So I’ve been thinking…
Have I ever been brave enough to sidestep an emotional tsunami filled with mean-spirited accusations and diminishing love that was headed straight for my marriage?
The answer, after searching the archives of my menopausal mind, turning over every rock and remembering the times when the shit hit the fan was …once.
It was one night, inside one fight, but sometimes that’s all it takes to turn a situation on its head and start over.
I remember it clear as day because my husband and I don’t really argue that much. We bicker and disagree, but rarely does it escalate into a full-blown fight.
This day was different, and the reason behind it was palpable – FEAR.
My store, the business that held all of our proverbial eggs in its basket, had flooded and closed. Insurance was in full jackassery mode, and the situation appeared bleak. Bleak is an understatement; it was a clusterfuck on steroids.
He had been letting me handle most of the fallout while keeping a watchful distance. I was grateful and full of resentment all at the same time.
Wait. This was the hardest time of my life. Weren’t we a team?
Our we project in good times had become a me situation now that it was damaged beyond repair.
But to be fair, I hadn’t included him in much of the business set-up. He didn’t know the in’s and out’s of my insurance policy, and besides, I had managed to establish an uneasy alliance with all the players so they only wanted to deal with ME. He felt it best to keep his distance and watch it play out.
One evening, after peppering me with questions, those inquiries turned quickly to accusations. I, of course, became defensive. “Oh nice of you to finally join the circus, welcome to MY world!” I sneered sarcastically. As he realized the gravity of the situation, things escalated. Name-calling ensued; lots of fuck you’s were thrown around — it turned ugly.
“How could you let this happen?” He yelled at me as if I could have somehow prevented an act of God. “You said you could make this business work! You sold me a bill of goods, what the fuck happens now?”
How did I know?
Bill of goods?? I was just as overwhelmed as he was except this had been my dream, a dream that was now covered with a stench I could not escape — failure.
Here was my partner, my best friend; how had he become so insensitive? Couldn’t he see I was suffering, treading water just to keep from drowning in despair?
“I won’t cry…I won’t let myself cry…” was my mantra, knowing that when I get that angry I can’t contain the tears.
I reverted back to a default setting from my childhood; Stoic Sadness – I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of breaking down. I would not let him know how much this hurt.
The fight was gaining momentum, words were on the tips of our tongues that could never be taken back, hurts leveled that would cut too deep to heal — it needed to be stopped.
In the process of verbally winding up for the knock out punch I took a good look at him with eyes so clouded with rage it made me nauseous. And that’s when it hit me – I was struck by a thunderbolt of…Compassion.
It forced me to look again, and this time I could really see him. He was scared, just as scared as I was, maybe even more so. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were lost, lawsuits were pending, and his wife was a hot mess.
Something made me get up and walk over to him sitting there in his chair. I had no idea what the next moment would bring. I didn’t have a plan. I was “winging it”.
My posture was such that it made him recoil. I remember thinking: that’s funny, he thinks I’m gonna punch him in the face, and let me tell you, his fears were not unfounded. There was a fist and a knock-out punch with his name on it—if only I were the face punching type.
Instead, I unclenched my fist, opened my hand, and offered it to him. It was a gesture that only confused matters.
He looked down at it and then up into my eyes.
Did I see…contempt?
I stood fast, my hand extended—this was a matter of life and death — our marriage was on the ropes.
“What?” he looked at my hand and shrugged like a punk.
“Come on, let’s go,” I wasn’t taking no for an answer.
I probably stood there for a good two and a half minutes, hand extended, while he considered the offer.
“What are you doing? Where are we going?” he asked.
“Just come with me.” I exhaled impatiently. Maybe this had been a mistake.
Slowly he rose out of his chair, shoulders sagging, eyes to the floor. His six-foot-three frame folded in on itself.
I took his hand, guiding him through the living room and down the hall. “What are you doing?” he sounded like a confused little boy. He wasn’t mad anymore, just worn down, vulnerable.
We kept moving forward.
I didn’t say anything, I wasn’t even sure what I was doing. All I knew is that I was headed for our bed.
I laid down crossways on top of the bedspread, never letting go of his hand. His face read: If you think I’m going to have sex with you, you’re nuts, but that wasn’t my intention. We needed something more than sex could provide.
The bed became a life raft on which to ride out the tsunami.
Begrudgingly, he lay down beside me as I positioned our bodies face to face. When I moved in closer, he moved away. So much for being best friends, we had turned into adversaries, total strangers whose faces were now inches apart.
Looking at him in that moment, he was not the grown man who had been raging at me just minutes before – I saw a very scared nine-year-old boy – and that started to soften my heart.
“We need to remember what we love about each other,” I whispered softly as I stared into his eyes, digging deep to think of something to say.
I feared he would get up at any moment and bolt for the door, but he just lay there, emotionally exhausted.
Tentatively, haltingly, I began.
“I love your eyes.” he closed them briefly, a long blink.
“I love the way you smell.” I started with the easy stuff.
“I love what a good doggie daddy you are.”
Did he crack a smile? If he had it was gone in a flash.
He wasn’t making it easy, but I continued undaunted for another few minutes until momentum began to build.
“I love your funny French accent.” I was on a roll. “I love how you mix your metaphors and invent names for things…like Ricky Ricardo does…”
He interrupted, “I love how that makes you laugh — every time.”
Now we were both laughing. Then he pulled me close, burying my face in his chest — and our laughter turned to sobs.
“I love what a big crybaby you are,” I mumbled into my best friend’s chest after a couple of minutes.
That made us both giggle uncontrollably, like teenagers, and suddenly I felt safe again.
I exhaled a huge sigh of relief knowing that in that moment, we were a team again, we had found our momentarily misplaced love, and by the Grace. Of. God. Something much bigger than the both of us – Compassion had saved my marriage.
*Holy Crap you guys,
This was a hard one to write and re-live. SUCH a painful time for us. My hope is that maybe you’ll think of this during the next big fight, and take a second look at the person and the situation. Compassion is an equal-opportunity-saver of anything for those who are willing to be happy—instead of right.
Listen, I know that by the Grace of God you guys have turned some horrible situations around too––Care to share?