I used to almost choke on my resentment.
I resented washing the dishes while my husband watched TV. I resented getting up for a 3 a.m. feeding while my husband slept. I resented having to shut down my computer in the midst of writing a chapter because a toddler woke up early from a nap. I resented my husband's family, who would arrive with nothing but subtle judgement about my home and children. I resented his freedom. I even resented his resentment.
Around the time I found myself resenting the fact that my husband was using up oxygen that I thought should be mine...I finally acknowledged that my marriage was in serious trouble.
I was about to learn exactly how serious.
By the time I suggested marital counselling, we'd both been simmering for years. Me choking back resentment. Him expressing it in the form of multiple affairs, which I "discovered" just a few weeks into our marital counselling. In hindsight, I'd suspected for months...but only trusted that intuition when I recognized that he was willing to try and save the marriage. But that's another post.
Unlike Kim Kardashian, most of us spend years in marital misery before we take steps to either end the misery by looking outside the marriage for what we need...or ending the marriage altogether.
Which is why so many marriage counsellors note that it's not the affair itself that determines whether or not a marriage is salvageable, but the state of marriage apart from that. It's possible, despite what so many of us previously thought, to view the affair as a symptom of marital distress, rather than the sole cause. But because an affair raises the stakes so dramatically, we tend to focus on it rather than what led to it. We also tend to resist focussing what led to it because it can seem, to those of us feeling "wronged" like we somehow "caused" the affair. We. Did. Not.
But...staying stuck in that victim mode of being wronged serves no-one, least of all ourselves.
So it's important to examine what our marriage was like. Honestly. Which is no easy task when our dreams are strewn around us like a toddler's toys.
I would have told you that my marriage was good. That we were good friends. Sure, we had our issues. But don't all couples?
A few weeks ago, I was able to finally admit to our marriage counsellor – within the context of why I wasn't more affectionate with my husband – that his touch used to infuriate me.
Why? Well...I had to think about it. Then I recalled how often he would hug me from behind when I was doing the dishes. And all I could think was "why aren't you helping me do the dishes rather than hugging me?" Or he would tell me I looked beautiful when I was breastfeeding one our kids...and I would think "why aren't you throwing in a load of laundry instead of staring at me?" And so on.
I had no idea how to ask for the help I needed. He was incapable of hearing any request I made as anything other than criticism (his mind-tape plays only one song: "You're doing it wrong. You're doing it wrong."). And so I was in my corner...and he in his.
And our resentment reached a boiling point.
It's hard to admit that I wasn't the lovely, warm wife I wanted to believe I was.
And he certainly deals with the shame that he was hardly the devoted husband.
But by looking at who we were in the marriage, we're able to more clearly decide who we want to be now...in this new marriage with the same spouse.
It has taken almost five years to get to this point. Five years of which I spent at least two determined to get him to admit that our marriage would have been wonderful if only...
If only he had spent less time at work.
If only he had helped me more.
If only we had both been capable of being different people. We couldn't then. But we can now.