When I woke up the day after the Bad Wife Blowout, I was still emotional, but not as much as before. I apologized to Matthew, even though I didn’t want to.
It was the right thing to do.
That morning after our errands, Poppy and I walked to the park. It was cold, but the sun was shining. As I followed her from slide to swing, watching her play, I remembered the advice I’d gotten two years back from Marianne. “Ask yourself what to do. Use your intuition,” she’d said. It had worked before. Maybe it would work again.
I started with a review: the fight, my interpretation. My assertion that Matt was blaming me for all of our struggles. My fear that he didn’t feel close to me because he didn’t love me anymore. Then I said, “What now?” and got quiet.
The answer came swiftly: “What if none of this matters?”
“What do you mean?” I asked. “Doesn’t matter? Of course it does. Matt practically told me he’s disappointed with me as a wife. If that doesn’t matter, none of it does.”
“But did he, Rachel? Is that the real story? And even if it is, what can you do about it?”
“Well, I could talk to him. I could explain to him–calmly, I hope–how hurt and sad the comment made me feel. I could remind him of all the things I’ve done for him and for our family, how much I do every day. I could ask him to apologize.”
“Yes, you could. And it might help. But the way you’re feeling, Rachel–this isn’t about him, I don’t think. Remember the therapist you met at that party who told you that in general, your feelings about a fight are twenty percent about the fight and eighty percent about you? Well, you’re in the eighty zone, trying to deal with that part. The twenty is there, but it’s just twenty.”
“Okay. Say I believe you. What do you want me to do? Nothing? Just let the comment go?”
“Not exactly, Rachel. But what do you think would happen if, just this time, you didn’t defend yourself? What if when he got home from work and was annoyed at you already, expecting an argument, you just didn’t give it to him?”
“That’s crazy. Not defend myself?”
“Think about it.”
Then I did. And . . . it made sense. It was brilliant. It was brave. Not defend myself? I wondered as Poppy and I made our way home. Is it giving up? Or is it letting go?
That evening, when Matthew arrived home, I greeted him cheerfully. I gave him the baby, then started dinner. Over bacon and pancakes, I looked him in the eye, a smile crinkling a corner of mine. “I love you, Honey. I really do. And I’m trying really hard to be a good wife.”
“I know that, Rachel. And you are. Of course you are.”
I laughed. Of course I am. Of course I am? Okay. “Well, that’s not how I pictured the end of this fight. No asking for an explanation for my behavior? No hashing it out, figuring it out, dealing with it?”
“Dealing with it? I thought that’s what we just did.”
“You don’t want to know why I got so mad at you?”
“I know why. It was a rough night. You were tired.”
I nodded, my smile fading. I was tired. So it’s not that you were insensitive or said mean things. I was tired. That was the problem. I took a bite of pancake.
So, he doesn’t get it. He doesn’t know why I was upset. But wait–what’s this? Is it . . . peace? Am I actually enjoying the feeling of not giving in to my ego, of not proving my point? Maybe. Yes, definitely. I am.
“We should’ve made vegetables,” I said.
“Yeah,” said Matthew. “This is . . . a lot.”
“Tomorrow night, vegetables.”
“Vegetables and rice.”
Read the rest of the series at Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby: A Self-Help Novel.