“I’m going to take the kids to stay with my mum and dad on 10th April,” said Ethan to me one morning as I was wiping breakfast from around Sam’s mouth and simultaneously trying to pack three lunchboxes, “it’ll give you a break and I don’t go and see them often enough. It’s all arranged.”
“Oh right, erm,” I looked at the calendar to check my suspicions, “that’s the weekend of Becky’s wedding reception.”
“Oh for goodness sake,” said Ethan in the angry tone he uses when something isn’t going the way he wants. “Well there’s always something. I’m going anyway.”
What followed was two weeks of delicately bringing the matter up and suggesting gently that perhaps he could go during the week since he has that whole week booked off for the Easter holidays. Then he wouldn’t need to miss the wedding reception and I wouldn’t need to spend Easter Sunday at home on my own while my three children and husband are at my in-laws.
Each time I tried talking about the impending weekend, the subject was met with sighs, defensiveness and an unwillingness to talk about it. He didn’t want to go to the wedding reception anyway, he said, “it’ll be awkward, I don’t really know anyone, there’ll be loud music playing so that I can’t hear anyone anyway. You’ll have a better time if you go without me.” This helped justify his decision, “And they won’t miss me,” he added, “they won’t even notice that I’m not there.”
I’ve tried not to be selfish but, the thing is, I don’t really want to go to this wedding reception on my own. However he justifies his absence and however unsociable he is when he’s there and, to my shame, however much he hates it and struggles his way through it, I’d rather have him there than not. It’s not particularly nice going to events like weddings on your own – particularly when you are actually married! In any case, I don’t fancy trying to get myself there and, like a charity case, looking for someone to share a taxi home with. I know, selfish, but there it is.
I accepted that Ethan wasn’t going to budge and texted the girl getting married to apologise profusely that it would only be me coming to her wedding reception and not both of us as per our original reply. I didn’t hear anything back. And I started to worry that she was really annoyed. And then I started to get really annoyed that I was in this position of letting her down and annoying her over something that Ethan had done/the way he is. The resentment continued to fester....
Things trundled along in this unsatisfactory, unresolved manner until yesterday when I realised that I am actually working all day on the Tuesday anyway and that therefore Ethan will have to entertain the kids by himself that day anyway and that, with all of these factors considered, it really made far more sense for him to go to his parents on the Tuesday and Wednesday rather than Easter weekend.
I calmly presented Ethan with the facts and suggested the Tuesday and Wednesday as an alternative. He sighed, shouted, said again that I’d have a better time at the wedding reception on my own to which I had to respond and drop the bombshell that, actually, going to events on my own isn’t fun and isn’t what I want. He got even more irritated by this as it didn’t give him the get-out clause he wanted. I also mentioned that it would be quite nice to be together as a family on Easter Sunday and to be able to see my kids that day and perhaps do an egg hunt with them in the garden.
I tried to keep things calm but he got increasingly agitated and angry, grabbed the phone, called his mum and said that he was going to come on the Tuesday and Wednesday instead. I appreciated that he was taking on board what I’d said but that wasn’t really the reaction I was looking for – I simply wanted a discussion about what dates made the most sense.
Ethan spent the rest of the day being distant and grumpy with me. When I finally challenged him at tea-time he said that yes, he was angry with me, that I was trying to control him and emotionally blackmail him and why should he have to ask his wife’s ‘permission’ to take his kids to his mums and dads anyway? I was seething and heartbroken and incensed and sorry-for-myself all at the same time. Wanting to discuss options for when would be best for him to take our kids away over Easter was not, I felt unreasonable. That he resented having to involve me at all (in his words ‘ask my permission’) was hurtful (he used the same expression when he got angry over me not agreeing to his purchase of a £12,000 convertible BMW that he bought anyway). Also, that he’d been angry and unpleasant to me all day just because I’d stated some facts and presented an alternative opinion was pathetic.
I really resonated with what someone said on the My story section of the different-together homepage:
The stress seemed to be caused by very “normal” conditions and yet I was not witnessing typical responses and behaviours from the man who was supposed to be my equal in parenting and all things "grown up".
It was at this point that I hated him. And told him so. Which the kids heard. Which made me hate him more.
I went up to our bedroom and cried and felt sorry for myself some more and thought about divorcing him.
After a while he came up and said how sorry he was and how he knew he’d been horrible and an idiot. And explained that he didn’t want to change the dates because that’s what he’d decided. I told him that was just stubborn - it made no sense, that he couldn’t admit that he’d made a wrong decision. He said he knew – he was stubborn, that he found it really hard to accept that he was wrong. That it didn’t make sense but he just felt really stressed at the thought of changing what he’d already decided was going to happen. He looked so sad and dejected and defeated slumped on the bed that I felt sorry, not for me anymore, but for him. He hugged me and said that he wanted to support me at the wedding.
He’s now going to his mum and dad’s on the Tuesday and Wednesday and coming to the wedding reception with me on the Saturday. Now I’m the one feeling guilty and telling him to stick to his original plan and go to his parents at the weekend if that’s what he’d rather do. He of course is refusing and determined that we’ll have a good time at the wedding. And I, even though we’ve gone the long way round, love him again for his humility, his sacrifice and his commitment to keep trying.
The rollercoaster goes on and on!