The silver lining of repressing and compartmentalizing your emotions since childhood is that sometimes the ability to set aside your emotions is actually a useful tool.
I felt a twinge, last night, seeing the signs of emotional distress on my husband’s face, but I wasn’t going to allow that moment of empathy to become a moment of weakness. It’s not my job to make him feel better, especially when he made himself feel worse because he refused to have patience, or respect the boundaries I’ve been trying to establish for the sake of my mental health.
I’m genuinely proud of myself. I didn’t plunge into despair or have a significant spike in anxiety. I went to bed at my normal time, fell asleep, and got at least 5-6 hours of sleep, which is as good as I normally get. It was still difficult relaxing with my husband in the room and the glow from his phone visible to show he was still awake, but I managed.
During the conversation itself, my husband was asking pointed, leading questions – but when I answered with that in mind, he’d accuse me of ‘jumping ahead’ and ‘assuming.’ At which point I told him that either his questions had intent and were leading somewhere, or he was simply inflecting emotional distress on me for literally no reason. So I kept asking him – what was his intent? What was his purpose? Where were the questions leading? What did he hope to gain from the conversation?
When he brought up the word ‘control,’ with the implication that the boundaries I’d been placing around when we have these conversations were me being controlling, I pointed out that I was merely setting and enforcing boundaries for just about the first time in our relationship, and that boundaries felt like control to him because he hadn’t really had to deal with them before.
He then tried to shame me for being ‘snarky’ with him when he wasn’t being snarky with me, and I responded – with some snark, admittedly – that now he was going to tone police? And then told him not to speak to me like I was one of the kids. Perhaps not the kindest response, but I’m not going to sit there and have him attempt to guilt me for being mildly snarky when he’s the one that trespassed a boundary and insisted on having a stressful and unnecessary conversation just because he wanted to make himself feel better and couldn’t be bothered to acknowledge the negative impact his actions have had on me.
Eventually I pinned him down to admitting he “wanted to process things” with the implication that the processing in question made him feel better. I had already pointed out, earlier in the conversation and in previous conversations, that processing to make himself feel better came at a cost to me, that I did not feel better, I felt worse. So whether or not he could acknowledge it to himself at the time, he did reveal that yes, he was putting me into a position where I was having to feel distressed so he could feel better.
It wasn’t too long after that when he got up, obviously angry, and left the conversation so that he could go take a shower.
The conversation in question could easily have waited for the end of the month. Nothing he would learn from it would change anything. I’ll admit, it was grimly amusing to me that THIS time, his refusal to wait and adhere to a boundary had left him being the one to suffer the consequences. He sure didn’t seem to enjoy a taste of his own medicine.