The EX and I never fought. Or rather, we fought all the time, but did it in such a refined and appropriate manner that even people in the same room would have been uncertain as to the nature of our interaction. We made passive-aggressive behavior our bitch, and I’m proud to say I can still pick up a fight (or as we liked to call it “discussion”) mid-thought 10 years after the fact. I am skilled. I am woman. Hear me roar.
But the closest thing to a real fight (you know, one other people would actually recognize) we ever had was over an address book. An address book. The entire thing left me convinced that civilization will doom itself not by succumbing to the coming plague (although I plan to use that as an excuse to have Fridays off this summer), but because a massive war will break out over the following exchange:
Ex: I’ve asked you not to do that.
Me: No you didn’t. Had you asked me not to do that before we would have had this fight then.
The scenario seems relatively harmless, doesn’t it? Doesn’t sound like something that would house seven years of resentment in it. Oh, but you aren’t as skilled at repressed disappointment and failed expectations as we were. Don’t fret. Few people are.
How did it start?
The EX and I were going about our business. It was a normal evening. We both had long days at work. I went into his office to call a mutual friend about seeing a movie that weekend. I couldn’t remember her phone number off the top of my head, so I opened his address book to find it. I called, left a message as she was not at home, and left the office to get ready for bed.
Upon entering the bedroom, The EX was pulling down covers and tossing pillows. It wasn’t that he was being particularly violent with the innocent bedding—he wasn’t. But gone was his usual flair for elegant movement. The short jerky motions were code for, “I’m displeased, but I will go to bed harboring this resentment rather than sullying a perfectly good snit with actual discourse.” Well, too bad. So, I pushed and was rewarded with, “I’ve asked you not to use my address book without my permission”. Which I followed quickly with the rejoinder outlined above. And then there was silence. And I left the room.
I know, those of you from more “yelling” and “throwing” backgrounds are thinking, “That’s it? That was the big fight?” It was huge for us because there was direct confrontation for at least 10 seconds. But in reality, the actual fight lasted for days. I couldn’t begin to understand this boundary of his. So, I did what any other sane woman would do in this situation—I beat the issue to death and then shot it.
Naturally, I started with suspicion. Though he had never given me reason to believe that he would cheat, I started wondering what it was in the address book that he didn’t want me to see because my brain could not even begin to believe that it was as simple as a personal space issue. Perhaps in reality he had stuck a receipt for a lovely future gift in the address book and didn’t want to spoil the surprise. I’ll tell you right now, at the time, that possibility didn’t even begin to cross my mind. So, confrontation number two occurred. He became defensive, which I immediately took as an admission of guilt—even though any rational person would actually become defensive when confronted with that sort of subtle questioning. And by subtle, I mean, “What was in there you didn’t want me to see?” Yeah, yeah. I’ve since looked up the definition of subtle, thanks.
He tried to explain to me that the address book was personal– as though this completely reasonable yet totally inadequate explanation should have been the end of it. I suggested that we had experienced quite a number of very personal things in the previous seven years and that looking up the phone number of a mutual friend wasn’t one of them. Prompting the following:
Me: I let you into my body. I think you can let me into your address
EX: But that’s just sex.
And then my head exploded with the force of global, thermo-nuclear war.
Gentleman, if any of you read this blog, please understand that the “But that’s just sex” statement presented to your girlfriend of seven years is potentially more lethal than plutonium. Try to realize that before you open your mouth and insert your size 13s.
On the upside, it was the end of the fight. On the downside, it was probably one of the biggest signals that while I was on the “soul mate” train (as opposed to Soul Train) headed north, the relationship itself was on an express south. Naturally, it took another three years for me to realize that I didn’t even have a ticket for the trip.
How had we gone from the forever exchanges to “frankly, we’re not close enough for you to get use my address book”? And maybe it was just me. Maybe I just didn’t understand that he needed a boundary with the person he lived with, and he had chosen that one. But, obviously, it still remains with me years after the fact. I suppose my brain is still trying to work it out so that if I do engage in interpersonal communications ever again, I’ll see the signs faster. Or maybe I’m just thinking about it because I haven’t transferred all my contact information into my new phone.
Kate, making grudge-holding an art form for the new millennium.