I’m not sure how to approach this post today. I am the one on the Frogstar. I am the one in the Partial Perspective Vortex. I can talk about myself and my flaws and weaknesses, my doubts and concerns, and I will be biased in favor of myself and present myself as favorably as possible by default. But there are other people in my life with whom I interact, and they haven’t volunteered for the Frogstar treatment. They haven’t agreed to be in the spotlight here. And they don’t even know that this blog exists.
So how do I tell a story that involves what could be seen as negative information about another person in my life? While still trying to be honest with myself and with the non-existent readership of my blog? Unfortunately I just have to stumble through this one and hope that I do okay. If I give too much information or if I give too little, I’m sorry; I’m feeling my way along in the dark here.
Drama. That’s what today’s post is about. Drama that would do any soap opera proud. Well, maybe not proud, because I’m one of the principal actors, and I probably didn’t live up to what I should have to make it a true soap opera.
I guess a few days ago Girlfriend and Wife sent a few texts or emails or something back and forth. I’m not sure of the exact details, but because of this Wife has been furious at me for the past few days. The night before last we were up talking until after 3:00 am.
I’ve been realizing more and more that I have ceded much of the decision-making in our marriage to my wife. I don’t have strong opinions about things generally, and she tends to have no problem voicing her desires, so most of the time if we disagree, she gets her way. That’s probably a fine approach, in general, except when it becomes habit and becomes a regular part of the fabric of the marriage. So lately I’ve been trying to be more present, to have an opinion, to express it, even over her arguments. And that’s been hard. Hard on me, because I am pacifist to the point of being unhealthy about it, and hard on her, because she is very opinionated about a lot of things and isn’t used to my disagreements.
So we’re talking, and the issue of control is present, and she wants me to cut off all communications with Girlfriend immediately, and I can certainly understand her point. And you, dear reader, can probably also understand her point and most likely agree with the idea in general, just as I do. The situation is a bit more involved than that, but yeah, it’s a good suggestion. Probably healthy, probably marriage-building, probably the right thing to do. Only it’s very hard for me. I’d go into the why, but I’m not certain I understand all the reasons behind it, myself. It’s very hard, though. Part of it, I think, is about control. When she demands I do it, I’m suddenly very unwilling. When she says I can do what I want but that she’d like me to do it, I am suddenly more able to live with that option. I’ve expressed the idea to her previously, and at various times in the past she’s had varying levels of understanding and support of the idea that I needed to do it on my own terms.
So we had come to a certain understanding that she wouldn’t force me on the communications issue and that I would figure out how to get to a point in my life where I wouldn’t feel the need to continue communications. But during this late-night or early-morning discussion, she is once again focused on my communications with Girlfriend, and she’s trying everything just short of demanding that I stop. I want our marriage to be strong, and I understand that it causes Wife pain that I like another woman, and I agree with the idea that eventually, if our marriage is to survive, I probably have to do what Wife wants. But the issue of control is present. She tells me that I must stop. I agree with her, but insist on being the one in control of it. She says, fine, but there will be consequences. She informs me that the pain is so intense for her that she has decided she will have to physically hurt herself to be able to live with it.
I had thought I understood the pain before, but I didn’t realize it was that intense. I realize that no matter what kind of desires I have, or what kind of pride I had over the issue of being in control of my life, I just plain had to cede to her on this point and stop immediately. I tell her this, but of course she can’t believe me, because this has been an issue between us for so long. How could I stop, just like that, without additional argument? So she’s still arguing with me about it, and I’m feeling more and more controlled, and I finally just roll over, exhausted, and say, “You know what? It doesn’t matter what I want.” Which is true in this case, but it’s also a loaded phrase because of the issue of control. It’s probably around 2:00 at this point.
So she jumps out of bed, turns on the light, and proceeds to get dressed. I assume this means she’s planning on leaving, but she doesn’t do it quietly, she keeps arguing with me, telling me how I obviously have put Girlfriend first in our marriage and that she will leave until I learn to put Wife first. I ask her what she wants me to do. We end up talking for another hour or so, and she doesn’t leave for the night. But it comes down to this dilemma: she wants me to want her and her alone. She loves me and doesn’t want to share my affections. I love her and want to have a good marriage with her, even though we’ve had some rough spots. I know that I need to stop having any kind of feeling toward Girlfriend, but I don’t know how to turn my feelings off like a light switch.
I could try to just lie to her and say, “Girlfriend who? I don’t have any feelings for anyone but you.” The problem with that is that I’m a terrible liar, and she’s very good at reading people. It just wouldn’t work. It has to be honest.
I tell her that I’m engaged in the marriage, that I’m present, that I’m participating, that I’m happy, that I’m serving and forgiving and doing everything I know how to do to love her and show that love to her. But that’s not enough. I also have to not like someone who has been a good friend to me. I don’t know how to stop liking someone that I like.
Even stopping all communication probably wouldn’t be enough for Wife, and I don’t know if it would be as effective anyway. She says that she figures I’ll always like Girlfriend. I tend to agree. I see her as a person who could easily be a lifelong friend. And that’s the problem, I guess. I still think of her as a friend. I have to change my thinking. But changing your thinking by having someone else forcing you to do it doesn’t actually change the way you think, I think. It just gets you to resent the person who is trying to control you. I have to change my thinking on my own. At least, that’s the way I see it. And Wife doesn’t like the uncertainty of that approach. It needs to be much more concrete than that.
So it’s quite a struggle for both of us. She feels unloved. I feel controlled. And we have conflict. We’ve been managing the conflict, but it’s still conflict. Only now it’s escalated because of the interaction that Wife and Girlfriend just had recently.
So yesterday morning, after not getting enough sleep and both of us probably feeling unsure and hurt, she says, “I understand now how to demonstrate to you how I feel. I need to get pregnant with another man’s child, and then you’ll have a daily reminder that I’ve put someone else before you.”
I must not have given her the response she was looking for, because …. See? I’ve probably already said too much. And now here I don’t know what to say. I want you to know I have a wonderful wife. She is an amazing person, and I have hurt her deeply. Don’t think less of her when I tell you what happened. Don’t judge her for this. Don’t hate her. Don’t categorize her. She is real, with numerous incredible strengths and a few all-too-human flaws. She has a big heart and can love so easily. And she is not above feeling pain and expressing it when she is hurt.
So I hesitate to give details, but you know how in movies or soap operas someone will be so mad at someone else that they will throw a glass across the room, hitting the wall and shattering? Something similar to that happened. Let me just say that when it was over, we had pieces of glass on the floor. That is both too much information and, at the same time, not nearly enough. Sorry either way. We spent about an hour cleaning up the mess in the house.
When she was done, she said, “Well, you can leave me now.” I thought she was inviting me to get out of her life, so I went and grabbed a suitcase. She laughed at me and said, “This just proves that you put her over me. If you really loved me, you’d stay.” I said, “Do you want me to stay?” She said she did. “I love you. I want you. I want you, not her in my life; you and not her,” she told me. I wasn’t sure what to do. Leave? Stay? But I either made the right choice or I just plain chickened out, because I stayed.
All day I was in shock. And I realized that I felt controlled again. Like she will do whatever she has to do to get me to do what she wants me to do. Like there is no price too big, nothing she won’t do if the end result is what she wants it to be. I understand that’s probably not the motivation behind her actions, that her pain is the message I should have gotten. But it’s hard for me to feel compassion for her pain when her rage is so loud and her need to control me seems to be at the core of our problem.
That’s one of the difficult areas with communication in any long-standing, historied relationship. There is so much undercurrent in the relationship that it is often difficult to isolate issues. Talking about one thing often brings up an undercurrent of completely unrelated issues that makes it difficult to identify and discuss the real problem. And everything affects everything else.
So here we are, feeling as shattered as the glass on the floor, and wondering if it’ll be any more possible to put things back together again in our marriage than it was for the glass that we ended up sweeping up and dumping into the garbage.