I was starting to think the holidays with my family weren’t going to be so bad after all, but I came back Sunday feeling like I’d been kicked in the heart, so it seems my pessimism was warranted.
There are times when I really wish my intuition and assessment of the facts would be wrong.
So we drove down to Tennessee on Wednesday afternoon and arrived around 8:30. My mom had a friend with an RV and he had brought it by so she could hook it up for us to stay in. There were four bunks in the back for the kids. My husband picked the bedroom with an actual bed without any discussion, leaving the pullout in the living area of the RV for me. I spent 4 nights sleeping in a spot that was too small, too cold and generally uncomfortable. It was a small thing, but prioritizing his comfort while ignoring my comfort and my needs was the theme of our relationship. (I mean, I’d have given him the bed, but a discussion beforehand would have been a nice gesture.)
My sister J owns the property, and lives in the house with her 2 children. My mom and stepdad kind of invited themselves to stay, and then started building a house of sorts around their RV, so they live in the property as well with my youngest sister and brother, G and I. There are lots of cats and dogs running around between the two households. My kids were thrilled to see their cousins, uncles & aunts, and all the animals. The silver lining is that they mostly seemed to enjoy themselves, the girls especially. My sister R was there with her girls too, so there were 5 girls aged 7, 8, 10, 11 & 12 and they mostly got along quite well.
Thursday, Friday and Saturday during the day were mostly fine. I was annoyed with my husband, who informed me he was coming and took time off work, again with no discussion, then holed up in the RV and gave my family the cold shoulder in spite of the fact that they were kind and polite to him and tried to make sure he felt included. Turns out, this state of events would have been preferable.
Saturday during the day they had rented their town’s senior center and we prepared a big Thanksgiving meal for as much of the crew as were able to make it. My sister L and her husband J weren’t able to make it because L was holed up sick in her hotel. I think that put the number of people at 20. Wait, 21, because happily my friend M (from our long-running group chat) was off work that day and came up to spend the afternoon with us. It was chaotic but fun and my family have some excellent cooks so the food was great.
I’d brought my noise canceling headphones, and was listening to music while chopping vegetables, then set the headphones aside once the activity got going and I had conversations to carry on. At the end of the afternoon, I forgot the headphones. My husband drove me back to the senior center to retrieve them, then on the drive home decided it was appropriate to dump his emotional pain on me and expect me to take the blame or do something about it. He was dreadfully unhappy about being there (he wasn’t asked to come, I could have handled the drive and the kids on my own). He felt bad spending time around me, you see.
Apparently instead of asking me if he needed to go, I should have told him I didn’t want him to come. I told him my family had been kind to him and tried to include him and he’d given them the cold shoulder. That was on him, not on me. (I can only imagine the fit he would have thrown if I’d said I was taking the kids to a holiday weekend and didn’t want him there.) He was upset that he wasn’t getting the response he wanted from me but my mom was moving supplies from her car to the fridge in our RV since she’d run out of room in the others, so we stopped our rapidly heating discussion.
He asked my mom if he could speak to her, and I left them alone. He got to her. It’s not a surprise. She talked to me later that evening about how broken-hearted my husband is, and how she feels for him, because my dad criticized her about her housekeeping and her weight. My dad was a closeted gay man trying to explain why he wasn’t into my mom without admitting he couldn’t stop being gay. Also, a messy house isn’t the same thing as a filthy house due to hoarding. Also, I’ve never criticized my husband for gaining weight during our relationship. Also this man prioritized his comfort over my literal basic needs for our entire marriage.
So now I’m getting some bullshit ‘both sides’ about a relationship in which my husband knew he had inordinate power and just let it stay that way because he liked having his wants and needs prioritized. A relationship which began disintegrating the moment I put my foot down and insisted my needs were also important.
And that’s not even the worst or most painful part of my Saturday night.
Honestly I’ve talked about this with my sister J, and ranted about it to A and H, and posted a summary in my girl group, and yet it’s still so fucking painful to sit here and write about it in depth today. I thought I’d adjusted to the fact that my family weren’t the people I thought they were in my youth, that they wouldn’t be a support system for me – but I still had expectations of being treated with a neutral level of respect and kindness and I was not expecting to take so many blows to my kidneys in the space of one night.
I think I’m gonna make this a two-parter.