I’ve never been able to participate well in an argument. Problem is, whenever I get emotional, I cry. I’m well aware of the fact that it’s not an effective way to make a point; I know it adds to the frustration I’m already feeling at the moment; and it didn’t take long for me to realize that it absolutely ends the conversation from my husband’s point of view. But I learned very early in life that I can’t change the inevitable tears that come with an argument.
We’d been at an impasse for a while, and it was becoming too great an effort to ignore the situation: trying to move past each other without looking at him, sleeping lightly so we didn’t accidentally touch at night, smiling insincerely in front of our four children and in polite society.
I felt ignored, discounted, a burden to the business life my husband was trying to pursue. When he was in town, I felt like an outsider trying to charm my way back in, tired of thinking if I could just cook the perfect meal or pick up the kids’ toys, or come up with the right greeting when he came home, everything would magically be okay again and our family would be as important to him as the never-ending work responsibilities and customer crises that continually sucked every last bit of energy and concentration away from us.
Things came to a head one evening when a restaurant owner called John in the middle of our dinner, upset that he had run out of potatoes and needing an emergency delivery, and my husband jumped up to be the superhero for what felt like the millionth time. I couldn’t fathom a situation so ridiculous, so unimportant, so infantile as that restaurant owner expecting someone to bring him potatoes because he had made an error in ordering. Even worse, I couldn’t believe the words coming out of my husband’s mouth as he was hastily dressing to leave. “It’s my reputation at stake. And I will not be the reason we lose a customer.”
I stood there in complete shock, tears streaming down my face and screamed, “So you’d rather lose your family? Because you do know that’s what’s happening, and you’re doing nothing to stop it.”
The slamming door said it all.
That night, at 3 a.m., when the house was quiet and John was home and in bed, dreaming fitfully as he always did those days, I sat on the living room floor with a pen and a pad of paper, and fought the best way I knew how. I fought with emotion, I fought with tears, I fought with the words that just wouldn’t come when I was in the same room with him trying to muster my courage and be reasonable, trying to make my point as an adult without losing my composure.
I wrote. Of my anger, of my fear that nothing was ever going to change, of all the concerns that had been building for months. I told him that I didn’t want to leave, but if I needed to or he needed me to, I would. Because this wasn’t working and we both deserved so much more.
I handed him the letter as he was leaving for work the next morning and asked him to please read it at some point during the day.
John came home on time that night, and simply said, “I had no idea and I’m sorry.”
He kept that letter in the top drawer of his nightstand, and there were a few times over the years that I’d look him in the eye and simply say, “You need to read the letter again.” Point made, point taken.
I fought for us the only way I knew how. And thank God it worked.
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