War and Sleep

DJ and I have never had a fight. In 14 years of marriage, we’ve never yelled at each other, made accusations, slammed doors, or driven off in a dust cloud of wounded dignity. What’s our secret, you say?

A lot of factors come into play, but mainly I’d say it’s conflict avoidance, buried resentment, and lashing out at the kids or other people. At which point you back away and say that maybe you’re not so interested after all.

We’ve had to learn how to fight. Not fight fair, just fight at all. He had to learn how to express how he felt, I had to learn not to take it as a fatal blow. Counseling helped a great deal; but we’ve had to practice a lot, grow up a lot, and love a lot.

(Fortunately, the last one has always been a solid foundation, which makes everything else doable.)

Things had been going well, but then something happened. Something that’s almost always fatal to marital happiness. And I’ll say it right out loud, too, because it happens to you, too.

We got tired.

DJ had been traveling, and neither of us slept well while he was gone. Once he was back home, life crowded in, and we were clocking in at nearly two weeks on broken sleep. We’re not in the baby/toddler stage anymore, and we don’t have the endurance we used to.

We lay in bed that night, exhausted, hoping for a full night’s sleep. We talked for a while, to catch up with each other. DJ knew he needed to bring up something that was bothering him, and finally managed to get it out. It was a small thing, a joke of mine that went astray; he was proud of himself for clearing the air and telling me how he felt. He went on to sleep.

The next morning, he got to work and settled in. He wasn’t thinking about the night before because he’d done the responsible thing and talked it out with me. Nice to have that taken care of.

The 392-word email that hit his inbox at 9am changed his mind.

I had not slept well. Way past midnight, as I was still awake and stewing over what he’d told me, I finally understood what he had done. He was mad at me and this was his passive way of punishing me. He was being plain mean. And I wrote him to tell him so.

Amid the agony of my betrayed soul, and amid his utter astonishment that he’d somehow done it wrong, we held onto one lifesaving fact: We were tired. So tired that he thought it was a good idea to confess my sins to me at 11pm, and so tired that I was sure it was done with malice aforethought.

In the fresh light of morning, he called me, and we talked it out. We had both actually said something? Good! The situation itself? Total loss. Anything to do differently in the future? Not really. Just apologize and move on… and, please God, get a good night’s sleep tonight.

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