You know when something has been building inside you for quite some time? And then, there is some seemingly innocuous event that sets it off in an explosion so catastrophic no bystander is left untouched? Yeah, I had one of THOSE days yesterday.
I'll start by saying I have a wonderful husband, and we have a wonderful marriage. Just like any lifelong commitment, we are constantly working to grow, change and evolve together. It is a constant work in progress, but we both knew that is what marriage was when we signed up for it.
However, I think one of the hardest things we've gone through to date is the birth of Kate. While she has added unparalleled joy to both of our lives, she also adds a layer of complexity to our relationship as a couple. I've struggled with feelings of inadequacy as a parent, lacking the support and validation that a traditional job provides. Ben has felt more pressure in his new job to be successful and provide for the family. And because of the whirlwind that is life, the discussions and support we should have for one another isn't always there.
This month has been a tough one for us. Ben has brought three distinct things to my attention that made me feel like I was failing in my "job" as a stay at home mother. It would take too much time to go into each item, but needless to say, I felt I was getting a "needs improvement" on my annual review, and that didn't feel good at all.
Going from a competitive and successful professional to a full-time mom has been my greatest challenge. I've always thrived on getting ahead, being good at what I do. I'm used to annual promotions, bonuses and verbal praise from superiors. All things missing in my life at the moment. So when I heard Ben's comments, I heard criticism. I felt defensive, and honestly, devastated. But of course, I said nothing. Our communication had dwindled to surface talks about our days and schedules, and there was no time for talking about feelings or emotions.
So when Ben came home last night with flowers and asked me for a date night, I was ready to bury the hatchet and just have a good time. With Kate sick for the last two weeks, I've been stuck at home and needed some time in the world. We started the drive to our favorite patio and started bantering about random things. At one point, after a particularly bad joke (I admit), Ben said "that wasn't funny." I snapped back that he wasn't funny either. Kind of the "I'm rubber, you are glue" strategy, so obviously not very mature, but I have to admit. I was wounded. Because when you are already raw with negative feelings, it doesn't take much to bring them to the surface.
A few moments later I thought traffic was slowing down and muttered something about hating traffic, and Ben leaned forward and asked, very innocently, "Where is traffic? There isn't any up there."
I. Lost. My. Shit.
I called him passive aggressive. I told him I didn't appreciate being talked to that way. I told him that he wasn't helpful, he was mean, that he said things just to make me feel bad about myself. All the negativity and emotion from the month just boiled to the surface and I spewed my hurt and anger all over him, like a great, heaving, hormonal Mount Vesuvius (Pompeii reference. Anyone? Anyone? Sigh). Of course, this did not go over well. Instead of an apology (which I didn't really deserve), I was faced with Ben's anger. Because he didn't know what he did. And how could he have? I was angry about something completely unrelated to this moment in time.
We rode home in silence and I was able to analyze what I was feeling. Why I had this hot rush of anger when he questioned me about traffic. And I knew. I knew that in my mind, he had been questioning me all month about my decisions, my actions. I realized we had come to this by ignoring our problems, and I felt ashamed.
We skipped dinner and went home. I sat Ben down. I told him what I was feeling. I cried. I laid myself bare. And we really talked. He explained his comments throughout the month, how his personal feelings and stresses led to many of his criticisms. I shared how difficult it was to have no positive reinforcement at home, and how that had led to some of my actions. It was good. We really heard each other, and healed.
And while last night was painful, sometimes its okay to go KABOOM. After the dust settles, things can be better for the explosion.