Tuesday, March 10, 2015

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“I will leave it up to you” Is The Wife Equivalent Of A Viet Cong Booby Trap

My wife and I were in the kitchen of our three-bedroom town home when I asked her if I could go see Roger Waters performance of The Wall. This must have been the fall of 2011, and at the time I was in graduate school and living in Mankato, Minnesota, about two hours out of the Twin Cities, where the concert was being performed.

“You know Im a huge Pink Floyd fan, and this might be my only chance to see The Wall performed by one of the original members. Richard Wright died not too long ago and Im afraid its going to cause a domino effect and wipe out the whole band.”

I told her about the theatrics of the event. How it was going to be like a rock opera, which clearly justified the nearly $200 ticket. I told her how I got a discount and advance purchasing because I was a member of the Roger Waters fan club. Basically I geeked out and hoped that she would understand.

Mel was in living room with our two-year-old, Norah, on her hip. She mindlessly nodded, eyes a little glossy, like she often did when I talk about Pink Floyd.

“When is this thing,” she asked.

“Its on October 27th,” I said.

Mel perked up then. We discussed more of the details.

The show was the day before our 7th anniversary. It was sure to go until late in the night, and I didnt feel comfortable driving the small two lane highway between Mankato and the Cities that late in the year because there would surely be black ice. This meant Id have to stay at a hotel, and probably not get home until mid-day, halfway through our anniversary. The hotel would also add to the cost. Once everything was said and done, I was probably looking at spending close $400 for this once in a lifetime event. Considering we had two kids, and were living on student loans and a graduate stipend, I might as well have asked her to let me buy a Ferrari.

There were so many things wrong with what I was asking for, and yet, I felt like it was justified because I was a huge fan. There was also the fact that I was leaving her home alone over night with two young kids who still didnt sleep through the night that well. I didnt even ask her if she wanted to go. I just assumed that she wouldnt because she wasnt a Pink Floyd fan. I probably couldve redeemed myself by finding someone to watch the kids for the night and turning this into a little Twin Cities mini vacation. Instead I had already invited my buddy Ryan, a guy I lifted weights with.

Mel looked at me with stern eyes, her mouth in a straight line. Im not sure exactly what was going through her head. She didnt call me self-centered, or anything. She simply said, “I will leave it up to you.”

Mel had spent a lot of years saying things like this and hoping that I would make the right decision. That I would be able to look at the situation and know that what I was trying to do was probably not the best idea for our family.

Long story short, like a dumb ass, I took her response as a yes, bought tickets for the show, made a reservation at a hotel, and attended the concert.

Mel didnt say much to me the day of the show. Before I left I gave her a kiss. She kissed back, but just half-heartedly.

“Whats wrong?” I asked.

She let out a breath, tilted her head to the side, eyes open. Her face seemed to say, “You know whats wrong.” But I still didnt get it. I was excited about the concert and I wasnt thinking about much anything else.

I do that more than I should.

I went to the show, and it was awesome. I slept until almost 11 a.m. at the hotel, which was amazing. I made it home around 2 p.m. the next day. She didnt say anything about her night, but I could tell it had been long. Mel was still in her pjs, hair uncombed, eyes red.

I kissed her cheek and she said, “I hope you enjoyed yourself.”

She didnt say much until later that day, when I took her out to dinner for our anniversary. And even then, it was a very surface level conversation. Neither of us laughed much, and there was a lot of uncomfortable silence.

I never told her that I was sorry for going to the concert, but thinking back, I shouldve. Most of the evening I was just trying to figure out what was wrong without asking that question because I didnt want to get in a fight. We went to bed that night with our backs facing. At one point I kissed the back of her neck, and she shooed me away with the back of her hand.

Sometimes I will zero in on something stupid and selfish, and only in hindsight do I realize that I was making a bad decision. Thinking back, as a man, I wanted her to tell me “no.” I wanted her to give me a direct order that was clear and to the point so that there wouldnt be any ambiguity. In contrast, I think Mel wanted me to slow down for a moment, think about what I was doing, and realize that I was being a selfish jackass. And although it seems clear now that I wasnt making a family centered decision, at the time I didnt understand her frustration and fell into the age-old butt-hurt assumption that my wife wants me to “read her mind.” I think this is what people mean when they say it takes a long time to learn how to communicate in marriage.

I fell asleep that night feeling angry and picked on. I assume Mel went fell asleep feeling the same.

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.   


Jodi said...

My husband and I have experienced this same scenario a few times.

As a wife, I can tell you that the reason I don't say 'no' is simply because I love my husband. I don't want to spoil is fun, or be his kill-joy. I don't want him to feel controlled or limited. And I desperately want those things in return, so I try to give it first. My guess is that your wife loves you enough not to say no to things that will bring you joy. She wants you to be happy, not be your kill-joy.