I was quiet. I was quiet for months at a time while he threw tantrums and called me names. I was quiet while he ignored me, belittled me and talked down to me, not only in public, but in front of our friends. I was quiet. I think it’s a common reaction. Our husbands come home and we just want life to feel normal. I know that was all I wanted. Retrospectively, that is probably more damaging. It took me two years to tell him enough was enough. But, by then, the damage was done. My heart was shattered, our marriage in shambles, and a fracture in our marriage that has edges so jagged we can hardly speak to each. After being quiet for so long, life feels incredibly overwhelmingly loud. The shouting, the constant defensive posture I must take, the constant attempts to talk with him feel like they are constantly echoing through every room of the house. The sudden audibility of our life together is nearly too much to bear. I was so quiet for so long that I had lost my voice, my ability to be heard. My audibility. And yet life is roaring so loudly, even thought I am not heard, I am not recognized, I am forcibly quieted.
I didn’t raise my voice at all. Not a single octave. I repeated for the third time that I was not interested in “winning” but simply in reaching a compromise.
That is usually how it starts. Something simple turns into something big, that turns into an outrageous fight. It’s not uncommon. But for my everyday life, I know that there are triggers and certain things will always result in a fight. When you are married for long enough, you can see the fight walking down the street a block away.
And so I said I didn’t want the stick vacuum in the closet.
And he repeated that that is where it was going.
And on and on we went.
It’s a cyclical type of fighting. Rarely are we both rational. Rarely are we both calm. Each of us has certain things that trigger an emotional response. One of his is where things NEED to be, one of mine feeling unlistened to.
I have long since learned, however, that fighting rarely ends in agreement. I think it’s safe to say that most people know this. I have also long since learned that I have a 50/50 shot that being calm will make it worse.
I have a 50/50 shot that being emotional and loud will also make it worse.
Calm did not work. It feels like it never does in the moment, even though I know that it does often times help dramatically. But it didn’t. He continued down his path, spiraling, as angry people tend to do.
Then… suddenly… we were at that moment.
The moment someone says something they can’t take back. The moment they open their mouth and even they realize that things may never be the same again, they may never be mended, there may always be a hairline fracture threatening the stability of everything.
I asked to meet in the middle one more time. I asked to be heard and to discuss what both our needs and wants are and how we can meet in the middle. I said it calmly. I said that it was about compromise.
He said it wasn’t. He said compromise just meant that no one got to be happy.
I asked again to compromise. I said I didn’t feel marriage was about winning. It was about trying to keep both party’s needs met and desires met when possible. It’s a partnership. We share our lives. And in partnerships you have to meet in the middle somewhere. It’s not all about winning battles.
He said it was. He said that is exactly what is was. He said he had already lost the war.
And I cried. An undignified cry. A cry I usually hide in private for no one to see, not even me.
And as my first silent tear fell, as his jaw began to return to neutral from speaking his final syllable, he saw it. I saw it.
The tiny little crack that may never be sealed.