Two weeks ago I wrote about a snippet of conversation that I knew would lead to a fight with TN. It’s a fight that was desperately overdue. It’s also a ridiculous way to get your spouse to communicate with you, but that’s how we roll at the House of Nerds.
If you look up stiff upper lip in the dictionary, you’ll see a photo of TN. He has that British stoicism down to a science. That’s not to say he’s not emotional. His humor is vast, witty, intelligent and at times biting. He loves deeply and isn’t afraid to show it. He’s empathic and sensitive and a gentle soul. But when he’s unhappy about something, he buries that so deep it takes dynamite to dig deep enough to get to it. He doesn’t hide it all that well. He becomes sullen, withdrawn, and generally crabby. Normally I wouldn’t share something like this, but he completely owns this side of himself so I don’t feel like I’m speaking badly of him.
The only way I can crack the wall he puts up is to pick a fight. It can’t just be any fight and it doesn’t happen instantly. It has to be snide comments and frustrations aired over a few days so he knows I’m annoyed. It has to start with him thinking I’m the one in the wrong, I’m the one being bitchy.
I’m sure you’re thinking why don’t I just ask him what’s wrong when I see it happening. Trust me, I try. Sometimes he starts talking, but then he gets upset, adds another row of bricks to the wall and says, “I can’t talk about this right now.” It’s not that he doesn’t want to, he actually believes he can’t.
So I play along with this dysfunctional game. I get annoyed by his behavior. I start making snide comments. After a couple of days, I finally say something that breaches the wall and he explodes. I don’t even cry anymore when it happens. I used to get so upset by the things he’d say in anger. My heart would hurt and tears would burn my cheeks.
Since we had the reset to our marriage and sex life two years ago, we’ve not really had one of these huge, days long fights. Some of that is because we have just gotten along better. Not to toot my own horn, but a large part is because I have made a conscious effort to not hold onto annoyances and anger. It’s not always easy, but I have managed to change my thinking most of the time. The fact that I can and do choose happiness over other emotions tells me that my own mental health is well managed right now. Another first for me.
Perhaps that’s why while he responded in anger, saying words that in the past would have angered me and cut me to the core, I was able to just sit, listen and watch him. As he threw his barbs, none penetrated my heart and I realized that I am stronger than I knew.
The end result of the fight was good. He’s addressing his unmanaged anxiety with his doctor. New medication is slowly starting to work. He’s making an effort to be more open and willing to talk. It’s an ongoing process and I am not naivé enough to think this will never happen again, but I am confident that we will work through the usual marriage issues.
Perhaps even more important than all of that, this realization of my own strength has been comforting and empowering in ways I never expected. That’s going to come in handy when we finally start facing the differences in our sex drives and comfort with kink.