There are moments when I look back and remember how angry I was. Angry, sad, frustrated, ignored, lonely. These feelings surged when J and I became parents and almost every interaction with her was a struggle, but in retrospect many of these feelings had been increasing over the years.
Which is not to say that most of our marriage was unhappy. It was happy. But over time J became less involved in basic things like cooking, and I missed the early days when cooking and doing dishes together was an enjoyable activity. Sometimes J would fix food for herself but not me, and I never once came back to an apartment after a trip to find that J had cleaned the place up (something I almost always did when she went somewhere).
Then there were the things we couldn’t talk about. J never had sympathy for stray dogs, and because it was such a big deal for us to have one dog in our home (something that was very important to me, but not enjoyable for her), I always felt that I couldn’t help any other animals. Sometimes when I saw something horrible I tried to talk about it with her, but she didn’t understand my feelings. We went on a road trip to Baja Mexico once and saw so many half-starved dogs. I knew we couldn’t do anything for them, but I wished I had a partner I could talk my feelings out with. I spent several nights on that trip crying quietly in my sleeping bag, knowing that I was alone in thinking that what we were seeing was worth getting upset over.
When we moved to Idaho, it felt like a dream at first. We loved our town. We were escaping from the stresses of grad school, and even though I was still working on my thesis, I found that I no longer ground my teeth at night or felt pain in my chest. In Idaho, I started to explore the local hiking trails. I often asked J to join me on my rambles, but she rarely did. In the early days of our relationship we explored local landmarks together, but in the latter years she was not interested unless the view was something big and dramatic. Most of the time J just stayed home and played Minecraft on her computer. It annoyed me then. Later, after we had a kid, it made me furious, and I sometimes wanted to “kick the box out a window” (to put it in the words of an acquaintance of mine with a similar problem).
I know I am only showing one side of the relationship right now: the unhappy side. I also know I was not a perfect partner. I asked J to put up with things that made her unhappy as well. But now that we are not trying to repair the relationship, I am willing to write about some of our problems a little more openly. If only to say, “This is how we got here.”
I found a really great blog today (“Must Be This Tall to Ride”) that explains some of my feelings about the problems in my relationship so clearly. The situation is a little different in my case, perhaps, but not totally different. This is an excerpt from one of his posts:
The trust is rarely about whether she worries about you cheating.
It’s more about whether she can trust you to not hurt her emotionally. About whether she can trust you to help her by not sabotaging her efforts to keep your house clean, or to plan activities with family and friends, or to be a reliable parenting partner.
…Your wife used to be a girl.
The girl you fell in love with because she was beautiful and fun and playful and wanted you and made you feel good.
And now she doesn’t act like that anymore. She’s worn out. Angry. Short-tempered. Frustrated.
…You’re angry because you haven’t changed that much, but she has, and you feel cheated because she said “I do” and now she’s acting like the man she married isn’t good enough.
You feel unwanted, disrespected, and ashamed.
But, probably without realizing it, you did it to yourself.
Because you have a home, and finances, and maybe children or pets or possessions of significance. You’re not kids anymore. But you still act like one. When you playfully mock your friends or your wife. When you leave your pants out, or a dish in the sink, or forget to do that thing you promised on your way home.
And all these little things add up.
Why are you making such a big deal about this!?, you wonder.
And now she CAN’T be a kid anymore. She can’t play and laugh and live carefree anymore. Because you are. And if she does it too, nothing will ever get done.
The clothes will never get washed. Meals will never be made. The kids will never have what they need.
You refused to take the next step.
So she HAD to.
And now she’s angry, resentful, sad and afraid.
Because you’ve left all the adult work to her.