Saturday, June 16, 2012

Control versus Management

During our marriage, my need for "control" was a constant source of contention, and sometimes laughter, in our household.  Ben would say something like, "This didn't work."  I would ask if he did what I told him to do, and he would say no, and I would say, "Well, if you would just. . .!" and he would ask "Just what?  Just do what you told me to do?"  He would laugh at my fury, and I would laugh too, recognizing how easily I can be worked up if things don't go my way.

I like to say that Ben is stubborn, but I am just strong-willed.  I never thought of myself as controlling, I just wanted order and security where I could find it.  Through the four major traumatic events in my life, the rape,  Sean's suicide, the miscarriage, and dealing with Gabriel's condition, I felt such a complete sense of helplessness that now I take comfort in the things I can help.  I like knowing that the glasses will always be in the same order, that the towels will always be folded the same way, that the tabs in a file will always lead me to what I'm looking for, and that the bottle of sloe gin will always be in the same place.  I couldn't understand why Ben would fight me on those things at every turn.  Friends would advise me that if I wanted my marriage to last, I would learn to let the little things go, but I never agreed with that.  The little things could push me to the edge.  I could deal with my son having a fatal birth defect, but a sock left on the floor was devastating to me because of what it said to me.  I was willing to wash Ben's socks, pull them rightside out because he usually didn't, pair them up, and put them away for him, and all I asked in return was that he put the socks in the hamper -- in the correct basket, of course.  I wish now that I had communicated to him that the simple act of putting the sock in the hamper was for me an expression of love that I needed.  Ben couldn't help the bad things that happened, he couldn't change the fact that when he found me I was already wounded, maybe even damaged, but he could comfort me by bringing a sense of security.

As I finish up the first book in the 50 Shades series, I can't understand why everyone is so preoccupied with the sex.  Why aren't they looking at the relationship between the two main characters?  The concepts, though  not explored as effectively as they could be, are intriguing to me.  He wants control, not because he wants to hurt her or degrade her, but because in his life there was so little that he could control.  She wants to give in to him, not because she hates herself or lacks self-worth, but because she cares and wants to give him what he needs.  And at the same time, she is slowly chipping away at his pain, and he is slowly building her up too, and if things turn out as I suspect they will, at some point they will meet happily in the middle -- three books later.

Looking back, I probably put an unfair burden on Ben.  We're not characters in a book, after all.  I suppose my asking him to give in to me could be seen as my looking to him to fix everything and that was my mistake.  I couldn't figure out why he was so resistant to doing things "my way," and I still don't understand.  Maybe there was some deep-seated reason, or maybe he really is just stubborn and doesn't want a woman telling him what to do.  I know that in many ways, he spoiled me -- I think about it every time I have to do my least favorite chore, cleaning floors, which he always did for me. He no doubt thought that what he was doing was enough, and I always wanted more.  And without a doubt I thought I was doing enough, I think I rightly assign much of the credit for the marriage ending to Ben because he is the one who walked away, but I know I messed up too.  Every day I think about the mistakes I made.  I think about what I would have done differently, and also what I wouldn't do differently and what I'm not sorry for.  I can't change my particular nature.  I've always kept the strainer covering the drain on the same side of the sink, and I'm always going to.

This morning Ben told me that he is thinking of moving to South Carolina.  My urge to control this situation overtook me.  I don't know why I should care if he moves; in fact, I think my life would probably be made easier if he left.  I know there is nothing left to salvage in our relationship.  What sprang to my mind, though, was the morning I went to family court and watched as the judge ordered the couple before him divorced.  Just like that, their marriage was over and I watched it happen from my seat in the jury box where the lawyers wait for their case to be called.  I have imagined what it will be like to stand in front of the judge as a party to a case rather than a lawyer, and feel the eyes of my colleagues on me while they speculate on why our marriage is ending. "Poor girl.  First she lost her baby, and now she's losing her husband."  And I feel that he should have to be there too, their stares burning into him.  He should have to walk in on the continued whispered conversations at the bar. "Did you notice Ben and Andrea never come in together anymore?" "He took his wedding band off, did you see?" "I heard he moved out." "She didn't even know that he was looking for an apartment!" "That thing with the baby, it ruined them."  "Stop talking, there she is."

Two weeks ago I was diagnosed with early stage rheumatoid arthritis.  It wasn't a surprise to me.  For years I have known something was wrong, and have been told by doctors that I'm just too young.  So it was a relief to me to finally have a diagnosis.  "There's no cure," the doctor said, "But the medications these days can put you into remission, where you won't get deformities.  Now that you know, you can manage your condition.  You're so young."

There were those words again.  My age is generally pointed to as a promise that life will get better down the road, but from the doctor's mouth it sounded like some sort of death sentence. "Well, I plan on living to be 100, so maybe they'll find a cure by then."


At my first occupational therapy session, the hand therapist said it again. "You're awfully young."  I know.  I can't help that.  I can't help the diagnosis.  This is another one of those things I can't control.  What I can do is take my medication, and do the exercises that the therapist assigned, and manage the problem.  I couldn't fix the hole in my son's skull, all I could do is care for him while he was here and love him from a distance now. I couldn't make Ben stay in our home and I sure can't make him stay in California and face the end of the life we thought we were building together.  I can manage the legal proceedings on my own though, and I will.  It seems only fitting -- Ben did the cooking, I do the handling of the divorce.  Really, my life won't be that much different if Ben leaves, or when I have a divorce decree.  I'll still sit in my backyard, drinking coffee, reading book 2, and watching the dogs chase birds, knowing the towels are hanging just the way I want them to.

1 comment:

  1. still praying for both of you, Andrea. The desire for control can be so tricky.