“What’s Wrong?” my husband asked. It seemed like such a benign inquiry.
“Nothing” I replied casually as I opened the car door.
We were taking a short trip to Costco for some grocery shopping. I had the grocery list on my mind.
Jacob was tucked snuggly into his car seat behind me. I looked back and tickled his knee as Mark started the Jeeps engine.
It was another beautiful spring day. The sun was shining and the fields were bright green. Wildflowers painted the side of the hills in shades of violet and orange, but all was not well in my world.
“What’s going on?” Mark asked again.
“I’m fine.” I replied
“I know something is bothering you. . . just tell me” he continued.
I thought about it and felt ok. “Nothing, I’m OK.” I said as Mark accelerated onto the freeway on ramp.
“Please tell me what’s going on.” He said with frustration.
“I really don’t know what you are talking about.” I replied, as I attempted to enjoy the beauty of the day.
“You just refuse to tell me.” He said.
“What do you mean?” I questioned.
“You know exactly what I mean.” He spewed at me, his face reddened.
“I took a breath. I had no idea what he was talking about. I was content. I felt content. I was looking forward to this short drive and a few moments of peace while Jacob was strapped into his car seat.
“I really don’t know. I am actually enjoying this beautiful day.” I tried to divert the conversation.
“Fine! Don’t tell me.” He said short.
“Oh my gosh, can’t you just let it go. I’m enjoying the day. . .everything is fine.” I tried to stay calm but began to feel some frustration brewing inside me.
"You are lying to me. I know it.” He continued.
“No, I’m not” I asserted firmly.
“Yes, you are. You are lying.” He insisted. “You do this all the time.” He persisted. “It would be better if you just told me whats wrong.”
“What’s wrong is that you keep asking me what’s wrong.” I countered. “Just let it go. Please let’s just drive to Costco and have a good day.” I pleaded.
“I wish I could, but you are not being honest. How can I be happy when you are lying to me?”
“I’m NOT lying!” my voice raised. “I’m Fine!”
“See you are raising your voice” he observed. “You are upset.”
“Yeah, I’m getting upset now. I admitted. “You are pushing me”
“Just tell me what’s wrong” he said, repeating the question that began this whole dialogue.
I scoured my brain attempting to identify anything I could that could help. I was blank I felt numb, like I did most of the time. I was looking forward to getting out of the house and I was frustrated at the incessant questioning.
“Just drop it.” I requested.
“No, tell me what’s going on.” my husband replied “You always need to be in control don’t you.”
“No I don’t. I just don’t want to talk anymore.” I said.
“See you are controlling this conversation right now.” He pointed out.
“I don’t have to be in control.” I played right into the conversation. “ I just don’t want to continue this right now. I’d like to enjoy the day.”
He replied, “I wish I believed you.”
Something in me was triggered with that statement. It hit me in that place, that raw place. That place of vulnerability. That place that was sacred to me that had been tattered and torn for so long. How I longed for him to believe me. To honor my words. I wish he believed me too!
“I am fine will you leave me alone.” I spewed out.
“See you are mad. I KNOW something is wrong.”
I was silent.
And again his negative words about me were proven right. I was mad. I was upset.
My husband’s relentless questioning lead me down a slippery slope where innocent conversation piled into a massive landslide of frustration. I lost it. I yelled, no, I screamed.
“YES, I AM MAD NOW!!!”
I felt like he caught me in a trap. I couldn’t escape. His words were to tangled for me to manage. I couldn’t seem to navigate the mental and emotional ride.
He played with words carefully building a case adjusting the design as the story unfolded, taking what he needed from me, then using it as ammunition against me.
I felt horrible, devastated, hollow, lost. All the excitement I had for this trip was gone. I was in a place of desperation, hoping for mere survival I just wanted to get through this.
Survival, that was how I lived in this relationship. I was not thriving. I was not safe. I was not able to express myself freely. I was not able to share my desires. I was never able to express my needs. I was surrounded by judgment and I resented it. Yet, I couldn’t bring myself to leave.
Those days I didn’t recognize my feelings. Some people say they hide feeling under a rug, mine were locked in a vault deep within and I had thrown away the key.
In all honestly, I felt fine as we headed to Costco. I really couldn’t identify that I was apprehensive. I didn’t know I silently held within a dread for time alone with my husband.
My husband and I spent much of our time apart. He worked out to town 5 days a week, so we would only see each other on the weekends. Fridays he would arrive and Sunday night he would leave again. No matter how bad the weekend was, we both had a break before we would see each other again. The dust had time to settle before we would encounter each other again.
We had been together for so many years in this situation, it all just seemed automatic. Even my numbness to my emotional state, was familiar. Only years later, after I divorced did I realize that I would tighten up in preparation for his arrival on Friday nights. My muscles mirrored what my entwined heart felt. It is best to tighten up and shut down.
What I know now that I didn’t know on the trip to Costco was that my husband had been focused on a visual cue, I had a deep groove cut in between my eyes, some like to call resting bitch face. That nonverbal cue told him “something is wrong” while my verbal assurance of my inner peace did not align with his interpretation of the grumble on my forehead.
Those days I didn’t know about “resting bitch face”. You know that line that is created between you eyebrows. It’s a furrowed brow. It is present when you hold stress in your body, and maybe sometimes even there when you feel at peace too, and can't identify your deeper feelings.
Did my muscles betray me? I had no idea my husbands incessant questioning was based on his reading of this visual cue. He was laser focused on it. Perhaps If I had Botox we could have saved all those fights?
Those days my frustration was so engrained I my body I couldn’t relax my muscles. If I did the lines in my face held the memory. I think I lived for years with a grumbly forehead weather I was conscious of feeling frustrated or relaxed.
The truth was that I was living in a war zone. My only concern was mere survival. I didn't require that any of my needs be met. I didn't ask for anything. My marriage was a battlefield littered with shards of my gentleness. Scattered about were broken pieces of my generosity, kindness, and compassion.
My comfort and tenderness had been ripped away and torn to bits. Each bomb of disapproval, every grenade of rejection ruined me. It left me powerless. I was naked in a minefield of judgment and shame.
My only ammunition was my faith in spirit and love. I still had my vision. Amidst the ache of my heart and the chaos in my soul, I could still see goodness in the world.
I innately believed in healing. I knew love prevails. I just couldn't figure out how!