Thursday, February 09, 2012

When Actions Speak Louder than Words

One of the great sadness' of my marriage is the lack of communication that exists between The Boy™ and I. When I first met him, he was very shy and quiet. In fact I think it took several months of getting to know him before discovering that he had quite a sense of humor and could tell a good story when he wanted to. When we would go out to eat with our group of friends, he would just sit there, listening, and laughing, only contributing to the conversations when questions were directed at him. When we spent time together, I talked enough to make up for the both of us, and didn't really realize that none of the conversations were initiated by him. It is who he is, and it was something I failed to consider would ever become a larger issue later on down the road.

I have blogged about it before, most recently back in the summer, here, and don't feel the need to hash it all out again. What I do want to talk about, is how, during the month of February, I am going to work on how I handle all of this in a better way than I have been. In the earlier part of our marriage, I was too busy taking care of small children to really pay attention to the fact that we had a communication problem. We had plenty to talk about that surrounded the kids and what was going on with them. Also, during that time, he was working crazy hours, and I was a young, stressed out stay at home mom and we might've done a lot of fighting. It was a rocky time in our marriage and there may have been times when we didn't communicate well at all. I'm not proud of it, but I'm not going to sugar coat over it either. It's hard being a young parent, and we are able now to look back on that time in our lives, reflect on where we have been, and how far we have come and I like to think that it has made us both better parents and better spouses, but who really knows in the end.

As the kids have gotten older, and more involved in their own things, our situation has changed as well. After we bought our house, he was out of work for a year. Then I went back to work part time, he got a job, and I took on a full time job, and for a while worked both a full time job, and a part time job. To say that he was unhappy at his job was an understatement, and it affected his mood to a degree. After a year I gave up my part time job, and while that helped with the stress on my end, our situation didn't improve any. During this time, I learned that sometimes it was better to just go with the flow. He was working, the kids were in school and had lots of activities and I was working, and so long as I kept us talking about work/school/kids, things would flow along and we could keep going in a forward direction. Except that emotionally, I felt like I was sinking. I fell into this awful habit of keeping everything bottled up, and then when it started to get the best of me, I would start out with excessive nagging, or criticism, and be irritable and unpleasant to be around, until it all got the best of me and I just let it all out in one huge rage that was ugly and awful and had us at odds with each other for a bit. There would be yelling and tears on my part, and he would be quiet and listen, and promise things would get better. For a while, things would be a little better, but it was like putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound.

We did this dance for years and years, and in the midst of it all, the kids got older and more involved with things, and he got another job that required more of his time and continued on doing work on the side for this first company that he was working for. I have blogged about this before, in some very ranty posts I am sure (as I have been cleaning up the blog I have noticed that in the midst of a lot of really good older posts, lie some really ranty whiny ones, and for those I apologize), and things just got worse. As his responsibilities continued to grow, so did the distance between us. This time, I withdrew into myself. I started running. I started going to bed by myself. I started getting up earlier, and enjoying the quiet of the morning alone. I stopped initiating the conversations when we were in the car going to do errands. I no longer felt like a priority in his life, and I was tired of feeling like I was doing all the work to make our relationship work. I tried to tell him this over and over, and felt like I was getting no where. His silence, and lack of change screamed to me that I wasn't important enough to bother with. The worst of it all came to a head during 2008-2009, and I realize now, looking back, that I may have fallen into a bit of a depression because of it all. I may not have been in the best place to have been dealing with any of it, but it is what it was. One day, when I had reached the end of my rope, I had a complete meltdown and told him I couldn't do it a minute longer. I was seriously thinking about leaving him and giving it all up. I was tired of it all and didn't see how I could spend the rest of my life married to someone who couldn't be bothered to spend the effort to communicate with me, or care enough when I told him time after time that things were not working and why, and that I didn't feel loved or appreciated anymore and I wasn't sure that I could keep pretending that everything was OK when it clearly wasn't. It was a huge eye opener for him, and it took us a long time to get through that.

I would be a liar if I sat here and told you that things are better today. He is still a lousy communicator. But here's where February comes in. What I have realized, over the past few months, as I have been struggling again, with the lack of communication, is that he communicates in his own way. He is more of a doer than a talker. Instead of telling me, as I walk through the door after work, quick to drop off my stuff and head to therapy for my elbow, "I missed you today, and was thinking of you. How was your day?" He hands me a travel mug full of Chamomile tea, because he knows I like to have tea when I come home from school, and I won't be able to, and asks what he needs to do to have dinner on the table when I get home. He brings me my blanket at night when we settle in for the evening after dinner and chores are done because he knows that I'm going to be cold. He will stay late at work if the kids have practice or rehearsal to bring them home so that we don't have to make extra trips to the HS, or run out during the day to pick up something we need at the store, or make a special trip if I'm baking and realize we are out of an ingredient or a million other thoughtful things. Once, way back when he was out of work, and I was working part time, he spent an entire day making a bench for the yard because I had mentioned that some day I'd like a wooden bench for the corner of the yard. He looked it up on the computer, spend the whole day with scrap wood from the barn, and tools that the previous owner left behind, and made me the most wonderful bench because he knew I would love it.. which I did. The legs are rotting after 10 summers of sitting out in the yard, and I don't care. He shows his love and feelings through his actions, something that has taken me 16.5 years of marriage and 18.5 years of knowing him to figure out.

What I have been working on this month.. is recognizing that, and appreciating him for it. I've been trying to let go of my need for more communication, although it is very much still there, and instead of putting up my "fine, if he doesn't want to bother, I'm not starting the conversation" wall, initiating the conversations myself, and not feeling resentful for it. Is it easy? No.. not all the time. I am not going to lie. The broken little girl who had such a rough childhood and still longs for a happily ever after, still wishes that sometimes, he would walk into the room and say, "Hey beautiful, did you know that you are the best thing that ever happened to me?" Who knows, someday my prince might come.

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