I told my therapist on Friday I am waiting for relief that never comes.
He asked what I meant.
I said, I work at my job, I finish a project, and instantly I have another. Space on my plate instantly gets filled with another distasteful vegetable.
I work on my marriage at home — my relationship with J. I do things that I know she wants to do. We went to a concert last night, Peter Gabriel, down at the TD Banknorth center in Boston. Had a good time. Tried not to talk about IVF for once — avoided, mostly, discussions about babies, disappointment, what comes next, all of that shit. This morning, before our session, she’s already asking what we’re doing this weekend. What’s the plan to keep her distracted from the IVF failures? I tell her I wanted to work on projects around the house and take it easy. We’ve been to two shows in the past week — last weekend was packed with activity. Why not a quiet weekend?
She says Well you tell me that when I am around the house that my brain spins on negative subjects. I can’t just sit here on the couch all weekend. I’ll think about the miscarriage that isn’t yet over. I’ll think about the mom across the street that sits on the porch all the time with her three young kids, a constant slap in the face.
It isn’t a slap in the face. That’s an act of violence. What she does has nothing to do with you. She’s just out there with her kids. You’re slapping yourself in the face.
Why do you always contradict me? (You’re not supposed to use words like “always” when you are fighting with your partner — it’s a trigger. One partner rarely “always” does anything, despite the way the other feels. Feelings have no obligation to Truth.)
Why are we always talking about kids and IVF now? How did this become our relationship?
This is why we need other stuff to do, because when we sit around the house this is where the conversation goes.
So we are going to be out and about all the time blowing money trying to entertain ourselves in a desperate attempt to run from our own home and our problems? This is not a viable long term solution.
I tell my therapist that I no longer know how to deal with J, that her anxiety is a problem. He says no shit. He talks to me in this casual way now, like we are almost friends just shooting it. I don’t know if I like this. The lack of professionalism seems to lighten the weight of his advice, rendering it less impactful and believable. He tells me that maybe it’s OK to keep indulging in forms of distraction for J at least for another week or two. We’re not even through the miscarriage. (There was a complication and J is now taking pills to induce a final flush of her system to expel dead tissue and a fluid filled sac in her lower uterus, our embryo that failed to develop.) She’s cramping and there’s a lot of pain and discomfort.
I tell him I agree. But I tell him I’m not even really enjoying a lot of the stuff we do together anymore.
I live in a state of dread. I dread Jennie wanting to talk about certain things — her ruminating brain likes to comb over the same tired list of shit, again and again and again. Her age (43). Her lack of child and broken reproductive system. Our failed IVF transfer. Various things that are currently physically wrong with her. The next steps for trying to have a child together. Her demented father and mother who need a lot of care and are absolutely bonkers because of the Alzheimer’s and other age-related issues. Her rich-assed doctor brother T who doesn’t help as much as he should. Her sister in law who expects her to caretake the parents so as to minimize the involvement of herself and T, who would prefer to travel to Sweden and stick the bulk of the care to J. On my side J will get upset about, in no particular order, my own elderly and sick mother, my deadbeat brother, my suffocating father, my ultra-liberal sex-worker sister. In short, everyone in my family.
Occasionally she will break through this mess of negativity and we will talk about things that we mutually enjoy: Bad movies. Pop culture. Her idiot friend K’s adventures in man-hunting. She might tell me how much she loves me. This stuff is good. This stuff I can handle.
Then two seconds later she will ask: Any update on your mother? And even if my answer is a sullen No, I’m sure nothing’s changed, she’s home and miserable and I have a check-in with her tomorrow J will share her opinion on my mother which is that she’s retired and has all the time in the world and J doesn’t understand why she is so miserable and I will be forced to say what I have said a million times before, J my mom is sick, it’s not a question of free time, she’s sick, and sick people are miserable. I wish you would stop blaming my mom for this.
My therapist asks why I think J likes talking about all of this stuff so much and I say I don’t know, she likes repeating discussions over and over, same shit. I call it playing the hits. She likes having a discussion that’s already been had. Also it’s easier to complain about other people, whether in her family or mine, than talk about what is actually going on with her internally.
A lot of couples do this, repeat conversations.
I know, I tell him. But it’s depressing. I don’t want to be a lot of couples. I want to be who I want to be. This shit irritates me, bores me, simultaneously stresses me out. I hate knowing where a conversation is going to go from the moment it starts until the moment it ends. I hate cooking or cleaning dishes while she is on the couch looking at insta feeds of puppies she likes, or reddit threads about why her miscarriage is not progressing as it should, or news about celebrities — I get upset. She used to do the dishes after dinner, before IVF. I am a bitch now, I am sacrificing myself for the dream of having a child, for the goal of reducing stress on J. I seem to do all the work, all the while functioning as an emotional pillar for her, a rock of stability, her personal therapist. My family has become her whipping post. I don’t want this relationship right now. I have to put in way too much to get almost nothing in return. I am the sacrificial lamb.
It sounds like you have a lot of anger.
God you are a fucking genius do you know that.
This makes him laugh, and then I’m laughing too.
The laughter, it turns out, is the relief that I’d been looking for.
As usual, I look in the wrong places for the things that I need.