While I was chattering along with a friend via the phone, she mentally and verbally began grasping for a word. I fell silent, my own thoughts frozen by a sudden uncertainty over whether or not to supply my idea of the word she’d been about to say.
“You’re not helping!” My friend laughed, teasing. “What was I going to say?” An awkward chuckle was my only reply, and the conversation moved onward.
But awareness of that moment lingered for far longer than that late night conversation. My tendency when conversing is to get excited about what is being discussed, and sometimes I interject comments, or if someone pauses and grasps for words, I insert my own suggestions. Sometimes it is appropriate, and other times I wave my hands for the person I interrupted to continue, knowing I need to calm myself just a little and wait for them to finish.
Whenever this happened with my ex, however, he often snarled at me. No matter how long he paused, if I sought to offer a word that might fit in that open space he couldn’t fill, he would lash out at me in anger and frustration. It then became my fault he couldn’t finish his sentence.
For so long, I just assumed it was an irritating habit of mine, and I tried hard to break it. Only to be dumbfounded, this past weekend when my friend laughingly tried to chivy some assistance from me for the exact same thing that used to annoy my ex so greatly.
There is something about ‘everything in moderation’ that I know applies here – there is always potential that a habit done in excess could be ‘too much’ . But I have spent so long just quietly accepting that I am irritating to be around, that it is hard to wrap my head around this new perception: That many of the things I try not to do, do not bother the vast majority of friends and family.
In fact, one of my friends yesterday, when I asked her if I interrupted too much or finished sentences too often, gave me a particularly puzzled look. Then said, “I don’t mean this as a compliment or just to puff you up, necessarily, though it may sound that way. But, perhaps because you had to deal with [your ex] for so long, you are just a very easy person to just be around.”
It amazes me how much the foundations of my self-worth were etched away over the last few years, and how much more insidious the emotional abuse was than I realized. All the little things that made me, well, me, were under a constant, subtle attack. Even in the moments when things were relatively ‘good’.
My voice. If I asked my Ex to do things, or change something, he made a shrill mockery of what I said and flung it back in my face.
My jokes. Condescendingly, all my jokes were ‘mom’ jokes. I didn’t have a sense of humor. Etc.
My conversational habits and quirks.
Any alternative solutions to the one that wasn’t working for him. Which perhaps wouldn’t normally be a problem, excepting the more something wasn’t working, the angrier he got and the more things were thrown around.
Sure, I’m sure any of these things could get on someone’s nerves some of the time. So often, however, I wondered why he would want to be married to someone that so frequently rubbed him the wrong way. I even stated that, twice, in the last few months before I left, when I was too tired to be upset.
No wonder there were days I climbed into the car to go to the grocery store, and fantasized what it would be like to just keep going. Follow the road wherever it led. To the ocean, over the mountains, to the east coast, or Canada… just drive and have nothing but the thrum of wheels on pavement to keep me company.