Marriage is much like the weather. Most of the time, temperatures are comfortable with sunny skies and warm breezes. Occasionally there are storms, like the short refreshing ones that come and go quickly on a summer’s evening. While sometimes unpleasant, they harmlessly water the plants and clear the air from the heat of the day. Other times, the storms build up ominously over time and when you see the dark clouds and hear the warning rumbling, you know you need to secure the windows and test the flashlights. Even the best of relationships have to weather such ugliness – mine is no exception.
With the way that I censor myself here, it would be easy for you to think of my husband as a perfect, coffee-bearing gentleman who supports me unfailingly. And that is almost always true – except for when it’s not. He is my biggest fan but also my harshest critic. His words can make or break my self-esteem most easily. And let’s be honest here, sometimes men do not do criticism in the most constructive fashion. Last weekend, conditions were most favorable for sever weather.
The signs had been there all week, with a flippant comment here and some passive aggression there… storms clouds were looming all around our house. Despite the distant grumble of thunder and other warnings, I was still taken aback by the harsh wind and icy hail. Luke’s advancing cold front met with my area of low pressure and an atypical storm ensued. Luke let loose all his frustrations in a tornado of accusations aimed directly at me. At first, I tried to find reason in what he was saying, and then I realized there was no space in his rant for rationality. I put up my hand and walked away from the argument, post-poning the resolution and violating one of our fundamental “Fighting Rules.”*
That evening, when the storm clouds had cleared and we had given each other some space, everything still felt a little off. Feeling exactly like the air right after a storm, electrified from all the lightning and the light still a little green from the cloud cover, things were calmer but not finished. Nothing felt resolved and I felt betrayed. His criticisms tore at all my own insecurities of not being good enough, of not doing enough, not being enough. That night, I went to bed still angry (another “Fighting Rules” violation), still trying to make sense of the source of the fight. It’s taken just about the whole week to survey the damage.
Monday, I woke up resolved to be more of the wife and mother that Luke expects and deserves. More importantly, I resolved to be more of the wife and mother that I want to be. That night, he restated his complaints and conceded that his delivery of the information was wrong. I agreed that he had been an ass. On Tuesday, he apologized. He feels the way he feels but he was sorry for being a jerk about it. I let him know that I heard what he was saying. I didn’t disagree with his argument but I’d prefer he speak to me in a more respectful manner to voice it next time. And each day since has brought us a bit more to a place of understanding again.
I won’t go into any more detail of what we actually argued about as the content is so deeply tied into other posts that I want to share. But I will say that I am not perfect, nor do I pretend to be. If anything, I am most uneasy with my skills as a parent and my ego is a fragile thing. But Luke likes to think me perfect and finds it shocking when I am not. When he leaves for work in the morning, he wants to be secure in the idea that I have it ALL under control – the kids, the house, the finances… But this parenting/household CEO/maid/woman-trying-to-reenter-the-work-force gig is a juggling act that I am not handling with all the grace and style that I would like. I easily get over-whelmed. I often muddle through rather than leap forward. I often let our chaos run amuck rather than reining any true control over it. But I’m working on it.
And as for Luke, since he really is perfect 98 percent of the time, I can forgive the stormy 2 percent once in awhile. Besides, he did bring me coffee this morning and that is all the perfection I need.
*Susie and Luke’s Fair Fighting Rules were developed from our first argument as a married couple almost 15 years ago. I can’t remember what we even fought about but we did learn from our mistakes and outlined the following rules for future conflicts:
Never walk out on an argument, Never go to bed angry (you can’t sleep well), Never plead your case to your mother (she will only take his side anyway), and Never end an argument with the words “Fuck You.”