We had such a peak 2020 celebration for our anniversary last night. I cannot get over how accurately a couple of hours one evening, succinctly mirrored the general progression of this year.
It began well. With promise, even, despite being locked down. VC got me yellow roses, as he did last year. As he always does. As he always has since the start of us knowing each other (see here, here and here).
We went from having no plans to deciding to treat ourselves to a good evening right here at home. I drag VC’s ass to take a nice picture of us every anniversary. Over the years his enthusiasm has gone from somewhat willing to very, very reluctant to complete disinterest, to now slightly more willing because rather than take a hurried self-timer shot on the phone, he gets to set up his camera. Last night we even got “dressed”. And by that I mean got out of our standard evening attire of pajamas and into decent clothes, I put on kajal and earrings, and we took some lovely photographs.
That lasted all of half an hour, before we relapsed back into our PJs, waiting for dinner to arrive. We even splurged a little and ordered a fantastic meal of dimsum and stirfry and flat noodles and what not. We had a few drinks, and I actually indulged and had more than my standard single micro-mini whiskey.
At some point in the midst of all of this we got into a conversation that started as just that — a conversation — but very quickly escalated into a very heated conversation and finally into a full blown debate. Both of us very steadily slipping into a spiral of incoherence, leaving the original premise of the argument far behind, veering off kilter so terribly that neither of us knew what the other was saying. And eventually we didn’t even know what we were saying anymore.
I have to say, though, that my ability to remain calm even in impassioned discussions has greatly increased and anger/rage was nowhere to be seen. I was almost waiting for it to arrive and make a loud entrance, but nope. No luck. Until the very end, when emotions were SO high and emboldened, that VC said something to me that was mostly untrue, but rather hurtful. And it jabbed me in a way that I wasn’t anticipating, thanks to the surprisingly even-flow nature of the conversation thus far.
Filled with hurt, half in disbelief and half in shock, I snapped back at him;
Happy anniversary to you too, as he slipped away to bed. And I stayed up in the living room, watching Netflix till my emotions simmered down.
I find that the amount of emotional labour I am willing to expend on soothing VC’s trauma, at the cost of triggering my own, has greatly diminished. I am all for building a supportive relationship, but I see how my definitions of that are so different now. Some years ago, I might have taken it upon myself to not only get my point across but also ensure that VC was feeling better by the end of it. And yes, I would have virtuously taken this on singlehandedly, despite nobody (least of all VC) asking me to.
These actions, that I thought were coming from a place of empathy, compassion and love, were absolutely not. Now, being compassionate has come to mean letting emotions flow if they must. Even if they are burning the room up around us.
My capacity to remain in that godawful uncomfortable space of stewing in a mixed-bag of very volatile emotions — and watch VC do that too, in his own way — has improved a smidgen. It doesn’t mean the disagreements are less painful. If anything, they’re worse and horribly more painful because the truth now has the permission to pounce out with no filters slapped on. Nobody is mincing words anymore. But it does mean that when the hurt comes, I am able to stand by my own side first, soothing myself, before jumping to rescue anyone else.
It’s taken twelve years of being married to finally realise that rescuing my husband is not a KRA I need to keep. Many times he doesn’t need rescuing. Many times he can rescue himself.
This morning though, we were back to doing the dishes together, and him sharing with me that he didn’t remember too many specific details of where the conversation veered after a point. Possibly that point of no return, which should also be the point at which one should end such conversations, or know that nothing after that is to be taken seriously, or as the truth.
In the past, painful conversations like this would have a distasteful energy that lingered for hours, sometimes days, after. But something different happened yesterday.
Ah well. Lockdown anniversary marking twelve years of marriage. I guess we had to have something different to remember this one.