So, on our vacation I had opened up to a friend about something I’ve not spoken or written of, and I sort of talked to my wife about how I’ve been feeling inside. One more thing happened during that trip to remind us all of the past and it came from our daughter.
Sarah has mentioned this to me when we were alone and I just talked to her a bit about it, but now she brought it up again in front of the whole family while I was driving.
“Mommy, why did you sleep at grandma’s while we were all at home?” Sarah asked out of the blue.
Carol, who was quite clearly thrown off by the sudden mention of this replied, “Because… it doesn’t matter.”
“It doesn’t matter. Leave it alone,” she snapped.
I stayed silent and made a note to address this with Carol later.
A week after we came home, Carol and I were doing some shopping. I’ll give you fair warning that I snapped and said something quite assholish. It started when, while shopping, something reminded me of a absurd, dirty conversation between Elizabeth and Steve, so I laughed, then shared it with Carol. Instead of laughing along, Carol got angry and said that people who talk like that usually don’t actually engage in sexual activity.
“Trust me, they do. They both independently told me about a blow job in the shed that day, and unless that was some weird, over-planned, coordinated effort to lie to me, I think they actually do that stuff,” I replied.
“Well, I’m not Elizabeth!” Carol answered angrily.
I had no clue how the conversation turned this way instead of laughing about my friends being perverts and I got angry, partially because of Carol’s complete misreading of my comment and intention, and mostly because this is the reaction I’d expect from her in our old relationship and I wasn’t having that at all.
So, I bit back with, “That’s for sure.”
The rest of the shopping was silent.
Then, in the car, Carol asked, “Are you mad at me because I won’t give you a blow job in the shed?”
Instead of shutting down, I talked, “I’m mad because you can’t even joke about sexual stuff like that, like the idea of sex is appalling, and it can’t even be laughed about. I’ve dealt with that for enough years, I don’t want to deal with it again now.”
“I don’t want to be compared to another woman.”
“I wasn’t comparing, you did that to yourself! Something reminded about their stupid conversation and I laughed so I let you in on it,” I said, then added angrily, “You have no idea what I compare myself to.”
I don’t compare myself to directly him, as I truly do feel superior to him in all areas, but I do compare her relationship to me past vs. present and what I imagine her relationship was to him.
I continued, “You think that just because we don’t speak of it, that it’s gone and forgotten? It hasn’t left, it’s just been buried, and everyone else just goes on like nothing happened, no big deal.”
“I haven’t forgotten. I live with it every day,” Carol replied.
“And another thing, you shutting down any discussion with Sarah about why you went away just made her more curious. It’s your mess, so it’s your problem to explain it to her, not mine.”
“It wasn’t the best time to talk.”
“There’s never a good time to talk, but it helps to talk. We’re supposed to be talking. How are we supposed to know what’s going on if we never say anything? From my perspective, everything’s fine with you. You don’t need therapy anymore. Just me.”
“Everything’s not fine! I still feel like shit about it nearly all the time! I just don’t walk around acting like I feel,” she said.
“That’s good to know,” I said. “It’s not good, but good for me to know. Now I don’t feel so much like I’m going crazy.”
We had arrived home at this point so that was the end of the conversation. It started out roughly but a little more steam was let off. I’m fact, looking back at it, I think the reason why she reacted that way to my comments in the first place was because she needed to get it out in the open as badly as I apparently needed to.
We had talked about ‘it’, even if it was not mentioned by name. I no longer feel like I’m living in an alternate universe where it didn’t happen. This is where the angry talk ended and something else began.
Later that evening, I decided to look for my high school yearbooks as there was a funny photo in one of them that Steve and I had talked about and now I wanted to find it and show it to the kids. While searching, I found a memory box and our wedding album. Without a second thought, I got those out to share with the family as well.
The whole family spent the evening looking through these old memories: my yearbooks, her yearbooks, our wedding album, and a memory box filled mostly with things from our first anniversary. It was a nice little trip.
The next morning, when we had some time alone, Carol told me that she was surprised that I brought out that stuff for us to look at. I responded that my head is still a mess and it’s hard to look back but this time it seemed okay. I tried to explain how I feel about our old marriage vs. new and how it’s hard to see them as part of the same thing with the same people involved. I had difficulty explaining but I said a number of things that I’ve already written on the matter. Talking about this lead to talking about our anniversary.
“I don’t like that we didn’t celebrate our anniversary,” Carol said with tears in her eyes.
“I didn’t want to acknowledge it. It made me angry, so I ignored it. I can’t look at the number of years and feel like it’s anything but a lie, because it only feels like 2 years now. You broke the marriage before. You decided that you didn’t want to be married to me but only as long as I believed I was married to you. I still don’t understand it and I doubt I ever will, but it happened and now we can’t celebrate whatever number of years married it would’ve been. However, we did get married, and it was a lovely day. A perfect day. We had the whole future ahead of us. It didn’t work out how we imagined, but through it all, here we are, still married. And that means something. Maybe it is something to celebrate, that day. Maybe we forget the number of years and just celebrate that day we had that lead to this day, to us together now and the beautiful children we have,” I told her.
“I’m so sorry I ruined it,” Carol cried. We embraced.
“I want to get new rings and have a new wedding,” she said.
“But what about the old rings and wedding? What does that make them mean?” I asked.
“Maybe we can do something special with the old rings, and it will be a renewal of our vows, not a replacement wedding. We’ll have both. Old and new,” Carol said.
“That sounds nice,” I replied.
If I were writing a story, this would be a nice place to end it, but as we all know, whether you reach the back cover or see the credits roll, life goes on.
Did I make some progress? Yes, I think I did. A little bit.