Another Conversation

(This was written the morning of August 30th, before my trip to Tennessee, but I did not have time to finish and publish it then.)

I just realized the trip I’m taking today – heading to Tennessee to see my sister J and my dad – will be the first time I’ve taken a trip by myself the entire time I’ve been married. No kids, no husband, just me, and that feels fucking fantastic. I’m even looking forward to the 6 hour drive. Admittedly a large part of looking forward to the 6 hour drive is the discovery that I can hook my phone up and play Spotify via my car’s stereo, since I have a paid subscription. No commercials, no country music stations.

Yesterday evening my husband and I did our end-of-the-month check-in. I found myself repeating, sometimes word for word, things I’ve said to him before, about how important getting sleep is. How it is the major issue that I’m dealing with. How it underpins everything else I’m trying to accomplish. How harmful it will be to my health and my goals if he continues to cause me to lose sleep.

He minimized what he’s done, said I’d stayed up late since we first started dating, said I should have been direct when communicating how his insomnia was affecting me. Said there was no other time to talk to me, and that’s why he initiated those conversations when it was bedtime. Said I was making it all about me and that I was being controlling.

I had to patiently address all of that. I may have stayed up late, but I went to bed and wanted to sleep much sooner than he did, especially after we had children. I expressed dissatisfaction with our sleeping arrangements multiple times. He was right next to me and could see that his TV watching habits routinely woke me up throughout the night. I should never have had to ask in the first place, he should have known not to watch TV until 2-3am in a shared bedroom.

I pointed out that he could just ask to talk to me after he gets home from work, if it’s really that important. That would give me time to unwind and come down from any triggered anxiety attacks before it’s time for me to go to bed.

I didn’t say this part to him, but I find it funny how he could spend so many years making it all about him, controlling my sleep, and now when the position is reversed – in a way that’s much healthier for us both – he’s melting down. I was direct with him – you can’t get more direct than an ultimatum.

The reason I held off on giving him that ultimatum was because I knew how he’d respond. I knew if I said I was sleeping in another room, he’d freak out. I knew if I said he had to watch TV somewhere other than the bedroom, he’d freak out. And he did.

How he’s reacting now is no different than he would have reacted then. It’s the same reason I never put my foot down on things like finishing college before we had kids, or simply saying I didn’t want kids for a decade at least, if at all. I knew it would blow up the relationship. I wish that I’d been wise enough to know that if taking care of myself and my needs could blow up our relationship, it wasn’t going to be a healthy relationship. I had absolutely no idea what a healthy relationship was or would look like back then.

Once again he talked about wanting me to understand what he was going through, and I had to explain that I was in a triage situation – that I believed his feelings were important, but could not prioritize them above my sleep. This led to a repeat accusation of making the conversation about me again.

He talked about how according to me “we’d never had a relationship” and it was weird to hear him say that, because I’d said no such thing. I said I’d married him without being in love with him – that doesn’t negate the fact that we had a relationship, it doesn’t annul the marriage. It’s funny how language shapes our perceptions and how our perceptions shape our language.

He wanted to know if we had a relationship now. Well, we’ve got some kind of interrelated thing going on. We live together, we still have kids together. We’d purposely sketched out a loose structure for our relationship for this year, something more along the lines of friends with benefits, and said we’d alter it as needed. It seemed we needed to alter it again, and not to expand but to retract.

We moved on from there to discuss when we were going to tell the kids about the relationship ending. We settled on January, after the holidays – we’ll give them time to adjust to the impending changes, the way we gave them several months to adjust to the fact that we’d be leaving Illinois.

Despite how tense the conversation had been, my husband moved on and seemed cheerful enough. We went and got dinner afterward, as had been the plan. He behaved pleasantly. It’s – well, it’s a little alarming, to be honest. Was he genuinely feeling better to have made plans and feel a little more in control of his life, or was it a mask he’d slipped on for me?

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