How many relationship “experts”, writers and doctors preach honesty and openness? How many times in 20 years have I opened my heart to her, told her my hopes and dreams, listened to hers, answered her most probing questions about what turned me on or off, what she needed in bed…I tried. It was so hard to be honest, despite her insisting. I didn’t want to hurt her. I knew my words would hurt her. The truth hurts.
What she didn’t tell me, probably didn’t know herself was that she couldn’t handle hearing what she wanted to know. Early in our marriage she would ask me about my fantasies, first like it was a game, like she was being cute about it. And when I refused to tell her, she got irritated and moody.
But I was embarrassed and it was hard to talk about. It was extremely uncomfortable and felt a little dangerous, like exposing my weaknesses. After a while I think she was driven by this thing, this idea of something I was holding back from her, and demanded to know what I fantasized about–she wanted it in the name of honesty. While it was important to be honest, I also knew some things just needed to be kept to myself. I resisted hard.
But she was clearly disturbed about me keeping something from her, so I gave in. When I told her some of the things I got off on masturbating in my younger days…and occasionally afterward, she got quiet, then distant and then hurt. I watched it happen, the changes cross over her face like a quick moving time-lapsed eclipse.
She wouldn’t talk about it for a long time. And when she did, she tearfully confessed she couldn’t do what I wanted. She didn’t like anything that might be painful and then it got so messy because I told her I didn’t actually want these things from her, which was the right thing to say but she took it wrong like I wanted it from someone else or didn’t think her capable; it broke down from there into silence and brooding anger.
Just one of the many breakdowns and resentments that collect and heap up over time.
Be open and honest. Right. How much is too much honesty? Not enough? This is the person I chose to share everything with, who I counted on to build me up not tear me down for what I think or say. I always felt she was on my side and wanted what was best for me. I still do. But there is a slow but steady growing crack widening in us we can’t seem to repair.
There were other misunderstandings that ended in injured feelings, both of us shut down and protective of our own. She casually mentioned one too many times that the company should give me more time off, more pay, more respect, just more of… what? What SHE wanted? Was she defending me or looking out for her own interest?
It’s degrading to be reminded you don’t make as much as you should or have as much as you deserve. She doesn’t know. She doesn’t work there. There’s a sense of how things operate, something she couldn’t know. And for someone so sensitive, it’s downright insensitive not to know how that burns.
Now I sound like her with the mindreading. She should know…I should know…No, I should have told her how that humiliated me. Not angrily but calmly. But then…I’d been burned so many times by that whole honesty thing before.
My head just spins with this shit. No wonder so many of my college buddies weren’t too keen on getting married any time soon, preferring sex, partying and freedom. Funny, how I judged them then as shallow. Maybe they in their blind denial intuited the danger, all the pitfalls of relationships going long, going stale, expecting too much, tolerating too little…I just chalked them up to chickenshits. But maybe they were right.
And yet I couldn’t imagine life without her. Too painful. The struggles you suffer and overcome, my dad described as the ups and downs of marriage: “it ain’t easy but it ain’t that hard either.” Yeah? Seems pretty damned difficult sometimes. It’s fucking hard!
Then again, it’s harder to give up…until there’s nothing to give up, like knowing when you’re bested or outdone, checkmated. There’s no point in trying. Until then, you just keep figuring it out.