A World Where People Don’t Say What They Mean

a window with rain on it, at night. various street lights shine through the window
Image by _ Kripptic / CC BY

It had been a long emotional night. Yet another fight with Seth.

It wasn’t just that we were arguing again. No, it was worse than a repeat. The negativity had gone to a whole new level.

“I used to love you before you became such a bitch,” he said.

I’ve Learned You Don’t Argue with Someone Who Is Insulting You

I learned a long time ago that you don’t argue with someone who is insulting you. It’s not because they’re right. It’s because they’re not open to your viewpoint. When they’ve reached that level of bitterness, a simple “nuh uh” isn’t going to suddenly reel them in. Change their minds. If anything, it’ll make it worse.

So I kept quiet and waited until it was over.

And as I stood there, listening to him outline my myriad flaws and shortcomings as a human being, I started to wonder: Why are you even with me?

I couldn’t imagine sharing a bed with someone that I felt that way about. Why was he?

I Put My Foot Down

After he was done, he apologized. “I don’t know what came over me.”

I considered this, hesitated before speaking, making sure that I meant what I was about to say. “You need to go to counseling, or we’re getting separated,” I said. “I’m not doing this again.”

“Of course,” he said. “I can do that.” And then he smiled. Perhaps that should have been a clue that he didn’t understand the gravity of the situation. But at the time, I read it as relief. And why not? I was relieved, too. The worst of the fight was over. And he’d accepted words that were difficult for me to say so easily. So effortlessly.

“I can’t have you saying things like that to me. It’s unacceptable,” I said.

“I know.”

“It’s abuse,” I said.

He nodded. “I’ll tell you what,” he said. “I’ll call my doctor. Get an appointment. Talk meds and a counseling referral.”

“Thank you,” I said. “That means a lot.”

And he did. Scheduled the appointment. Went. Came back with a bottle of antidepressants in his hand. Ones he’d been on a few years back but had stopped taking. He showed them to me.

“Great,” I said. “When do you see your counselor?”

Counselor?

He frowned. “Counselor?”

“For therapy,” I said.

“I told you I’d call the doctor,” Seth said. “Who said anything about counseling?”

I did. You did. We both did, I thought angrily.

“You need to go to counseling,” I said, firmly. “It works better if you do both. Not just meds. I need you to do that.”

“Well,” he said. “We’re moving to Ohio soon, so I didn’t see the point of getting established with a therapist and having to move.”

We were moving in three months. A bit of a short time to be with one therapist, sure, but an eternity to spend in a single-room basement apartment with someone who resented my existence. An awkward interval.

And it dawned on me as I thought about this that the last thing he said heavily implied that he knew he was supposed to get connected with a therapist.

“You could see someone at the employee assistance program,” I said. “They only cover something like six visits. It’s short-term counseling. And then you could see someone else in Ohio.”

“Yeah, but do you really want your work knowing your personal business?” Seth asked.

“It’s confidential,” I said. “HIPAA.”

He laughed. “You don’t honestly believe that, do you?”

I frowned. “It’s the law.”

“Executed by humans,” he said. “I’ll do counseling when we get to Ohio.”

I Showed Him the Door, He Wouldn’t Walk Through It

We moved to Ohio three months later. The first couple of months were turbulent. Our first housing situation didn’t work out, but we moved in with other friends, and once we were settled in, they expressed concern about Seth. They also thought he needed therapy.

One of our new housemates made a recommendation for a place where he could get counseling for free. He thanked her, crumpled up the paper, threw it away. Ignored her.

I started going to counseling on my own — to deal with stress from the move and some trauma. Seth would drive me there and wait during my appointment. “He’s eligible, too,” my counselor told me one day in session. “Just have him go to scheduling.”

I told Seth this in the waiting room. Pointed to the reception area. “All you have to do is walk in there and tell them you’re my husband. They’ll schedule you,” I said. “It’s free counseling, and you’re bringing me here anyway.”

Seth didn’t say anything. He just shook his head. “Let’s go home.”

I’d literally shown him the door, and he refused to walk through it.

“I Didn’t Know You Were Serious”

I wasn’t expecting Seth to be surprised when I opened a separate checking account. Told him I wanted to proceed with separation. After all, I’d warned him several months earlier.

But he still blew up when I told him. Left the house for a few days. When he came back, we went out for pizza to talk about next steps, the state of our relationship.

“I told you we needed to go to counseling or we’d have to get separated,” I said.

“I didn’t know you were serious,” he said.

“Why would I say something like that if I didn’t mean it?” I asked.

And as he looked back at me with pain in his eyes, I finally got it.

A World Where People Don’t Say What They Mean

“It’s because you say things you don’t mean sometimes,” I said.

He nodded. “When I’m angry.”

“Well, you know the kind of home I grew up in,” I said.

“Strict,” he said. “Abusive.”

I nodded. “Growing up I didn’t have the luxury of venting, saying negative things I didn’t mean. I couldn’t just say something and take it back later. Being angry wouldn’t have been an excuse. I was angry for decades, and I still had to watch what I said,” I said.

“We could go to counseling now,” he said. “Now that I know you’re serious.”

It was a tempting idea. Work things out now. It would be hard work, sure, but likely less difficult than getting divorced. The logistics, the pain, the social repercussions. The dozens of conversations with mutual friends shocked by the decision. There was only one hitch — and a big one.

“Well, you know I’m serious,” I said. “But the trouble is that I’ll never know if you are.”

*

Seth and I split up and are both better for it.

*

I have a few people these days that I can talk to who really understand, but by and large, I I feel like I’m living in a world where people don’t say what they mean. Most days I’m fine with it, but every now and then, the loneliness gets unbearable.

*

My book is out!

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory

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