Background: This weekend we will have both my parents and my wife’s parents (I’ll call my wife Marie) visiting for our son’s High School Graduation. This is of course a joyous occasion at our house (or should be). Now, I do realize that my wife is going to be a bit stressed with both of our parents visiting. This is normal. Plus, I know that whenever we visit family on either side she gets stressed out, and often I feel some pain from this. She always tries to put on the best face and make a good impression, as well as show genuine hospitality.
The call this morning
Marie (sounding annoyed): I need to know you are engaged and care about what is happening and have a list of things that need to be done.
Me (trying to sound calm and kind, but I think she takes this for demeaning): Well I know I am not really that engaged or proactive, but that does not mean I don’t care about what is going on (I think we are talking about a general sense of things in our family).
Marie: I know you care, but I need you to push harder than you feel like pushing and do things that I can see to help out.
Me: Trust me, though you might not see it, I am already doing this. I think I do things every day to help out around the house and I do care about what is going on. If there is something specific you need or want me to do please let me know.
Marie: Chris, I know you do things around the house, but we have people coming this weekend and we have a lot of things to do. I just need to know you are active and engaged and being proactive. (This was the first mention of this weekend, so now I am understanding a bit more – not that her opinion is not valid otherwise in a more general sense).
Me: So I understand we have people coming to the house and you want to make sure I’m helping to get ready for the weekend (proud of my active listening). I know you are going to want to have the house clean and the yard looking good, those are normal things. I also engaged you yesterday on the meal plan for the weekend and what Sunday (graduation day) would look like and I think that I had already given it all more thought than you had.
Marie: (frustrated interruption indicates she doesn’t like my response – thinks I am keeping score)
Me: (I interrupt) All I’m saying is that I am trying already to be proactive and I do care and I know there will be things to do. If there are specific things you are looking for please let me know because I am not sure.
Marie: It’s more about the specific things on the list. I just need to know you are engaged and care about what is going on and are going to be proactive. Do you understand this?
Me: No not really, I know I am not feeling engaged or proactive, I know that, I am frustrated with this, I am trying. If there is something specific you need me to do you have to let me know, I can’t know what you are thinking all the time.
We went around like this for a while – She has to go to work so conversation ends.
I know she is frustrated with me. For almost four years she has complained that I am not engaged, not caring, our physical intimacy has diminished to almost non-existent mostly by my choice.
I am frustrated at the lack of sympathy or compassion for my struggle. I want to engage, I want to want to feeling like doing things. I pretend to care, I push (but not really as hard as I used to), I am failing.
Looking for the old Chris . . .