The waiter test...
I'm mostly just thinking out loud but it does help to write things down.
You know the waiter test... pay attention to how your significant other treats the wait staff at restaurants and you will see how you will be treated. Twenty years ago it was a red flag and I figured "Oh, she'll grow out of it." I did not take it seriously.
Over the years I've made many excuses for my wife's bad behavior towards others. She was feeling inferior and overreacting, she was tired, stressed, ill, PMSing, clinically depressed, now it's periomenopause. I've listened for years while she was critical of her coworkers, her friends, her family, my family. I've said before that I don't think I've heard her say anything nice about anyone for years. Her treatment of door-to-door solicitors is embarrassing. She can be so mean to strangers. So abrupt. So rude.
Yet I was never subjected to it. I felt that for some reason I was exempt from her contempt. That there must be some sort of respect buried down in there. And I kind of figured we balanced each other out. I've always been polite. As a kid, as a young man, as an adult. Too polite at times, perhaps, but even I have learned to simply say "no" and hang up on the phone canvassers. I don't take a lot of gruff from folk but I've learned to be polite and firm.
When I think of the two of us, I have always seen myself as the optimist and my wife as the pessimist. I'm positive energy, she is negative. That's just been my perception over the years. I've never been judgmental about it. That's just the way we are (to me). For the most part, I am happy with myself. I am confident in my skin. I am proud of the person I've become.
So our marriage counselor has been trying to get us to talk--really talk--about how we feel. After quite a few abortive attempts I was shocked to learn that my wife views me as constantly negative, pessimistic, "a glass half empty." She says she gets so sick of my pessimistic attitude. Yet I don't see it. It's not the reflection I get back from friends, coworkers or even strangers. It's not how I feel about myself.
And I am deeply, deeply hurt that that's how she sees me. It doesn't jive. She sees me no differently than all the other people she dislikes. I am not exempt. And she has harbored these feelings for years. Suddenly, her infidelity is about me and her contempt for me. Her lack of value of me. I've been able to compartmentalize her actions. But her feelings towards me ARE about me and they cut to the bone.
We are now 10 months along in trying to reconcile from her multiple infidelities which extended over 8 years of our 17 year marriage. Now, I have to ask myself "why?" I always told myself it wasn't me. Her affairs were about her failings, not mine. But now, knowing that I am just another person to hold in contempt.... knowing that she has no little nugget of respect for me.... I honestly don't know if she's capable of having a healthy relationship with anyone as long as she holds such a negative outlook on people. And why would I want to subject myself to such a relationship? There are financial and material reasons to stay together, but if those are stripped away... if you look at the relationship in isolation... Why bother?
And why should I try to change, to be 'more positive'? Granted, I am not a Pollyanna. But if you can't share your positive and negative, your happiness and your sadness, your hopes and your fears... then what's the point of being in a close, intimate relationship. Why should I always be supportive and never supported? If I have to shield my wife from my negative side when I have a bad day, when I'm tired, when I'm cranky... then why stay?
It gnaws at me and I grow tired of the doubt.