(Pssst…you can read all of the other entries in this series right here)
Shaun’s about to start another marathon of work trips, and I’m kind of girding up my loins emotionally for another round of single parenting.
So, on Friday, when the need to take our van in for a factory recall created an opportunity for a date, I was all over that. My mom took the oldest 5, and we lined up a babysitter for Theo, and I packed a change of clothes and a hefty dose of deodorant and perfume in my bag, since I had to teach BODYCOMBAT that morning and wouldn’t have time to shower. (Because nothing kills date time quite like smelling like a horse).
I spent the early afternoon running around getting the kids situated, but, as so often happens (especially when multiple small children are involved), life got in the way, and I didn’t make it back from dropping the kids off at my mom’s in time to meet Shaun at the dealership and catch the movie we’d planned on.
It was no big deal, though, because we had the entire afternoon/evening free (well, outside of needing to feed Theo every 3 hours or so), and my babysitter was really flexible. So, I was still hopeful that we would get several hours of “us time” + relaxation in.
By this point, it was 2:30, and neither of us had eaten since the morning, and my hands were starting to shake from low blood sugar, so we headed to a local falafel joint and started chowing down, discussing how we would spend our afternoon until the next movie showing in between embarrassingly big, sloppy bites.
And that’s when Shaun looked at me with a slightly sheepish expression and said, “Well, we could…”
And I felt my body tense as I realized that he was suggesting scrapping our relaxing afternoon for an appointment that he needed to fit in before he left on his first trip. But I didn’t have anything pressing I needed to do, and we were still planning on doing a date later, so I told him (reluctantly, as I mentally lectured myself on being selfish and resentful) that it was fine. FiiiiiiiiNE.
And then I went back to attempting to fit my falafel in my mouth without producing an avalanche of crumbs and tzatziki sauce down my white shirt. When I glanced up, cheeks stuffed like a chipmunk, he was staring at me with a preoccupied look in his eyes, like he was analyzing a to-do list on the back of his eyeballs instead of seeing his hungry wife sitting in front of him. After a second, he blinked, and, as his eyes refocused, he said, “Do you mind finishing that in the car? I don’t want to be late.”
Thing is, I didmind. A lot. Not because I mind eating in the car. I don’t. But because I felt like I was watching my husband rewrite our fun afternoon into one that fit his (admittedly important) agenda.
And I was just a footnote.
I could feel irritation building in my gut, and let me tell you, resentment and falafel do not mix well.
I fought that sour feeling in my stomach while Theo and I sat in the car and waited for Shaun to get done with his appointment. I even fished my Bible out of my purse and read words like, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
I prayed and asked the Lord to help me overcome my resentment, and I was feeling a little better when, right as I was trying to text Shaun our babysitter’s number so we’d have it before my phone died (of course, I’d left the charger in the van at the dealership), the dealership called and informed us that they wouldn’t be doing our recall that day after all, and we would need to come pick up our van. The reason they refused to do the service was pretty silly, and I felt frustration bloom in my chest all over again as I realized that, with this new development, we were going to miss our next movie showing as well.
And then my phone died. Before I got a chance to send the text with the babysitter’s number.
And I thought: it’s a sign. This date is not meant to be. I am done. We’ve been forcing this dumb thing all day long, and it’s just not happening. I’d rather go home and do laundry.
You’d think I would hashtag this with: said no woman ever.
But I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in a feeling of such supreme annoyance that even the prospect of fun isn’t appealing.
And so began the freeze out. I announced that I was done with this “date,” and, in my opinion, since nothing was working out, we should just head home. And then, I set my jaw and my gaze and pretty much refused to do anything but grunt or shrug.
I was going for a trophy in passive aggression, y’all.
It was real mature.
Fast-forward through Shaun’s insisting that we drop Theo off with the babysitter anyway and continue with our date, my (grudgingly, sulkily, and–yep, you guessed it–passive aggressively) agreeing, and then our missing yet another potential movie time due to ridiculously clogged tax-free weekend traffic…and I was really done.
Like holding my hand up dramatically and saying, “We are shooting for ‘worst date ever’ status here!” right before I stalked off to the car…DONE. (In case you’re wondering, I’m almost 33, not 12. You could be forgiven for being confused).
When we got in the car, Shaun, who had been cheerfully and (willfully, I think) obliviously powering through each new obstacle, tried to reassure me that my huffiness was unwarranted because, “The car was no big deal, and we can still get something to eat.”
Y’all. I was kind of boiling at this point. And not just because there was a heat index of 105. Everything childish and nasty in me wanted to continue the freeze out. To refuse to explain myself. To make him suffer for having the audacity to be a little bit inconsiderate on a day that I had so looked forward to.
And to savor that angry, wounded feeling of self-righteousness that was growing by the second.
I got myself all situated to execute the limp one-shouldered shrug + tight-lipped eye-roll, when something in me (hello, Holy Spirit) said: “Just tell him.”
So, instead, I said: “The car situation is annoying, but I’m mad at you.”
He pursed his lips and flatly said, “Why?”
So, I told him why. I feel like the Lord gave me grace to express myself (mostly) calmly, and as I explained my feelings, I could feel the weight of them lifting and their significance melting away.
To Shaun’s credit, he recognized where my feelings had legitimacy and had the humility and grace to simply say, “I see where you’re coming from, and I’m sorry.”
There have been plenty of times when–in the midst of hurt feelings or misunderstandings–I have pushed too hard for an explanation (“But why didn’t you understand why that would have been hurtful to me? Why would you do it in the first place??! Whyyyyyy?”). But this time, the moment I finished explaining my side, and Shaun apologized, I knew nothing more needed to be said. (Well, except, “I’m sorry too, of course”).
He opened his mouth to continue apologizing, but I said, “That’s all you had to say. I forgive you. Let’s go on a date!”
And so we did. And it was a really good date.
Did I have a “right” to be irritated in the first place? Nope. Because “dead men have no rights.” But since I had let myself go there, and even with prayer and Bible reading, the feelings weren’t just evaporating on their own, the next best thing I could have done was a forthright, honest confession of my anger. It’s possible (though debatable) that the anger itself wasn’t entirely wrong. But letting it fester and grow was.
I’m so glad the Lord gave me the desire to be done my resentment before it sabotaged the rest of our time together. And I hope I remember how easy it was to end that “fight” the next time I get my feelings hurt.
Because there will be a next time.
That’s what happens when two sinners get married.
Do you feel like you could win a trophy in passive aggression sometimes too? I’m definitely better than I used to be about communicating instead of starting “the freeze” immediately. But I’m still always a little sheepish that I let myself get tangled up in that sad old trick of Satan’s again when I do fail. Praise God for his infinite mercies.
This reminds me of a really important saying that a marriage counselor told me:
Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?
It’s so hard in the moment when you think -nay, know – you’re right about feeling slighted to let it go and choose to be happy. So hard. The kind of hard that requires lots of practice, failing, practice, and sometimes succeeding. But once you get the hang of it the failing becomes less frequent, and the time it takes to acknowledge your feelings and accept an apology (for real) becomes shorter and shorter.
I’m not perfect, my partner isn’t perfect, but he and I have said many times, “I’m letting this go because I want to be happy.” It’s a very strong signal to one another that we’re ready to move on and get back to being happy. The only thing worse that being upset at someone for their inconsiderate actions/words is letting it ruin something much bigger.
Very true, and very wisely said.
GRRRRLLL I am the queen of passive aggressiveness! Pray for me because I could feel myself getting mad as I read your post and it wasn’t even my husband! Haha. It’s tough but I feel like it’s best to air it out! Then I always realize how silly I am being.
Ha! It’s like it “hurts so good” to hang onto that mad feeling, right? I’ll pray for you if you’ll pray for me! 🙂
You are blessed to have a husband who makes an effort to understand you and for the grace to be able to express yourself. Thank you for a bitter pill today. Hopefully it will make my tomorrows better.
I agree, Sally. I probably would have had a much harder time letting it go if Shaun hadn’t responded so graciously. I hope the pill wasn’t TOO bitter!
does this mean my if I cannot say anything nice don’t say anything is in question?? it does not feel that way but now I am questioning myself
I don’t think silence and passive aggressiveness are necessarily interchangeable. There are plenty of times when it’s better to just get over it and keep silent. But in this instance, saying out loud the real reason for my frustration helped me to let go of instead of continuing to stew and act cold.