Friday, February 18, 2011

I Get You

Last week, I participated in Amy’s wonderful “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” series by being a guest blogger on Amy’s site, and today, I’d like to welcome a neighbor of my own into these parts. I’m excited to host Cecilia’s words here today. When I discovered her blog, Only You, I didn’t just find a fellow mom and blogger, but someone who truly is a kindred spirit. Her honesty is refreshing, and her voice is absolutely endearing; I’m so happy to have her here today.

Please help me welcome my neighbor, my friend, Cecilia, as she talks about her relationship with her husband, and I hope you’ll hop on over to her site for a visit. I think you’ll really like it there.


 

I GET YOU by Cecilia

Marriage has been on my mind a bit lately, between Valentine’s Day on Monday, my husband Max’s birthday today, and our 10-year wedding anniversary trip starting tomorrow.

I’ve also been thinking about it because Max and I are both under the weather and we’ve been bickering and fighting on and off all week.

I remember our first kiss, our first exchange of “I love you”s. I also remember our first real fight.

It happened when we were engaged and I was living in Japan, where we had met. While Max was at work one day, I was thinking about our – or his, I suppose – finances (I really don’t remember at this point), and I shot him a quick email saying, “I don’t really understand this part. Please tell me, because I don’t think I can marry you until I understand…” Within two hours the front door flew open and Max was standing in the doorway in his suit. “I felt sick to my stomach when I saw your email,” he cried. “I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t work.”

I was shocked at how strongly he had reacted, and then later, at how carelessly my words had come out. “I didn’t mean it literally,” I backtracked, trying to convince him that I wouldn’t walk away that easily. On top of gender differences and our inherently imperfect communication styles, we also come from two different cultures and speak two different languages.

For the next several years our conflicts would unfold in similar dramatic fashion. For better or worse, Max and I are a passionate pair. Everything is felt and expressed to the nth degree. When we separate because of travels, we cry. When we watch movies about someone losing a loved one, we grab one another and weep. When we can’t get through to the other person, or feel misunderstood or unappreciated, we scream, we threaten, we slam doors, we leave the house.

In the early years of our marriage, we were a textbook case of the ideal relationship. Yes, we fought, but we also made up well. We reached out, apologized, took time to talk to one another calmly, tried to see things from the other person’s perspective, and promised to do better next time.

Sometime over the last five years, we had started to fight differently. I’ve noticed that we have stopped apologizing. Not always, but often. We’ve also spent less time talking post-blowups. Unless it was a significant issue – a 7 or above on the marital Richter scale – we have typically gone from an abbreviated silent treatment to gradual warm-up and then complete normalcy without any discussion whatsoever.

When I first noticed this change, I had put another mental marker in the “My fairy tale marriage has gone sour” column, right alongside the preference to sleep or read blogs over making love, the conscious decision to not shave my legs or take a shower. Another sign of marital neglect, I thought.

The other evening, Max came up to me in the kitchen and said, with great irritation in his voice, how I need to teach our 6 year-old to be more mindful of his belongings (Fred had, for the second time in three days, left his jacket on the school playground). If you’re a fellow mother, I probably don’t need to explain the rationale behind my blowup that spattered two seconds later (and keep in mind that I was not feeling well at this point). “Do not start with me!” I turned and looked Max straight in the eye, suddenly feeling slightly disarmed by the lack of intensity or anger in his face. But like a pre-programmed robot, I left the dinner I was making and stalked off upstairs to our bedroom. In the past, I would have stayed there, sullen, waiting for Max to come get me. This time, I simply didn’t feel enough anger to continue with my charade. So I walked back down and finished dinner.

Max was chummy again after we ate, and I didn’t have the energy or ill will to stay mad at him. We didn’t bring up the pre-dinner incident, and there was no apology from either side. Somehow, I knew that he didn’t mean what he had said, at least not in the way that it came out. And he must have understood why I reacted as I did. We both knew, too, that it was our cold viruses and headaches talking. Apology and discussion were not needed. But this time I realized it wasn’t because we had neglected our marriage; indeed, we have been paying plenty of attention to one another these last 10 years. We no longer have to air everything, or explain everything. I get him now. We get each other.

 

* * *

How do you fight and make up? Have you also noticed changes in the way you deal with conflict over the course of your relationship with your significant other?

 

Thank you Cecilia for sharing this intimate part of your life with us. Have a wonderful time on your trip, and congratulations on 10 years of marriage!!!

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