This is one of my favorite photos of John and I. It captures perfectly the happiness, love and joy we felt that day.
So when did this bliss begin to deteriorate? When, exactly, did our marriage begin to suffer?
I think that's an impossible question to answer. As every couple knows, you don't marry a perfect person. You're not a perfect person yourself. Thus, the union of two imperfect people isn't going to be the most perfect thing in the world.
We both came into the relationship with baggage. At the onset of our relationship, we accepted the baggage happily. His ridiculous quirks were endearing to me, and I believe all of mine were the same to him.
Somewhere along the way, however, we allowed selfishness and arrogance to cloud our perception.
When I think back, our marriage was suffering a very long time. We were married young, so we were admittedly immature in our handling of things. It takes time and patience to learn how to make a life together with and for each other. There are no owner's manuals - you gotta figure it out yourself.
So if I had to pinpoint a time frame, I guess I'd say a few months before Vincent was born. We were more than a year into our marriage and I was beginning to put pressure on John to keep his end of the bargain regarding children. I had acquiesced to waiting a year, and there we were, a year and six months later, with him refusing to even speak of children let alone attempt making them. As a result of this frustration, I burned with an intense resentment of him. I blamed him for my unhappiness, and as such, I treated him very poorly. I didn't realize it at the time, of course, but my resentment came out in a stunning array of belittling, nagging, cold shoulders, refusal of sex, and pretty much any other "female weapon" you can think of. I was very likely the worst wife in the universe, and it all stemmed from the hurt I felt over being lied to.
He had promised children after a year, and he went back on his word. A part of me hated him for it, and that part of me was allowed to fester and grow, blinding the part of me that loved him and coaxing my mind to blow every perceived failure into a mountain that weighed heavily against him.
How could any man stand up under such crushing weight?
In early January of the next year, I learned I was pregnant. It was a happy accident, of course, and John quickly changed his tune. He went from being anti-children to boasting to his friends and family of the great father he couldn't wait to be. I, in turn, forgot instantly the resentment and hatred because I'd been given the child he had promised. I also gained the doting father I knew he'd be.
So for a time, all was well. We spent months blissfully happy in our preparations for Vincent. Even in the weeks and months after Vincent was born, our marriage seemed poised for perfection and all ill-feelings were barely a memory.
However, babies are not cures for failing marriages. All of the issues John and I had pushed aside in anticipation for Vincent came rushing back after a spat of sleepless nights and ruptured schedules. Those resentments, those feelings, those unspoken thoughts of anger - they all erupted to the surface as the days dragged on after the novelty of a son wore off.
So after about a year and a half of enjoying the happy marriage we once shared, things took a volatile turn for the worse as old ill-will seeped to the forefront of our escalating arguments. I'd accuse him of shirking responsibility and he'd accuse me of being boring on account of staying home with Vincent all the time. He'd tell me I was becoming someone he couldn't recognize and I'd tell him it was because he was too wrapped up in his own immaturity to realize I was what "growing up" looked like.
This sort of ridiculousness spun out of control. Neither of us wanted to take responsibility for our part in how miserable we were making each other. As a result, we kept taking digs at each other where we could. It was a terrible way to live since we were constantly looking for ways to spite the other.
It was this constant barrage of belittlement that John first brought up the word "divorce." We were arguing and he basically stormed out of the house while yelling, "I want a divorce."
I knew he was saying it out of spite and anger. That didn't lessen the heat of the knife that sliced into my heart. However, the pain of that outburst only fueled my venomous response. I would simply hurt him more than he'd hurt me. I'd make sure he knew never to speak in such a manner to me again.
And I could. I'm much better with words than John is, so when I aim to inflict pain, I do it to maim, butcher and bleed. Every word, every glare, every insinuation was triple charged with disgust, hatred and pride. I made sure he understood exactly how little I thought of him. I wanted him to feel just as low, just as unwanted, just as disappointing as he'd made me feel.
Looking back now, I can easily see how vicious of a cycle this was. Obviously the more I went out of my way to make him feel miserable, the more he went out of his way to do the same.
So yeah - we were struggling with this sort of poisoned dance for about two years before we finally buckled down and put an end to it.
Just as you can. If we were able to stop the cycle of vitriol, you can too! If ever you find yourself looking to wound with your words, keep in mind that the damage really will just come back to inflict triple the pain on you once again.
He and I learned that we were using language to hurt one another - to get the other to feel the pain we each carried. Since I hated talking about feelings (believe it or not, I LOATHE describing how something makes me feel until the issue is far enough behind me that I can look at it almost clinically), he felt his only recourse was to make me experience what he couldn't share through words. I, in turn, forced him to do the same because I simply didn't know how to express my feelings in any other way.
Once we understood this about each other (and this is where lots of kicking and screaming came in), we made the effort to kick the habit and focus on positive communication.
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