I learned a lot watching my family at the airport. I learned something new about my husband. He’s a “good helper,” just like my daughter. The woman ahead of him in the bag check line had trouble getting her suitcase handle to retract. I realized this when I saw my husband on the ground, pounding that handle back into her suitcase. Oh boy, I thought. He’s probably so pissed off that this woman’s holding him up. And then his head bobbed up so I could see. He was smiling. Smiling! “Got it!” he said.
Who is this guy? I wondered. My husband, the one I see at home, would be all pissed off. My husband, the guy who tells me how somebody at work screwed up the entire accounting system and so he has to work tonight, doesn’t take kindly to strangers making him wait. My husband, who threatened to sue United Airlines last week for not seating him with his two and a half-year-old daughter, does not volunteer help like a modern-day Lone Ranger.
I thought and thought about it and now I wonder: When he goes off by himself – business trips, work and whatnot – is he a whole different person? Is he patient and positive and helpful? And if he is, where does it come from? He’s never like that at home. Worse, is that his normal persona? Now that I think about it, when we first met, he was a pretty positive guy. I didn’t see him mad for at least a year. And now he gets mad all the time. My God, did we beat him with an angry stick?
All this time I’ve blamed him for his moods, his anger, his negativity. And now I see it could all be my fault. I married him. I wanted a house. He had to get a better job to pay for it. We both wanted a child but I’m not sure he realized what he’d signed up for. Rose is really well-behaved but he doesn’t handle her breaking rules very well. His promotion was what brought us to Seattle, but I was the one who liked to move and he knew that. Relocation took us away from our house by the bay, our friends and his family. All because he wanted a better life for us, his family. And now he works all the time. He’s in the office from nine to five, but he works nights, weekends, and answers never-ending emails on his Blackberry at all hours. We’re on “vacation” but he won’t stop working. Work never stops. Never.
And that’s why I figured his temper flared so much. How could anyone who never gets a break from work deal with home, or Rose, or the airport? But now I see that work may not be the root of this evil. Work is still there when he helps a stranger with her luggage. He’s still on call when he sweet-talks security into letting us bring the carseat on the plane. The thing that’s different is that he’s not at home. That must be it. World Matt is a whole different guy.
I like World Matt. I wish I could bring him home. But what can we do? Rose is going to act up. Domestic duties don’t disappear. I’ll still be his wife.
Or will I? If Rose and I make him unhappy, we can’t keep doing it in good conscience. We love him, after all. We want him to be happy. But he says he loves us. If he loves us, but he’s unhappy when he’s with us, how can that continue?
I read an article once called “How Your Toddler Says ‘I Love You.’” The “I Love You” that I remember most vividly is: “He’ll save his worst behavior for you.” Maybe that applies to husbands too. I mean, when you boil it right down, men are just tall kids. Maybe that’s how Matt shows how much he loves us. I’d really appreciate seeing his best behavior more often than his worst, but let’s face it, we save our worst behavior for him too. I don’t censor my moods for him. Hell, I don’t even sensor my words. Rose doesn’t sit still at dinner or listen when he directs her. What do we expect?
Maybe we’ve all gotten too comfortable with each other. Maybe we need to treat each other like potential friends rather than family. Maybe if we kept the fact that we like each other at the front of our minds instead of the back, we would treat each other with more consideration and kindness. Maybe we can. But if we did that, who would see our worst faces? Who would know us as we know each other? Hopefully not our bosses or our teachers. Hopefully not random strangers. Maybe our friends, but if all they got was our worst, they wouldn’t stick around long. I guess our family is the only safe place for that stuff. We know they’ll stick with us, no matter which side of us they see.
If there’s a solution to this problem, it must lie somewhere in the middle. I’d like to see more of World Matt at home. He’d like to see more of World Maria, I bet. So if we could keep World Matt and World Maria in mind when we’re tempted to unleash the beast within us, we’d see more of our best, rather than our worst. Maybe our best selves would win over our worst selves in this emotional cage match. And maybe that beast would become the exception, rather than the rule. I can’t guarantee it but it’s worth a shot. Anybody want to place a bet?