If you count the courting phase, Samuel and I’ve been together 39 years. Is it possible to deepen and strengthen our twosome, or does trying to discuss an issue that’s been there all along just badgering, trying to change someone from a square peg into a round a hole, or insisting on growth when the only say I have over growth is my own?
Prior years the words wouldn’t come because unresolved trauma made issues so murky, drowning occurred. Mine. I’d slam a door and hide-out in my room. Part of me wanted to calm the waters and not be distant, cold and quiet. Another part still wanted to rant, and scream and shake some life from an inaccessible man whose distance far surpassed mine. If one got louder, the other became quieter.
Beating a dead duck? Or trying to have a reasonable conversation where no one is hurt though one might not like what the other one says.
When I speak up to others, and he is around, he professes embarrassment. I feel applause is appropriate after a life of no voice. I knew it was a mistake to invite Samuel along to the big shopping trip to the grocery store, an outing I enjoy and mostly don’t when he is around. But my friend takes her husband happily everywhere and it seems the normal thing to be able to do. And I still want Normal so bad.
We couldn’t get out of the house before an argument ensued as his idea of almost ready is 20-30 minutes later, enough time for me to clean out the refrigerator. My idea of almost ready is, let me put my shoes and coat on.
So he’s finally done and staring out the window and I’m about to bust as I finish wiping down the fridge shelves.
“What are you doing?” I ask exasperated.
“I’m waiting for you,” he answers.
“I’m waiting for you!” my voices rises, though I’m trying to contain my anger as I promised to be ‘nice’ this trip. Arguing about his idea of ‘almost ready’ means I failed already.
“Go warm up the car. I’ll be right there. And when I say I’ll be right there, I mean it” I curtly spout, my impatience hardly choked back and sternly evident in my voice.
Later in the store while he’s picking out his bread, I’m at the meat case deciding on a package of chicken breasts. The butcher comes out next to me so close I instinctively move aside while he takes my spot and pulls out a package, seemingly fine that he just practically pushed a customer out his way.
Samuel brings the cart over and I’m complaining about the odd treatment when the butcher comes out again with a tray full of boxes and I don’t care if he overhears me. He once again come up so close to me I move over not yet selecting my package. But twice was too much. .
“What are you doing? Pushing me over?” I say indignantly.
He laughs, saying, “I’m sorry” and stays put, then adds, “People usually like it when I help them.”
“You’ve got to be kidding! You’re not helping me, you’re pushing me out of your way!” I face him unabashedly, at the same time highly aware of this miraculous new Patricia.
He says, “I’m sorry” once again, but kept smiling, and stepped aside slightly.
I grabbed a package, and added, “I cannot believe you.”
While walking away Samuel makes a noise of disgust, “Geez” he said shaking his head.
And it occurred to me it wasn’t the dam butcher but me he was disgusted with.
“Are you disgusted with me?” I ask in disbelief.
“You told him once. You didn’t have to keep telling him,” he says matter-of-factly, as if he is the wise sage of world.
And where once I would have believed him, as I did in that moment, brushing it away until the ride home, it was in further dissection of the interactions that led me to believe once again that he has a tendency to get even or get back at me.
Something here that through the years I couldn’t find words for, couldn’t place, pin down, define, or make sense of, but it had the power each time it happened to make me explosive…call it passive aggressive, which are just words to me, or call it subversive, a word that has more meaning for me—like a submarine launching a missile. You never know when it’s coming.
And it smacks too much of how Tom treated me all my life, little comments, little put downs, enough over time to destroy me. And this is what I have in my partnership, my marriage?
“It hurts that you didn’t back me up, that you didn’t say, ‘Back up buddy. My wife’s trying to pick out a package of meat.'”, I relay feeling the hurt instead of the anger.
“But you already told him. And I know how he feels. You don’t know how you come across, so abrupt. Like earlier when you told me to go warm up the car,” he says.
And I immediately sputter, “You are deflecting. Trying to mix up then with now.”
Then it dawned on me, and the thought appalls me, but I say, “Instead of sticking up for me, you were disgusted with me. Too bad you don’t like me. That you take satisfaction that this man trampled all over me smiling and unapologetic, and kept doing it. And you did nothing except make it worse with your silence.”
He shakes his head and says, “No, no. “
Then silence. Silence in fact the rest of the day because I wouldn’t talk. Today I talk. But this is not done or over.
This is the crux of the suffering. I say suffering because he seems to take satisfaction when a complete stranger literally walks all over me. And rather than support me, and act like a man who protects, a man who applauds me for speaking up and when for most of my life I could not, he applauds the stranger, a butcher who is an idiot and ought to know not to shove a customer over so he can look at the dates on the packages in the case so he can take out the freshest that he mistakenly put there.
That is why I was ‘shoved’ aside. Shoved as in using his presence in my space to instigate my moving over. This may seem a little thing, and maybe it is, but I feel it is just the precipice of something far bigger; of how I let others steamroll me in so many ways…including Samuel. Because he lacks the ability or courage to speak up about something when it happens.
I know I was abrupt with him earlier. My abruptness was my way of avoiding an argument that goes nowhere. Say something at the time you don’t like my behavior, something as easy as, “Yes Madam President.” Anything!
Don’t revel in my suffering later, finding satisfaction from it, and adding to it with a look and a grunt of disgust, getting even with me when I’m already down. I want you to have my back, not bash me on the back in an underhanded, cowardly way.