Monday, June 11, 2012

State Of Grace

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After 16 years of marriage you don't even have to have the arguments out loud, you can just look at each other and instinctively know exactly what the other person is thinking, what their irritation with you is, what you would say in response, what THEY would say in response, and you can just avoid the argument because you know exactly how it would play out, and any actual argument you might have would be anti-climactic.

This is both a benefit and a curse - a benefit because instead of retreading old ground you just roll your eyes and stomp off feeling a vague sense of self-righteous irritation because REALLY - ARE WE BACK TO THIS AGAIN, but since you didn't actually fight about it, five minutes later you can move on, pretend like it didn't happen, both of you sending out those tentative I'm Over It Are You signs of a mutual desire to just drop it already (a touch on the shoulder that could or could not turn into a hug, depending on the reception of said touch on the shoulder, gifting the other person with the remote even though you know it's going to mean watching an hour of Cops, etc.).  And if those signals are positively received you get to curl up on the couch together, feeling somewhat satisfied with yourselves for being grown-ups, feeling warm toward each other for realizing that neither one of you wanted to fight, that you both gave each other that gift of letting something go, and good for you, yes, YAY FOR US even. 

A curse because sometimes you imbue you partner with irritations and motives they never even had, just because you know they've felt them in the past, when in fact you're fabricating their irritation out of a sense of your own guilt.  

I mean, I'm a terrible co-parent on car trips.  I tend to pick up a book and then just read and read and read for the entire time we're in the car.  I will forget the children exist, forget that my bored husband is sitting there for miles and miles with nobody to talk to - I see a spare couple of hours where everyone is safely strapped into place and (for the most part) distracted by other things, and I mentally check out.  I read What is the What on the way home and you could not have gotten my attention if you were on fire.  Sometimes this really irritates my husband, justifiably so, when the kids need something and they've asked for a drink ten times and I just don't even hear them because I'm lost somewhere between the pages - and sometimes he doesn't really care.  But I almost always assume he's really irritated, because I know I'm in the wrong.  And because I don't really want to stop doing what I'm doing (READING TIME, MY PRECIOUS) I conjure up my own defensive irritation in response - EVEN THOUGH HE HASN'T ACTUALLY SAID OR DONE ANYTHING.  

This is the curse, this sense of knowing what will make your partner angry (or what should make them angry) so that even if they are not, you assume that they are, because they probably have the right to be.

It would be so nice if I granted my husband the grace to have his own feelings, and not to just paint him with the feelings I believe he has.  That would be such a graceful thing to do, wouldn't it?

Wouldn't it?

13 comments:

  1. You are so not alone in this. Truly. I do the same thing, though I would say I'm in the process of overcoming.

    Humility is awesome but exhausting stuff, I find.

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    1. The thing is, in a lengthy marriage, I think it's unavoidable. You DO know each other so well. You DO know what the other person is going to say. I guess it's just figuring out how to keep yourself from taking that last logical leap that is different.

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  2. ye, yes and yes. The amazing thing abut being married a long time is how quickly fights are over. In the olden Newlywed days we'd pout and fight for hours (if not days). It's such a relief that our stormy feelings are more like a quick texas cloudburst than a soggy week of Oregon rain.

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  3. Anonymous7:02 AM

    That sound you hear is the sound of a lot of women sighing along with you. This is so true. I think everyone does this. It would be nice to be more self aware, wouldn't it?

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  4. I do this all the time, and sometimes I start to feel sorry for my husband, but then I remember who was pregnant for nine months and who birthed children out of her lady parts, and then I'm not to sympathetic anymore. Is that wrong?

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    1. I think my husband and I both do it to each other. I don't know how you avoid it, you know?

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  5. This is me and my husband too. We've been married 34 years and barely even bother to roll our eyes now. I think overall it's a good thing, a blessing.

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  6. This line made me laugh out loud cause it's so dang true...

    "This is the curse, this sense of knowing what will make your partner angry (or what should make them angry) so that even if they are not, you assume that they are, because they probably have the right to be."

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  7. Yes. This. Exactly. And hopefully, as more years go by, more the blessing and less the curse...

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  8. Are you my husband? Just checking because he does the disappearing into the book or sleep when we go on long car trips. But I have to agree on the non argument arguments. I'm sure I'm projecting sometimes.

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    1. I know, it's horrible. I'M HORRIBLE. And yet, that knowledge doesn't make me want to stop. (SELFISH.)

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  9. We listen to audiobooks on long drives. I'm pretty sure that means Dean and I have a PERFECT marriage. (Right?)

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