedroom and watch some of my shows on my iPad so he could have the TV to himself. He’s been re-watching ‘Trailer Park Boys’ on Netflix for the past three or four days. I’ve never watched the entire series. Don’t get me wrong, it can be amusing. The comedic timing is spot on and Bubbles is hilarious to me. That being said, I don’t feel like watching all 11 seasons right now. I just don’t.

I’ve fallen behind on the shows I watch over the last three months and I plan to catch up, whether SC watches them with me or not.

I’d had ‘Last Week Tonight’ on before we had dinner. I went out to smoke a cigarette (Yes I am a runner who smokes. At least I ran and will run again once I finish healing.) While I was outside he switched from ‘Last Week Tonight’ to ‘Trailer Park Boys’, so I went in the bedroom and turned on my iPad. The episode of ‘Last Week Tonight’ was almost over anyway. I wasn’t sure what I felt like watching, but another day of ‘Trailer Park Boys’ was not on the list.

He came in the room and asked, “What is this?” I explained that I just wanted to catch up on a couple of shows and that I was beat and would likely go to bed early. I let him know that it had nothing to do with us and that we were fine. He took the dog with him and closed the bedroom door.

About an hour later, he busted the door open to find me half asleep and said, “I don’t like this. I think it’s fucked up that you’re not watching television with me and that you don’t want to watch ‘Preacher’ with me tonight.” Then he was gone. I think I fell back to sleep in the middle of the speech. Let’s assume so because it was like he was talking and then he vanished.

I went out and explained to him again that it had nothing to do with him and that I have shows that I watch that will likely not interest him so I will watch them on my own. I then asked if he planned to watch ‘Preacher’ and he said he realized I was exhausted and it could wait until tomorrow. I went and passed out in the bed. It was only 9:30 or so. I woke up at 5:40 this morning. Clearly I needed the rest.

I’m not sure where I was going with this. I’m not sure how to work the television viewing thing out. SC is super selfish about watching what he wants when he wants to. I know my dad will sit on his laptop while my mom watches shows he might not be into and he’s even gotten into some like ‘Jane the Virgin’.

I know I keep talking about that damn series. I never thought I would get that into a CW show. I ran out of things to watch and Hulu kept suggesting it. I got hooked. This season they took it off of Hulu and the CW app kept crashing. Now it’s on Netflix and since SC entered the picture I haven’t had a chance to really get into it again.

My dad, of all people, keeps asking if I’ve caught up so we can talk about it. I’m still on episode 2 after many attempts to watch it because SC keeps coming home early to spend time together. For that, I am grateful. Who doesn’t want a husband who wants to spend all of their time with them? This is a dream.

What’s a girl to do? It’s only television, but this is what we do when we come home from work, cook, eat, and lounge around chatting and watching anything until it’s time for bed. We did these things on our own before we got together and we continue that tradition now.

I’m not going to spend a lifetime watching shows that don’t interest me in place of shows that do. I’m not planning to forgo reading to watch said shows either. Luckily he’s a reader, too. But seriously, how do I even attempt to sort that out? Watching ‘Trailer Park Boys’ night in and night out for the rest of my life sounds like slow torture. *sigh*

 

I Do

“Why did you say yes?”

That is a damn good question.

My life was fine before SC. I was happy and I was free from the uncontrolled variables that are introduced when you have a partner with whom you share the same space.

I made the choice to be alone into my thirties rather than marry or shack up with just any old someone just to make society happy. Did that mean that sometimes I skipped out on a holiday party or two? Heck yeah it did. One can only be asked about their relationship status so many times in a short span of time before losing their wits. It was never really about not being able to answer the question of why I was single, it was the nosiness. It was the implication that my life was somehow less than because I was single and that there was no acceptable answer. Besides, I will likely skip those same parties this year for two reasons, a) there are too many parties back to back to begin with and b) next they will start asking about kids.

I did not settle for the skeezy dudes and the men with whom I had nothing in common who wanted to marry me because they were desperate and I happen to be pretty. I didn’t settle for the man who took me out on “friend” dates almost monthly for 8 or 9 years, but never even kissed me and doesn’t share enough of the same interests. The man who proposed to me via email the day I moved across the country. (That’s romantic in movies because of the background music, not because of the sentiment, trust me, I’m an actor, director, editor, and producer.)

No matter where I have been in my life, I have always had the opportunity to marry. Hell, I could have married the dude I dated before SC, if I was willing to give up all of my wants and needs to protect and serve him without reciprocation, but I didn’t want to do that.

I said yes because SC was everything I have ever wanted. He’s a protector and a provider. He truly cares. He’s in touch with his vulnerability and can express it. He’s smart. I could spend all day every day with him without question. He’s witty and talented and I could go on. He’s magnetic. The biggest thing is, I feel safe with him.

I said yes, because for once in my life, I wanted to close the exit doors. I wanted to remove the flight from fight or flight and dedicate myself to our relationship.

I said yes because I knew I wanted to the day we booked the trip to Vegas.

I said yes because it felt right, because I finally met someone who I not only wanted to share my space with, I wanted to be with him all the time and I still do, even when we’re feuding. I said yes because in that short period of time I’d already seen him at his worst and my feelings still grew for him. Sometimes you have to follow your gut, you know?

I’m not saying everyone should rush out and get hitched to someone they’ve only known for a short time. That’s the last thing I would do. This way is not for everyone.

I made the choice to say, “I do,” and I wouldn’t have it any other way. As I settle into married life, I can see it was the best choice, for both of us.

That being said, there are two sides to this coin. Society makes women over 30 feel like old maids if they are not wed. I’ve always advised against running out and marrying the first person you see just because you feel like you have to.

I want to end this with something that talks about finding the right one and when you’re ready you’ll know and jump in, or some other cliche, but, on the off chance that someone who is single in their mid thirties is reading this, I cannot say that in good conscience. No one in that situation wants to hear that. Everything in life is situational. Feel it out, live your life, and be ready if and when the one you want to choose comes along.

 

 

I’m Not Infallible (A Follow Up)

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“I think it’s this place,” SC lamented. “It’s never going to be “our” place.”

It will always be the place he moved into to be with me. Come to think of it, here is this man, who never wanted to get married, married to a woman who never planned to get married, uprooting his entire life to be with me, in a place, albeit temporarily, that has been mine, and only mine, for three and a half years. Of course there’s tension.

It turns out that fighting with your spouse can actually be a sign that your relationship will work out well. A quick Google search will yield results from a 2012 study on couples who argue vs those who don’t. The study seemed to conclude that couples who argue, instead of shutting down, actually care about each other, the relationship, and coming to an amicable conclusion.

In an article titled, Something to Fight About: Couples Who Fight the Most Love Each Other the Most, writer Lauren Martin explains the following:

Relationship therapist Dana Ward explains, “Fighting is normal. While some couples may think fighting is the sign of a bad relationship, it is actually is very important. The key is fighting with a purpose.”

It’s the whole idea of “fight or flight.” The way species adapt and evolve is based on the psychological reactions that occur when a threat is perceived. You either stand your ground or flee the situation. Either way, you’re making a decision, one that questions whether the threat is worth attacking or running.

The couples most in love are willing to push aside those subconscious (and conscious) desires to flee, in favor of sticking it out and fighting for one another.

Think about that for a second, sticking around to argue means that we’ve overridden the part of our brain that simply wants to flee for the sake of self preservation. Even in a moment where the situation, and therefore our partner, might present a threat to our ego, we stand our ground and fight because the other person, and ultimately, the partnership are worth it.

SC approached me several times the day after about the events in the previous post. He was absolutely willing to fight, and I was willing to listen, although I declined to engage via text. He berated me for half the day.

He told me he’d be home late, which I knew was a bluff. He showed up a whole 8 minutes later than normal to me writing vigorously in my journal in an attempt to work out the changes I could make to avoid inflammatory discussions in the future.

He approached and gave a long speech that started with, “I don’t know if I’m the man you want to be married to. I know you care about me and may even love me, but I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop or the rug to be pulled out from underneath us.” (“…may even love me?” What?)

There you have it. The bottom line is we were both afraid that our marriage didn’t have legs to stand on.

He gave me short periods to rebut, but he was still angry and gave me the dirtiest looks each time I spoke. It was like he was trying to challenge the depth of my calm. I remained even keeled. I gave an example of a time I gave him the benefit of the doubt, a time where I could have jumped down his throat due to his “tone.” I circled back to how important the relationship is, how we could have my real estate agent start looking for a place immediately instead of waiting until November, how much I love him, and how sorry I was for the part I played, as I held back tears.

I don’t know what changed, but I saw a switch flip in his eyes. I had penetrated the wall he was determined to keep up. He let me finish, stood there for a long while looking at me, perhaps truly seeing me, and said, “I don’t have anything to say. I’m too restless for this. I’m going to hang out with Ray and his kids (five year old twin boys),” and walked out the back door.

Is it bad that I was excited for the chance to catch up on ‘Jane the Virgin’? It takes about 30 minutes to get to Ray’s. Forty minutes later, I heard the front door open and the all too familiar footsteps approaching the bedroom. SC had come back with a gift. A tiny glass pitcher with a cork. Not super impressive to the casual observer, I know, but a big gesture that speaks to his desire to have a home of our own together. He sat on the bed across from me, played a hilarious DMX/Reading Rainbow mashup, and invited me to Ray’s. All was well, again.

Fast forward to last night. SC did ALL of the pressing chores over the weekend from laundry to cooking and washing dishes in between hours us of packing up his place. He’s been stressed about a pressing work issue and has not been eating regularly. About an hour before I planned to go to bed he said, “I wish you’d offered to cook for me today.” Whoops. (I’ve only asked once in our entire relationship, and he declined.) He said he wasn’t hungry, anyway, so I shoved a delicious protein bar in his hands and pored over all of the dishes I could whip up over the next week. An hour later, when I was barely able to keep my eyes open, he asked for an elaborate, savory oatmeal dish.

My defenses were down, I was exhausted, and I was worried my first attempt at cooking for him would be a disaster. “I’m going to burn it and it will be disgusting,” I whined as I turned on the burner. I then proceeded to berate him for being rude to my dog. She’s been a terror for the last week and we’re back to crate training. His attitude is not helping.

I made the oatmeal and fled to the bedroom, realizing what I’d done. I could only think about what an asshole I’d been. Hadn’t I promised to chill the heck out?

He sat down on the bed, cup of oatmeal in hand, and said, “First off, this is delicious. Secondly, it was adorable how upset you got about possibly messing up the oatmeal.” He’d given me the benefit of the doubt, luckily. The argument that could have ensued would have totally been my fault.

This is all a work in progress. He followed the directive to give me the benefit of the doubt as I will follow the directive to offer to cook for him more often. Yes, I messed up when I got snippy about the oatmeal, but SC discerned the truth of the matter, that I didn’t want to give him food that I felt was inedible. I fell into old habits when I got snippy about cooking, but at least I caught it. They say awareness is the key to change. I think we are both aware of the adjustments we need to make.

In the meantime, I imagine we will argue about the things we need to in an effort to sort out all that needs to be sorted. I’ll try to think of it as each of us standing up for the partnership the best way we know how. That being said, we’ve made it 7 days without a fight, although we bickered over parking for a brief moment yesterday. I was the driver, but I let him take the win. (Insert snarky face here.)

Fingers crossed we can make it through the rest of the week happy (ish), argument free, and mostly unscathed.

 

 

 

Down the Drain (Communication)

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Every judgement/feeling about an action, reaction, spoken word, or event is based on our own personal perception. It’s up to us to discern the best way to approach the issue if it happens to evoke negative emotions in us. We can choose to approach other parties involved with accusatory statements about their intention prior to clarifying their intentions or we can choose to give them the benefit of the doubt. We can accept, especially when the issue is small, that the person is not out to get us.

Not one of us on this planet is all-knowing so how are we to determine if someone’s intent is malicious? Why do some of us err on the side of assuming malice rather than giving the benefit of the doubt?

Accusatory statements lead the accused to get defensive and shut down. No matter what happens, we are responsible for the emotions we feel and ultimately how we react. Although words and actions elicit an initial emotional response, we can choose to remain angry, sad, happy, or joyful. It is our perception that causes the disconnect in the first place. So then, how can we blame someone else for “making” us feel a certain way, when they can’t control how we perceive what they do?

I feel like I’m coming off a bit preachy. If you think I am, I apologize. The struggle is real.

In the linked article on Psychology Today, Suzanne Lachmann, Psy. D states:

The struggle usually starts in childhood. In a classic article for the journal Child Development, Martin Hoffman showed that powerful parents can create feelings of powerlessness in their children. Children can also feel powerless when they are not understood, supported, or protected by the adults in their lives, resulting in a chaotic environment. (Of course, this experience is different than the confident parent who is loving, but stern and consistent, which fosters a safer more predictable environment for children.) Hoffman defines power as “…the potential for compelling unmotivated behavior in another person.” He extends this definition to encompass emotion — from childhood through adulthood, your sense of power is partly shaped by recognizing that you can alter the mood of those around you, by understanding that you have the ability to determine outcomes, both physical and emotional.

Here’s the thing: by acknowledging, understanding and respecting the power you’ve grown into, you will be able to more clearly recognize the extent to which you impact your relationship  – otherwise, you may overcompensate for your childhood powerlessness with intense, heightened, exaggerated, or at times punitive actions toward your partner. You may create unrealistic expectations and irrational demands on the relationship. To prove his or her power, this tyrannical adult may overpower the relationship’s emotional energy.

Yesterday, at different times in the day both SC and I said things that had the potential to lead to an argument. One statement led to an argument, the other, did not. The difference? One party gave the other the benefit of the doubt, the other ran wild with accusations based on nothing more than opinion.

Event 1:

SC invited me into the kitchen to share something with me. He gave it to me and said, in a bit of an annoyed tone, “You’re gonna have to put in on this next time.” Did I get defensive or did I give him the benefit of the doubt? Let’s see, shall we?

Financially, our relationship was out of balance, until about a week ago, due to some unexpected high dollar expenses SC incurred over a short period of time. If we tally up what I actually should contribute, it’s nothing. On the low end, he’d need to give me at least 3/4 of his next paycheck before I’d “have to put in” on anything. I don’t trip about it because I willingly chose to contribute and it will balance out over time. To be clear, the dollar amount he’s referring to is about 1/8 of what I’ve shared with him.

My initial reaction was negative. I thought, “What did I do? How dare he talk to me that way!” That being said, I know what it’s like to look at your resources, food, water, laundry detergent, etc. after living alone for so long and think, “This person is consuming everything and contributing nothing.”

In my head his statement translated to, “I have a lot less than I normally do at this point because I’m sharing with you. Can you contribute some funds next time?” I made the choice to believe his intent was not malicious, I simply said, “Sure.” Could he have said the words above? Yes, but it seems like too small of an issue to police his choice of words.

I could have expressed offense at his tone, but I don’t know if there was a tone, only the tone I perceived. Was my perception really based on the tone or did his words trigger something in me? I know he’s not out to cause harm, so I erred on the side of trust.

Event 2:

 

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I woke up from a nap. SC was still sleeping. I poured myself a glass of bourbon and sat down to watch the first episode of American Gods. Right after I sat down SC plopped down next to me on the couch, told me his friend was coming over in 45 minutes, and that we needed a few things from the supermarket so he could cook for us. The fridge is full and so are the cabinets, but we all have those moments where we want something other than what we have in the house and we needed more produce, anyway.

SC didn’t want to go. He wanted me to go. We’ve played this same exact game before and I knew he’d take offense at my “tone” if I said no, so I went. In reality, there is no tone, only something he doesn’t want to hear.

Going was a mistake, on my part, because he knew I was agitated when I left. I also knew it wasn’t worth the fight. I just realized he never thanked me for running his errand.

Later on I asked him to provide me with a way for me to say no in that situation that would not elicit anger.

Instead of providing guidelines on how to rectify the situation, I received a lecture that contained a load of your tone is always combative (Always, really? Or just when I say something he doesn’t want to hear?), you do this and you do that, you’re this type of person, which sent me into a spiral, followed by more attacks on my character. He never came around to answering my question and it turned into a full blown argument.

He had a choice. He could look at himself and figure out why he perceives a no as an attack and he can give me the benefit of the doubt. He could’ve given me the benefit of the doubt when I asked for a solution. Instead, it was all about him. Once I was verbally attacked for fifteen minutes at a pop, I put myself first and we became two opposing forces.

And that, dear readers, is the crux of the issue. In any relationship, it’s not all about us and our egos, and that is especially true in a marriage. It’s not just about you. It’s not just about me. I’m not saying it’s easy to put ego aside. It is not. I’m saying in those situations, sometimes we need to push our ego aside and put our partner first. Some triggers are unavoidable, however, we can a) learn each other’s triggers, and b) learn how to conduct ourselves when we are triggered.

I was triggered when he said I had to contribute, but I didn’t let it get in the way of where he was actually coming from. He is triggered by the word no, and chose to take it as a slight against him. The challenge for me is the only things I have control over are myself and my reactions. I want to figure out the best way to approach. I want to remember that it’s okay for me to say no and remember when he’s triggered by something as simple as a no, if there is nothing I can do to change it, then it actually has nothing to do with me. I want to remember to not engage. It’s not going to change him, but it will change how I feel. And at the end of the day, I am in control of how I feel.

Originally, I griped below about my fears surrounding the outcomes of my words or actions when I get home today, but after carefully re-reading the article quoted above, I have a different thought.

I thought I was powerless when I was raised by my parents. I was, but, SC’s family was far worse to him. In addition, I’m 8 years older than him. I remember being in a similar place at his age, the stage where I realized my power, but hadn’t yet worked through my issues with my folks. I was still angry at them and in need of an apology that never came. I needed to assert myself to avoid being treated poorly, even when I was being treated well. I’m sure, if I look closely enough, that bled into my behavior in relationships and my exaggerated reactions to every word I perceived as a threat.

I have since made peace with my childhood, warts and all. I wouldn’t be who I am if my life had unfolded any other way. There’s always work to do and to date I’ve done enough to understand that they did their best, although their best was far from enough.

I have no plans to share any of these articles with him. He has work to do, however, he needs to realize that he does. Besides, we always come to an amicable resolution that involves some sort of compromise on both ends. Fingers crossed that the pattern remains.