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Premeditated Resentments

July 23, 2008

“Expectations are premeditated resentments,” a friend once told me.  I’ve found this to be true, always.  Resentments lead to anger; suppressed anger leads to depression; and depression leads to self-medicating.  How do I know?  Well, I spent the first 30 (or so) years self medicating.  If it wasn’t drugs, it was alcohol, and if it wasn’t alcohol, it was something else.  I’ve been in a continual state of recovering for the past 20 (or so) years.

There is something about marriage that breeds expectations.  And this never ends well.  Once we start expecting our spouse to do, or be, something, we often end up in that cycle of resentment that leads to separate bedrooms, separate homes, and eventually, left uncorrected, visitation rights or shared custody.

How my parents were able to survive the minefield of resentment and stay married until death separated them, I’ll never know.  Seeing the continued resentment in my in-laws, even after 30 years of divorce, just reinforces the power of anger.

“We have been married for over seven years, which given my previous relationship history, is amazing”

We have been married for over seven years, which given my previous relationship history, is amazing.  I knew the moment I first met my wife, at a conference in Washington, DC, that she was awesome.  Six months later, we ended up attending the same grad school and a friendship developed.  After two years, we were married.

They say that love is blind, and “they” are always right!  I saw my wife as a beautiful, bubbly, sanguine.  I wasn’t prepared for the bossy, controlling, choleric.  I didn’t know she was a perfectionist that would insist on cleaning up my act.  But it turns out we are perfect for each other.  I’m the uncontrollable addict and she’s the controlling fixer in my life.  Who’d a thunk it?

For some reason when we mutually decided that she would be the stay at home Mom and I the hard working Dad, we really didn’t know what we were getting into.  I thought that she would take the primary responsibility for the kids, house, and food (like my Mom did), and I’d take care of the cars, yard, and finances – along with my 40-50 hr/week job.  Well, it’s amazing to see what happens when expectations aren’t met.

Yesterday we were headed into Portland for a couple of events.  First, I wanted to attend the PDXplore event at the Pacific Northwest College of Art.  Second, we were hoping to meet up with some Twitter-types so that She could meet some of my growing circle of virtual friends.  Then, if all went well, we’d make a quick stop at Costco (since there isn’t one within an hour of Rainier) and She and the kids could hang out at Powell’s or a nearby park.

Right off the bat two of my expectations were not met.  One that we would leave on time; and two, that everything around the house would be taken care of when I came home to pick up The Fam.

To be fair, there were probably more of her expectations not met, but since I’m the one telling the story, we’re not going to get into that here.

So, off we go to PDX, an hour and a half late.  Then I can’t find the Beaverton Costco.  How hard can this be, I’ve been there a dozen times, I know that area well, but I can’t find the entrance (stupid land-use planning committees!).  We arrive downtown, in the Pearl District about 30 minutes late and I’m just frustrated.

To bring this to a boil, She is showing little or no patience with the kids.  Something about being with them constantly, being overwhelmed, typical stay-at-home mom rants.  Not helping my need to be at the PDXplore panel discussion on time and to get a good seat.  It probably didn’t help that I hadn’t eaten since morning.

So after a couple pieces of Pizza Schmizza, my attitude was better.  But it didn’t take long for hers to pull me into the pit.  By the time we got home (it’s an hour), I was pissed at her, and she was in tears.  But few words were spoken.  We crawled silently into bed, snuggled with the kids, and as soon as they were asleep I slipped out to my office for a little anger-induced CSI:Miami.  Then I slept on the couch in my office.

“I hate it when she doesn’t live up to my expectations!”

“All this built up resentment is Her fault!”

“Grrrrrrr…!”

This morning, we hugged, we talked, we apologized and forgave.  That’s not enough though.  The kids put a crimp in our ability to communicate well.  We need some time to talk.  We need to be clear on what are reasonable and unreasonable expectations.  The best thing we can do for our kids, is to be free of resentment, anger, and mistrust.

Before kids, we had a weekly date night and we made it a point to attend an annual marriage retreat.  We know that it is important to avoid the mistakes of our parents.  But, we’ve had a steady stream of infants and toddlers for the past 3-1/2 years.  Not an excuse, just an explanation.

I think we’re going to have to have more quality time together.  I can’t stand the resentment!  But more importantly, I love my wife!

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