Last week we had a blip. Husband had his w/e all mapped out. Friday night after work tying flies in readiness to go fishing. Fishing all day Saturday. Football on Sunday. I knew this was going to happen. It wasn't sprung on me as has happened all too often in the past. On Sunday after the football he came home and watched the re-run on TV. And after that he switched over to watch a football review programme. And then he watched X Factor. Prior to this on the Friday night I knew I was too tired to cook and suggested that we pop into our local pub to eat. He initially said 'no' - his preferred response to the vast majority of things I say or suggest. I explained that it would be nice to spend a couple of hours checking in with each other because he was going to be out and about all w/e. He still had plenty of time to tie flies. I got upset. He managed to turn his tunnel vision around and I managed to stop myself going into free fall about yet another small request being rejected because he was focused only on what he wanted. We went out. We congratulated ourselves on pulling ourselves back from the brink of the usual unpleasant dance.
The w/e passed. On Sunday,having sat with him and been companionable through all the TV, none of which I wanted to watch, he went to switch channels again. I gently said that he needed to check in with me. That it would be good if he simply asked if there was anything we could share together. His response was to huffily pass me the remote and say 'you choose then'. I said that that wasn't the point. That it was important to not just keep going ahead on his own agenda and that it was important and polite to recognise that he wasn't the only person in the room. 'What do want? I've given you the remote. What more do you want?' came the reply. He looked angry and spoke angrily. Ok I say. Let's rewind. Let's start again. I reframed my point. He sat there with a face like a slapped arse. He got defensively aggressive. I tried again. Gently, slowly and patiently. He continued to be entrenched. I got up and walked out. To calm down. I returned to tell him that I had held up 2 ladders to help him climb out of the hole he had dug and that he had just sh*t in it. And then I went to bed. In bed I reflected that having made good progress over the past few months, my patience threshold had thinned again. I asked my self what had caused this. And the conclusion I came to was that although I thought I could manage his reluctance to read past page 28 in Melissa's book, I couldn't. I was harbouring resentment about his procrastination, his delaying tactics. In the morning I left the book on the kitchen table bookmarked at page 29.
Fast forward a few days. I get a text saying that he was going to see his sister and would I like to come over. We could pick up some food on the way back to save cooking. I needed to have a nap so declined the trip over but said yes to picking up food. I had dinner planned but that could wait. Not to worry came the reply. Sister out. Would you like me to cook? Yes I said. The nap was taken and feeling refreshed I thought, 'I know. I'll start the cooking and he won't have to set to when he comes in.' A kindly deed. Half way through preparing dinner he walked in with a take away. Walked past me with it, not noticing that I was cooking. Oh, I say, you've brought food in. Yes he says. I said I would. No I say. You said you would cook. What's the difference he says. The difference, I say, is that out of kindness I got up from my nap,and thinking of you, I got dinner started. You said that you would cook, not get food in. Things got heated. Harsh words were exchanged.He stormed out. He returned. I apologised for losing my temper. We rewind. We reach an equilibrium. Again.
He picked up Melissa's book. He started again at the beginning. And read past page 28. He actually spoke about what he had been reading with no prompting from me. He acknowledged that he was all the things he had been reading. He wanted to get things right.
Fast forward to last night. His sister comes over. We have an extremely illuminating few hours talking about a current family crisis (his) that has culminated in them sharing how fed up they are with another sibling who has behaved extraordinarily badly. She shares her anger about this sibling and how it has been going on since she was little. He shares that he has discovered that he has ADHD. And that the impact on our marriage has been immense.They share family anecdotes. I am listening. They talk about how in their family, which is a loud argumentative, but 'loving' one, that conflict was dealt with by simply saying 'Let's not argue about this. Let's forget it. Let's move on.' I comment that it sounded like they were left holding their hurts and internalising them to preserve the family story that they were a happy, united set up. The conflicts were not dealt with openly and fairly.
After she left we carry on talking. He tells me that the things his sister has talked about are similar to the things I have been telling him. He didn't realise that she had been so badly hurt by their mother's behaviour.I tell him that it is important for me to feel acknowledged and validated. He gets very cross because he feels that that is what he had done with his sister. I point out that this is a good thing to tell her about the ADHD. I suggest that the next step is to examine what effect the story that he has constructed about his family, has had on us. He has always said whenever I have commented on something about his mum 'Well you've never liked her' (not true). Conversation ebbs and flows. He gets angry. I get upset. He soothes. We rewind. I get angry. He gets upset. I soothe. We rewind. We continue to talk.
At one point he breaks down completely and cries. I can count on one hand the times I have seen him cry. I can't do this I can't do this he says. It's too hard. He falls into the hole of self pity. I'm a bastard. I've treated you badly. My head's completely f*cked up. Is it going to take the next 30 years to put right what's been done over the past 30 years?
AND THEN......... And then...... he starts connecting the dots. He admits to siding with his family against me. He admits to the scapegoating that he and his family have inflicted on me.He admits to wanting to control me. He admits to using the fact that I have always been open about the dysfunction of my own family as a way of feeling superior about his family. And that he has blamed me all these years for any conflict between us. Because my family was so dysfunctional. He admits that his mum isn't able to offer emotional support and advice. That she isn't the demi-goddess that he has always believed. That there is dysfunction at the heart of the mythological family that he has created in his head.
I glimpsed the scared little boy who had been let down by his mother because she hasn't been able to provide what he needed, whilst telling him the opposite. Who had sold him a story of family life that was based around her own dysfunctions. I glimpsed the anxious, fragile soul who has spent his life buying into this myth and who has resented me, an incomer, telling him that the empress has no clothes on.
He was shattered. He had sat in the 'truth' chair and found the strength to acknowledge and validate so many of the things I have talked about for so many years.
Thank you, thank you sister in law. You too have been on a long, hard, brave journey to discover yourself and in doing so, may have helped your brother to open up and examine who and what he is.
He's gone fishing again today. That's ok. We both need time apart to assimilate this.
I continue to be hopeful.