A Minute to Myself (17)
A Seeker Be

Get Your Words Off Me: Excerpt Six

Hold those Communications

The roots of the end of my marriage can also be found many years ago when I it occurred to me that when there is a problem or an issue to be discussed, I would raise points, whereas my husband made decisions. So, at some point, and not consciously mind you, I stopped bringing up some things for discussion; in that way I was able to make decisions myself. Even if I agreed with his decisions, the dismissal of my vote as ever being able to be the determining vote was insulting and hurtful.

Initially this process of making decisions on my own was accepted, albeit reluctantly and only after he realized, I think, that he just didn’t have the time to accompany me everywhere I go in order to tell me what to buy. In the course of time there seemed to be things that he was willing to give up control over, like which sneakers to get for our daughters and what kind of birthday party to have. But, in all essential things, his need to make all decisions finally unveiled itself as his need to control our lives—to control me. To realize that your voice and mind are not counted is pretty tough, demoralizing even.

One day, when we were already in the process of getting a divorce but living (horribly) separate in the same house, I started telling my husband that I would not be taking our daughters for a planned trip the next day, but rather the following week. He stood there, puffing his chest out in all his glory, and told me that he would have to think about it. I puffed myself up, too, and said that this is not something for him to decide but rather to discuss—as equals. At the suggestion of our being equal partners in this marriage he bristled, and with his coffee and cigarette stained teeth mere inches from my face he finally came right out and said it: “What I say is more important than what you say.” At that nasty insistence of superiority I simply turned and walked away. What can you say to a man who is unable to relent, who cannot change his vision of the world and his centrality in it? Who made him God? (He came back to me later that day to tell me that it would be alright if I take them. Relentless. As if I cared.)

When we first met we were young, we didn’t talk about the important issues, we just enjoyed being together. The tough questions we never even brought up; I guess we figured that we could ride through it all. I guess we were wrong.

After we had our first child, we did not discuss my future employment plans. I’m stunned by this now, but that is truly an indication—more than sixteen years ago—that this was not a healthy marriage. Rather than discuss when and if I would go back to work, I simply did what I thought was right: I was a stay-at-home mother for a year and a half. If we had discussed it, he would have said that I need to go back to work and that would have been it, I would have needed to go back to work or defy him. How is it that we were never able to talk things over, how is it that we talked past each other?

I can remember early into our marriage we would do everything together. We would do the grocery shopping together. He would go clothes shopping with me, suggesting what I should try on. And me, needing approval, needing for him to like the way I looked, I would try on and buy the clothes he suggested. At that point it wasn’t that I was losing myself and my personality in his decisions, it was rather that I lacked confidence in myself and was following his confidence. It wasn’t that he was controlling me, it was more that I was enabling him to make decisions for me.

Why didn’t I have self confidence, or why didn’t I have enough self-confidence to stand against him. Or was it that I was following what I thought was the role a wife should have; was I simply following the way my mother had acted with my father? She let him make all the decisions, or so it seemed. She waited for him and was guided by him. It seemed to work for them, why did it become oppressive for me? Was I, the independent daughter who went to live abroad at 22, really less independent? Was I looking for guidance? Or did I simply select the wrong man?

What makes a man think that he is more important than his wife? How can a man say that what he says is more important than what his wife says?


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