Don’t we all hope against hope that this time, Charlie will refuse to play Lucy’s game? He’s such a nice guy. And Lucy; what a bitch! Don’t you wish Charlie would kick her instead? Guess which one is the sex addict?
I hate thinking that I have anything in common with Lucy, but night before last, my husband and I had one of those Charlie Brown and Lucy conversations. All married couples have from time to time. It starts out innocently enough, and before you know it you’ve got that sinking feeling of deja-vu and you know it’s going to end badly.
The night before last, my conversation with my husband was about sex. Specifically, I wanted it but he didn’t. Since I was one down in the bell ringing department (not that I keep track or anything) I made a half-joking suggestion that it would be okay with me if he just rang my bell. Alas, if it were only that simple! Having had the experience of climbing Mt. Everest only to find the bell at the summit completely unring-able my tired husband laughingly declined.
And that hurt. Not a lot, but it hurt. Plus, it’s scary because when I’m sober, the only sex I get is the sex my husband wants to give me.
And there you have the set up for our recurring bad conversation.
I try to express my frustration that I can’t take care of my own needs myself but it comes out wrong. He gets upset. I breathe very shallow and try to cry without moving. We are both miserable.
But this time, something different happened. My husband said what he thought, even though he wasn’t sure how I’d take it. It turns out that he begins to freak when I mention anything about masturbation because he doesn’t know what to say. I said I don’t need him to say anything, that I had only told him how I felt because he asked in the first place, and goddamn it if he didn’t want to know then why ask? It was a nasty trap where no matter what I say, it’s unacceptable. Here’s where things changed. He said that he could understand that (!) but that he didn’t know what to do about it (!) and that it wasn’t his fault that I couldn’t masturbate (!) and that he wasn’t my mom, my stepdad, or my step granddad.
It was a startling departure from the way this dance usually goes. And although it sounds like psychobabble nonsense, it actually was pretty powerful to hear him actually name names, as in, “I’m not J____.
We talked for another 20 minutes or so and I’ve got to tell you, it was exhausting. I don’t know how it was for him, but I know for me, it too a lot of effort to just listen. I kept telling myself that all I had to do was listen, not agree, not argue, just listen well enough to hear. A few times I tried just repeating back what he was saying to check to see if I was understanding, and to let him know I was actively listening. After we finally finished, I rubbed his back to help him fall asleep.
Two days later and I’m still emotionally tired from it. I haven’t slept well the past two nights either, and today I’m home from work with a splitting tension headache. But I don’t have that freaked out feeling in the pit of my stomach, and I’m not tempted to act out in any way. In fact, recovery wise, I’m doing well. This feels like growing pain.
The whole thing reminds me of Lucy and Charlie Brown, because from the outside looking in, anyone who knows my history would call me the bitch and my husband the saint and I’m really lucky that my husband doesn’t buy into that false image. He had to let go of his desire to be the nice one, the good one, the Charlie Brown one in order to tell me the truth.
It was a very loving thing to do. And ultimately, much, much more loving than merely ringing (or attempting to ring) the ‘ole bell.