written by Sue de Putron
I know how to love. I am bringing up my sons well. I have a job, where I am respected and popular. I am a responsible dog owner. I want to kill my husband.
I sit in front of the wise woman alone. I am alone because he refused to come.
This is another example of his selfish, uselessness, his cop-out mentality.
‘This isn’t going to work. It’s just lame, me sitting here on my own.’
She shrugs, ‘At least you can be really vile about him.’ She nods encouragingly, ‘Get things off your chest.’
I do. Oh boy, I do.
Towards the end, she asks if there is another man in the world I’d rather be with.
I go through all the men in the world. The only one is Atticus Finch, played by Gregory Peck.
‘No.’ I tell her.
She changes tack.
‘Do you have friends, divorced or separated?’
‘How are they faring?’
Our girls’ nights out see disastrous dates and internet affairs hilariously shared but it’s tough for them, and they’re lonely as before.
When I leave the wise woman, the tissue box remains untouched because I am a strong, independent woman.
I drive home. What was it she’d said?
‘For example, a sigh can be passive-aggressive.’
PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE! Can’t I even sigh now? I didn’t shout it, but she caught the look.
‘For God’s sake,’ he’d moan, ‘Stop sighing Naomi!
She’d leaned forward. ’I’m an expert on that myself, but I promise you, it’s best avoided.’
I get home. He’s hunched and defensive.
I explain the wise woman’s plan.
‘We treat each other courteously as we would work colleagues. We are contracted to look after our home and kids to the best of our ability. We see how things are in six months. The past is the past. We don’t bring it up.’
He nods, expressionless, ‘Ok.’
We are in bed. I am a desert warrior, hidden under the sand, fingers curled around my lethal dagger. One touch and he is dead. He’s dead anyway, multiple red punctures. The wise woman has been decapitated.
Why am I so horrible? What’s wrong with me?
It’s him. He’s made me like this and now he’s snoring. Sleep impossible, I remember, I forgot to iron my blouse. Too chaotic in the morning. With the loudest possible sigh, I thump out of the room.
Ironing is soothing, I do the lot and then I sleep.
Alone again, I see the wise woman.
She completely understands the impossibility of not bringing up the past.
‘There’s usually one, often after that second glass,’ (she’s on my side), ‘who starts things up, and the other one gets dragged in and then the whole destructive process blasts off again.’
She recommends, that the person ‘not starting things up’, should firmly say ‘I’m not getting involved in this,’ and just walk off.
I am disarmed by her candour. The tissue box empties.
Back home, I explain the additional strategy. He nods. I’m dying to point out that it’s him, not me, who usually ‘starts things up’. We both turn and walk off at once.
Our teamwork is good. The house is efficiently run. We drink less and have more energy. Our sons are happier now the rows have stopped. During meals, we discuss the outside world. The boys chip in with forming opinions. Our smiles are only for them. Occasionally at weekends we go on family outings. People think we’re an enviably happy family. But it’s weird and hollow and lonely.
Then one day a surprising thing happens. I respond to his off-the-cuff remark, and spontaneously, we laugh.
©Sue de Putron – This story is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is not intended or should not be inferred.
Admitting that our own behaviour is contributing to a sinking relationship is painful and can make us feel vulnerable and weakened but with this self-knowledge, we are gifted for life. It enables us to work within the many different relationships we strike up and we are therefore more resilient and adaptable. I’m not suggesting that all relationships are curable, as the saying goes, it takes two to tango!
I am lucky to be working with Margaretha on an anthology we’re putting together to be published in the coming year.