There are things I’m not good at: cooking Indian food. Exercising patience. Playing tennis. Or softball. Or football. Or okay, anything involving hand-eye coordination.
I’ve always assumed that being a wife falls on this list, and (to quote my dad’s favorite line from Pride and Prejudice, “I do not suffer from false modesty.” Meaning you should accept my invitations for chicken tikka dinners or challenges for racquetball matches at your own peril.
Yesterday I was particularly sick and having a horrible, awful day and Oliver and I had the biggest fight we’ve had in… Weeks? Months? And I sat back reeling at the end of it because a) I can’t remember when we last fought and b) this is what now qualifies as a fight for us:
I didn’t speak to Oliver the whole day. Admittedly, something that can be improved in the future. Oliver called from work several times to check in with me and see how I was doing even though he knew I was pissed off. Then he came home from work and immediately sat down next to me, rubbed my thigh, looked me in the eyes and asked me how I was feeling.
Oliver: I think I know why you’re upset. I think it’s because I ______. Is that accurate?
Me: No. I’m sick. It has nothing to do with you.
Oliver: Oh. That’s easier to deal with. I’m sorry to hear that though. Anything I can do to help?
Me: I don’t think so. Thanks for asking.
Me: Also, I was kind of upset about _____, but I know that it’s completely stupid because that’s me trying to keep score in our marriage. That’s not how marriage works. And even if I am keeping score, this isn’t an accurate measurement because you bring so much to this marriage, to my life and Zoe’s life.
Oliver: Oh, shucks. But I can understand why you were upset and I think you are right. I could be doing more and here is what I’d like to do about that: ______.
Me: I can help you with that, as long as it’s your choice and not motivated by my anger.
Oliver: I thought about that too, but I think this is right.
Me: Sometimes you get the impression that you’re dead weight in our marriage and I just want you to know how wrong that assumption is. People who genuinely want to grow and be loving are incredibly rare and I am so lucky to have you. I couldn’t do any of this without you. You undervalue yourself but you bring so much stability and peace and humor into my life.
Oliver: Oh, shucks! Keep saying nice things!
If you aren’t honking into a tissue right now, you’re either incapable of human emotion or you’ve never experienced a committed relationship. When I was dating my ex-boyfriend, an issue like this would have dragged out over the course of months, possibly years, with both of us spitting vitriol and expletives at each other. And I thought that was normal. Well, it is normal. Just not healthy or ideal.
Here I had the most difficult day I’ve had in a long time (keep in mind, recent changes include Pregnancy from Hell and being plucked out of NYC and thrust into the suburbs of Connecticut), and the entire day Oliver and I did not say a SINGLE unkind thing to each other! And I didn’t even realize this because it is so normal for us now. To be fair, my sweet, gentle husband makes it pretty hard to say unkind things to him, but hey, that never stopped me in the past.
Turns out I’m not as crappy a wife as I thought.
More importantly, it is possible to have relationships devoid of conflict. If you’re not there yet, don’t give up! Read Real Love in Marriage. Or Real Love in Dating. Call me. Do something, but don’t let your relationships marinate in anger.