Saturday, June 7, 2008

Good surprises

Sometimes my wonderful husband really amazes me. Sometimes I am actually shocked by how generous, understanding, and accepting he is. Sometimes I wonder what on earth I did to deserve him.

Red and I have certainly been having our share of ups and downs lately. Even though we've been married more than five years now, I guess I still react to our difficulties as if they were conflicts happening between my parents. My parents (whom I love very much) were disasters as parents, and as a married couple. (By "parents" I'm referring to my mother and the stepfather she was married to during my teen years. He was the only one of her husbands with whom I developed any kind of father/daughter relationship. He passed away suddenly several years ago.)

My parents were drunks. I remember one time, early in their marriage, they'd been out all night drinking with friends. They didn't come home, and my stepdad's kids (who were younger than me) were at the house with me for his visitation time. I didn't know where they were. I was trying not to panic because his kids were there and I didn't want to frighten them. I was always hyperaware of how close my parents were constantly putting themselves to death.

Finally, somewhere around 10-11 the next morning, I got a phone call from my stepdad. He was drunk again/still. He and my mother had apparently argued, and she left. The only thing he said when I answered was "Tell your mother I said GOODBYE." To me, it was clear that he meant permanently. Now, they didn't divorce. But I, knowing that I was basically at his mercy, had already accepted homelessness and packed up my car by the time they both arrived home. Mom had begun packing too by the time he settled down and agreed to talk about the situation.

I tell this story only to explain that to me, needing another person is dangerous. You never know how easily you can be thrown away. That wasn't the only time my stepfather threw me out of the house. Because he was always drunk, it took literally nothing from me to make him angry. I know now that he was basically making up reasons to get angry with me so that he could justify his drinking to himself. But there were times when I'd literally be woken up in the morning by his rage. Sometime during the night he would have found something I'd done (like parking the car crookedly in the driveway) that would send him into a rage.

I think one of the major reasons why I am so attracted to the idea of discipline in my marriage is that it gives a structure for dealing with conflict that is predictable. It has boundaries. It helps me feel safe that I'll never be thrown out of my own house, that Red will never break down the bedroom door at night because I parked the car wrong. I know how conflict will be handled now. It will be handled by talking, and possibly by discipline.

However, I fear sometimes that this is asking too much of Red. I feel like I'm telling him, "You must deal with your emotions on my terms. And then once discipline occurs, you must let it go forever." I know that I would have an extremely hard time if he told me how he wanted me to deal with my emotions.

Earlier this week, Red and I were in the car together on a long drive to a business meeting that we both had to attend. I told him about this concern and how I'm not sure what to do about it. I mean, this predictability is a major benefit of domestic discipline for me, and if I cannot rely on it, then I don't think I'd want to continue down this path.

As I explained my feelings to him, I was bracing myself for him to say something like, "You're absolutely right. It's completely unfair to me. You are asking way too much of me. How dare you try to dictate how I deal with my feelings with you."

Instead, Red shrugged his shoulders, smiled, and said, "I know. It's okay. I accept it."

I admit to expressing disbelief at this point.

Then he explained, "Look, it is what you need. And to be honest, exercising the authority you've given me will help me. I've been sick for a year and a half. Having control in our relationship helps me to feel like I have some control over my own life."

And that was it. No explosions. No arguments. No tossing me out of the car on the side of the highway. Just complete acceptance.

I've never experienced this before, but I like it. I hope I'll be able to get used to it.


Anonymous said...

Rose, clearly you have been through some very hard times. It is no wonder that trust comes hard. Obviously, Red loves you enough to do whatever it takes to make things work. In time, he will find his satisfaction in this way of handling things. In fact, it seems that has begun. It is wonderful that you are talking about all of this. Ultimately we need to understand how to best love our spouses, and there is nothing wrong with that!

Jigsaw Analogy said...

my therapist often says that people tend to be drawn into relationships with someone who will kind of help them to grow in ways they need to grow. so my need for consistency from w calls up her difficulty in this area... but also helps her to grow.

w's need for emotional support from a partner calls up my difficulty in that area, and helps *me* to grow.

i guess my point is, most of us might *feel* like we're asking "too much" but we wind up asking for things our partners really benefit from doing.

i'm glad red was able to reassure you on that front!

and i've just got to say i'm glad you're beginning to be able to realize that it was nothing *you* did or said that made your stepfather behave as he did. but that's a hard one, at least for me... i spent my childhood thinking that the stuff that happened actually was my fault; i finally realized that part of that was so i could feel some sense of control (if it's my fault, then i can control whether or not it happens).

Hermione said...

Rose, a late comment, but I think you and Red are very lucky.