From January 2006
Yow, that feeling is so strong, the feeling that time is slipping out of the hour glass. It makes me feel anxious to see anything but a huge swatch of untracked time ahead of me, and I start to feel anxious about its passing, almost immediately. Already it’s almost 1;30, a little over an hour before I go get Scott, and it feels so not-enough.
It occurs to me to tell the truth here—I mean, to summarize in writing what I see the truth of this situation as…to try and get it down into as bottom line, bedrock language as possible.
How I see my marriage to Gary, my relationship with his mother, my own family.
I guess start with me and Gary. I see us as not being very good partners for getting things done. And the bottomline issue underlying that, which makes it unrecoverable, is that we have no mechanism to talk about it. His default is to resent, and get back in passive aggressive ways later. What I need from him is for him to have the capacity to observe himself, take note in a moment that he’s upset about something, and say it respectfully. Not ACT it, in irritated disrespectful tone of voice, or eye-rolling…or in making a negative remark later, under his breath, as he’s passing me. Yes, it’s a hook, yes I suppose I’d be better not taking it—BUT WHO THE FUCK IS HE TO INTEND TO HOOK??? Doesn’t he have a responsibility as well, being the person who starts something? I think what I react to is the underlying discount, and dislike that would give him the permission to treat me that way. This is not the way one acts toward someone that is loved.
OK. So put us, in with those communication strictures, in a situation where we have to cooperate with each other, and communicate with each other—to have to use words to bridge a misunderstanding, to get understanding, and if necessary, healing. We can’t do it. Time and time again, from something as simple as getting ready for a camping trip, to child raising, if we cannot agree on something then we have no language to negotiate it. For me to even use words offends him. He feels harassed by them. He will do something negative, out of something that he’s mad at me about but hasn’t told me. I call him on it, and he tries to brush it off. He doesn’t acknowledge that he just did something hurtful, and often, unreasonable.
Here is a place where I can change my behavior. I can refuse to call him on it. Let it pass. Then the argument that comes from him stonewalling when I call him on it (and then stonewalling on THAT, layer upon layer) will not be born. It’s just that it seems SO WRONG that he do what he did that I’m not able to be silent.
So, basically we are a married couple with no tools at all for handling conflict. Well, I have tools, but I might as well not because I need him to have tools, too, for these conflicts to be able to be worked through healthily. But he goes to his default, each time. Clam up about something he’s angry about or wants a change about; show his anger in unrelated ways, later.
I was thinking about this in terms of Peter Kramer’s talking about “differentiation”. I was first thinking about what this means, his theory that couples seek someone who has a similar level of differentiation. I was thinking that that’s not true, in Gary’s and my case: I have the tools to communicate, work things through to resolution, and heal. Gary does not. In light of that I think that I have more differentiation than Gary. Then it occurs to me that the way I express my lack of differentiation is in being susceptible to the passive aggressive things Gary does and says. My being unable to let them pass.
I’ve got to think about that.
Another bottom line I see in our relationship is his capacity to deny that something is wrong. How terribly far he has to be pushed before he looks at his responsibility, before he takes action. And how he chooses inaction, consistently. Even when he says something like, “This year, I need to win back the boys’ respect and yours too (I’m not sure he said that)” he means it in the moment, but then puts it away. He accepts a tremendous amount of pain in his life-enormous losses (a viable sex life with me, respect of his children, love of his wife) by refusing to acknowledge that he’s in pain.
These two things, the inability to communicate and his unwillingness to face facts, are things I see as bedrock in our relationship and I’m thinking that it’s not possible to feel love in a relationship like that. Oh, you can do what my family does: You’re supposed to love your family. Therefore, you DO. That means that you don’t acknowledge the things that are painful between you. You don’t acknowledge when something isn’t working, because to give voice to that is to NOT love you. It is better to have the appearance of loving, the agreement of loving, then to have the underlying intimacy that love springs from. The trouble is, to get to the intimacy, people have to go through what they’ve been denying. It really is like the woman said in her book: “She couldn’t see. But she believed she could.”
And I know we can’t. But the willingness of my parents, and Gary, for that matter, to be able to face certain fears about themselves, and pain they’ve locked away…is very unlikely. So I have to love on THEIR terms: which is, don’t admit that there’s not really much intimacy basis for the love that is professed, don’t admit that things are wrong.
Perhaps Al anon really would be a good place for me.
My boys are suffering from living in a relationship like Gary’s and mine. Gary may want to do something about it, when he thinks about it or I bring it to his attention, but he doesn’t follow through. I can’t model a good back-and-forth-using-words-to-resolve-differences example when my partner in communication doesn’t have the tools. It’s like trying to dance with someone who absolutely can’t dance…but thinks he can.