Ethan's saving grace is that he is gracious in defeat. He will accept when he's fallen short and take on board my analysis and advice. Without me being allowed to vent and point out his shortcomings and him listening to my take on things and being willing to just take my word for it sometimes, I don't think our marriage would survive.
I have found the last few days particularly hard. Sam captured the moment well at a BBQ we were at over the weekend: he was whizzing around with his camera snapping anything and everything (he takes after his father - I think it's something to do with preferring to be outside of the action rather than in it and being behind a camera allows them this). Anyway, he showed me his photos later and everyone was smiling, chatting and engaged - until we got to a photo of Ethan. The other men in the photo were in the throes of conversation - gesticulating and obviously participating in conversation. And then there was Ethan. He was standing just slightly too far away from the other two men in the photo, with his hands in his pockets and his mouth in a light frown. Maybe it's because I know, but he just oozed distance and detachment.
Later on, as the party got going the men, aided by the kids, discovered the dressing-up box. Within moments they'd dressed themselves as 80s rockers in shaggy wigs and fluffy leopard-print jackets! All except for Ethan who hung back awkwardly, conspicuous by his un-involvement. He was socially-aware enough to look over and smile but desperately unsure of what to do with himself beyond that! In the end, one of the guys took matters into his own hands and plonked a garish tartan wig on him, complete with wiry orange hair. Ethan's awkwardness was toe-curling! While the others struck rock star poses for the camera, Ethan hovered uncomfortably - hands still firmly in pockets and leg twitching incessantly as if desperate to make a run for it! It's not that I blame him for being an outsider in such a situation, I just wish, for his sake as well as mine, that he was able to engage with and enjoy social situations - that he could let himself go, be silly and have a laugh like everyone else, that I could relax in social situations rather than keeping check on how Ethan's doing and whether he, or the people he's with, need rescuing.
Another area where we always come to blows is in the car. He's such a self-absorbed, inconsiderate, rude road-user. He sighs and swears and tuts and glares at other drivers for the slightest inconvenience (down to them just driving, in his opinion, too slowly). And yet he himself drives without the slightest consideration for anyone else. Today, as we pulled into a car-park, a lady was in the process of reversing into a space. Instead of staying put for a few seconds to allow her space - physically and mentally - to manoeuvre, he ploughed ahead, squeezing the car through a teeny gap that we just about fitted through, centimetres away from her reversing. When challenged (which, of course, is what I did) he claimed he was 'getting out of the way' of other cars. Personally I think his actions were nothing to do with making life easier for other drivers and everything to do with making life easier for him! He can't bear to have to wait, even a second, for anything or anyone.
All of this put together makes for a rather unattractive-sounding spouse. Add to that his complete lack of common-sense, his high irritation levels, his snoring and his middle-aged spread and I sometimes wonder how on earth I've ended up with him! And yet I have. And the longer I'm with him and the harder I try, the more I'm beginning to understand him. And the more I understand him, the more I realise that where he is now is so much better than where he was ten years ago. And it's gradually dawning on me that it takes huge amounts of effort and willpower and commitment for Ethan to connect and listen and engage and, sometimes, even to stick around in our large, chaotic family each day. And for that I love him. And so we keep on muddling through.