Several weeks ago Z and I were chatting with another couple. A third couple came up, people who are barely acquaintances of Z and mine, but who our friends know rather well. Our friend confided in us that she isn’t crazy about hanging out with them because one is consistently mean to the other. Z and I agreed that was totally not cool and we quickly moved on to another topic. But for some reason the conversation stuck with me, it got under my skin.
Later that night I told Z I figured out why I was so unsettled by what our friend said. There I was thinking how shitty it is that one spouse is publicly unkind to the other when it hit me. I used to be that asshole spouse. For years I was mean to Z around other people. When I think about our relationship back then I know people didn’t like to be around us because of how I behaved. I know that Z hated being in public with me because he was always bracing himself for my cruelty, never sure when it was going to rear its ugly head. And I’m so ashamed of it.
Last night Z and I went to hear Marion Nestle speak on campus. It was a good talk, very interesting to both of us. On the way to the event Z pointed out that we had the sitter, maybe we could grab quick drink instead of going straight home. We gave our friend a ride back to our neighborhood and the three of us ended up stopping at a dive bar about two blocks from our house. In that unfamiliar space all the awkwardness of the height of my mental illness came bubbling to the surface. I wasn’t straight up mean to Z, but I was very short with him. When we got home he pointed out how I was acting and I immediately got it. I was grateful I wasn’t an asshole to him, but he does deserve more than that. I need to figure out how to vent my unease without involving him at all.
Why did I used to attack the person I love, my partner, the man who’s constant refrain for our relationship has been, “I’m on your side”?
How long do you have?
I’m kidding. Mostly. It did take years and years of therapy to figure it out, but it comes down to my insecurity, my social anxiety, my jealousy with Z’s ease and grace in social situations. I felt so stupid and ugly and useless in public, so frustrated that I’d lash out against person I was closest to. I felt ugly on the inside and out, and with my actions I was proving my feelings about myself true.
It’s a bit late, but to the friends who witnessed my shitty behavior I apologize. Most of all I am thankful Z stuck with me and trusted me to stop doing it. It gives me hope that the couple we know a little bit might be able to change their behavior. I regret my actions in the past, but the good news is I changed. And if I can do it anyone can.