Sweet Babou and I don’t fight often. Every few years we have a “big” fight, which is always weird because we subsequently can’t remember WHY were fighting. Then every few months we have a “pissy” fight. That’s a small tiff over normal we-are-humans-and-live-up-each-other’s-butts stuff. Today, there was a spat.
I think I am taking this spat way harder than Sweet Babou.
The spat came about because we are both stressed right now. I am trying to get the house ready for the relatives coming today and it’s Lilo’s tech week (which means rehearsals almost every night) so I am running my ass off and feel overwhelmed. Sweet Babou has a deadline at work and people who aren’t doing their end of things are driving him nuts and he is overwhelmed. Fun times.
Anyway, my Sweet Babou worked from home yesterday and he said he would unload the dishwasher as well as picking up the Harry Potter CDs that Stitch got out and couldn’t figure out how to get back in. He forgot to do both of those things. Sweet Babou forgetting to do some of the housework is something that happens fairly regularly. I try to either wait for him to do it or do it myself, but sometimes I nag. I confess. It happens. I hate that it happens, but if I do his chores too often I get really cranky and feel like chattel after which grousing and bitchiness will occur. Nonetheless I knew he was overloaded at work this week so I was planning on being chill about the dishwasher/CDs.
Then part umpteenth of the “cleared spot debacle” happened and I got cranky. The cleared spot debacle is the ongoing tussle over the appropriation of cleared counter space. Like most houses, our counters get junked up with crap. I will need to make something – my tea, the girls’ lunches, dinner – and I will clear a space for me to work. If Sweet Babou sees an available space he pounces on it, even if he just saw me make it, because his brain will NOT make the link between my tidying up and my needing the spot for my use. Apparently clearing his own space is an alien idea all together. He is like the cowbird of clean spots on the counter; he waits until he can lay his egg in somebody else’s nest. It drives me nuts.
He did that this morning. I turned around where I was putting things away in the pantry to find that he had found my space in those unguarded seconds and had spread his things all across it. Seriously, my clear spot was strewn with his sandwich makings. Strewn, I say!
I griped about this and made him (gasp) at least share the area with me so I could pack Lilo & Stitch their lunchboxes. He was snippy with me about this. That rarely happens, and it “flew all over my nerves” as my Grandma used to say. I griped. He griped back.
All was still okay. It was sniping not fighting, if you know what I mean. However, because this is such an ongoing issue and because he was acting put-upon by my unhappiness with it and because I was already strung out like a clothesline – I was pre-heated and ready to bake the cake of conflict and icing it with dissention. When I was trying to fill the girls’ water bottles for their lunchboxes the dirty dishes in the sink impaired my efficacy. I couldn’t put them in the dishwasher, because the dishwasher full of clean dishes and was leering at me in a taunting fashion. I expressed displeasure about the dishwasher, re: he didn’t unload it for me and now I had to because otherwise he would be late to work. Then I almost stepped on the CDs, which I also mentioned in a peevish and annoying tone.
Sweet Babou started “yelling” at me. It wasn’t actual full-bore yelling, but it was yelling for him. He told me he hated it when I was snarky. He hates it when I say petulant things like “Hey, that’s okay – after all as a stay at home mom I am everyone’s personal servant so dump some more work on me.” In fairness, I am an asshat for doing it. It is a shitty form of communication and exacerbates rather than pacifies a quarrel. He was totally in the right about that.
There is no justification for my rotten behavior. My bad actions are mine. There are reasons why I do it though. First, I do it because I absorbed the phenomenon of “loud talking” as a child. This kind social resistance is studied by anthropologists and sociologists as a part of Black Culture but it is a strategy that Appalachian women also employ. In a nutshell, it is a way of complaining or expressing unhappiness that doesn’t address the antagonist directly. You talk to someone else, even if it is yourself, loud enough to be “overheard” so the person knows they have pissed you off. This occurs when the antagonist has otherwise failed to show remorse when you complain in a more direct way. Appalachian men are terrible about about getting a mulish look on their face, sitting a cloud of their offended patriarchal privilege and “ignoring” the “irrational” woman who is upset with them. When they do that, they get a big pile of loud talking.
Sweet Babou also stonewalls me and doesn’t seem to pay any particular notice of my grievances. I know, logically, he does this because of his Asperger’s rather than the misogyny driving the actions of a lot of other men, but my brain short circuits to loud talking by default. The more he retreats into silence, the more I feel dismissed and therefore the fiercer my loud talking gets. I am a complete jerk when I do it.
Clearly, I don’t blame him for his anger. The reason my lip is trembling is because he yelled that he has hated my “snarky comments” for the duration of our marriage. What else had he hated about me or my actions that I don’t know about? I have, upon occasions of personal reflection, point blank asked him what I could modify in my behavior that would make him happier in our marriage. Not change who I am, mind, you – just alter actions that cause him distress. He always, ALWAYS replies that there is nothing he would like me to do differently.
So now I am a mess wondering what else I am doing that is slowly, secretly making him unhappy. Are our fights so rare because we are hella compatible and in love, as I thought – or is the more sinister reality that we don’t fight because he just doesn’t bother or cannot express his angst?
And what am supposed to do when he is doing his stoic impression of a bump on a log? Just swallow down my ire? Is that healthy? I doubt it, but how do I engage a man who won’t engage back?
Then there is the reality that I am the one who is going to do the work he didn’t do, and I got yelled at for being truculent about it. I don’t think he expects me to be cheerful about it. He’s a good man and he isn’t consciously ignoring his share of the chores; I am sure he doesn’t expect me to just conform to his lackadaisical view of housework.
He was in the right to be mad that I loud talk and hurt his feelings, and he has every right to say so. Nevertheless, I feel a little hard done by because he didn’t tell me for so long, because I get stonewalled, and because I wind up being the one who “pays” by doing the stuff he said he would do.