“I get to matter too”. This is something I said countless times to John. He just didn’t seem to understand. He was angry because I told him my feelings were hurt. “I get to matter too” He was angry because he wanted to sit on the couch all day Saturday and I asked if he would go to the store with me an help me pick out curtains. “I get to matter too” He was angry with me because I liked different curtains than he did. “I get to matter too” And then one day I found myself asking, do I get to matter too? In this relationship … do I matter? John would swear that I matter to him and that my feelings mattered, but those were just words. Given any opportunity to prove that was in fact the case he would get angry and the yelling would start.
One incident in particular sticks out in my mind. My son was about 3 years old and my daughter was 1. She was at the age where she was crawling and getting into everything and needed eyes on her at all times. We had driven to New York to visit his father for the day. I was enjoying spending time with his father and step-mother but the children decided to go into a different room to play. Given that his father’s kids were much older and therefore the house was not baby proofed, I decided to follow the kids and watch them. That would allow John to have time with his father and the children were still being tended to. A few times John wandered in and asked me “What’s the matter?”. I was very confused. Nothing was wrong. I was having a great time with the kids. I just responded that nothing was wrong and continued playing with the children. On the way home, John looked at me and the screaming started. I was shocked. I hadn’t seen it coming. What could I have possibly done wrong this time? We weren’t even in the same room together the majority of the day.
“What’s wrong with you?!”, “Why were you so miserable at my dad’s house?! You ruined everyone’s fun!”, “You had a miserable expression on your face the whole time! You are a miserable person!! You make everyone around you miserable!!!”, “Next time I go to my father’s house you aren’t invited because all you do is make everyone miserable!!!” As he was screaming at me in front of our two small children I started to sob. I begged him to please stop. I told him over and over again that I wasn’t miserable. I was having fun. I had no idea what I had done to give him that idea. He told me he didn’t like my facial expressions when we were at his fathers. Finally I started begging him to please stop yelling at me in front of the kids. We can finish this argument later at home. Please… think of what they are learning. His response? “I’m teaching them to stand up for themselves!” For 45 minutes this continued…. all the way from New York across the Connecticut border. Eventually I gave up trying to reason with him and just sat there and sobbed listening to him call me names and scream at me in front of my babies. The phrase “I get to matter too” got lost somewhere between my brain and my lips. Is this marriage? Is this the compromise I need to make to have a “happy” family? Is it worth it? Doesn’t everyone get to matter? And if this was love …. wouldn’t he want me to feel like I mattered?