Most of the time it’s the series of small things that grinds me down – the quietly-uttered cynical comment, the moaning response or the moment of disconnection. Sometimes I wonder whether I’m getting too het up over them, whether I’m over-reacting to minor issues that other people might just ignore. Other times I’m worried that I’m getting too used to Ethan’s comments and far-away-ness and am letting myself accept the way I feel, the way he makes me feel, as normal and OK.
Sometimes my head hurts from analysing too much. Perhaps examples are best. So here’s one: when I’d had the kids all day on bank holiday Monday and taken them to the park so he could get on with ‘jobs’ (incidentally, I would love a bit of time to get some housework done. Anyway, I digress...) Me: ‘The summer holiday’s gone really quickly hasn’t it?’ Him: ‘It’s just been work really. I’ve only had four days off.’ By this he was referring to the four days that I’d been away on my own with the kids – pattern emerging here?! He’d actually had two weeks off from work. He was referring, by time off, to time away from the kids. Well, I’m sorry Ethan, but you’re never not going to have three kids. And I’ve just come back from four days of taking them away and giving you space, followed by another day to yourself today, and, rather than thanking me, you’re moaning that it’s not enough...
I got over it. Later that day I told him a fairly amusing story about an old lady I’d been looking after the day before. Other people would have shown that they were listening – made eye-contact, laughed in the right place. Ethan though, distracted by how much cheese I was cutting for our omelette, made no eye-contact and gave absolutely no response to the (funny) finale of my jolly little tale. There’s no getting around the fact that he is really difficult to communicate and connect with. Recently, I’ve not tried much. It’s too depressing. But then so is the alternative of not talking at all.
Then, last night, as I was getting ready to leave to do a shift that he knew I was nervous about, I went into the living room to say goodbye and he said (without looking away from the TV) ‘I hope it goes OK’. Me being me, ranted at him about how self-absorbed he was and how uttering a throw-away line whilst not taking his eyes off the TV wasn’t good enough. He was remorseful, to be fair to him, and completely got where I was coming from – for that moment, before I left and he went back to his programme. You’d think though, having had that conversation, that he’d have been on the ball 90 minutes later when I returned home and that he would have immediately asked me how it went. No. I got home. Ethan was still watching TV. I went into the kitchen, made a cup of tea, still no Ethan. I swept the kitchen floor, fed the hamster, sorted out the boys’ drinks for the morning, still nothing but the sound of Ethan flicking channels, and occasionally pausing on one. He did come through, eventually, and asked how it went. But by then I was too irate to answer and went to bed seething and feeling unloved, unimportant to him, frustrated and empty.
Those feelings seem to visit me a lot. And I’m pretty sure they’re fairly present companions for Ethan too. And I know that I over-react to some of his mannerisms and oversights. And that, a lot of the time, he’s doing his best and simply can’t see my point of view or what response I need. But trying to make a relationship work under those conditions just feels impossible at times.