Chapter 22

My wife knew I was starting therapy, because I told her before my first appointment last month. However, she forgot, and so I’ve been going along the past few weeks without mentioning it to her. I admit to experiencing a somewhat passive-aggressive vindication in her not remembering, as though it allowed me to think “see, she doesn’t even care about this big important thing that’s happening in my life”. This was pointed out by the therapist and it made me smile at my own unconsciously petty behaviour. So I sought to remedy that by telling her.

She laughed when I said the therapist said I’m a perfectionist, as though the notion was ludicrous. I explained that she meant less a person for whom everything had to be done to exacting standards, and more along the lines of Spud-from-Trainspotting perfectionism – which is to say I want everything to be perfect and if it isn’t then I can’t really be bothered. She didn’t laugh at that, because it’s true.

My approach on so much of my life is to cause “perfect” to be the enemy of “good enough”. This all-or-nothing mentality pervades every aspect of who I am, and explains the reason for my periodic swings between eating healthily and working out, and binging junk and avoiding exercise. In those cases, I initially stick to a routine with military rigour, but all it ever takes is a wobble in that routine – a missed gym session, a calorific take-away – for me to think “oh well, I screwed up, may as well give up and succumb to the slobbery”. You know, the old “I ate one biscuit, may as well finish the packet” style of thinking.

I told her about focusing on my needs and trying to understand what they really are. How and if they could be met. She remained silent for a long time after this. Three times I asked her what was on her mind. Each time she replied about what she was doing, such as “I’m just sitting here”. The third time, I gently said that I didn’t ask her what she was doing, but what she was thinking about. She diverted, made up something; I could tell by the way she averted her eyes. And something else: I saw fear there.

I suggested that she could work out her needs too. I talked to her about non-violent communication, which isn’t about avoiding hitting people while you interact with them, but about using non-confrontational language that means people are less likely to become defensive when you discuss things with them. She was quite blasé about this, given she has a degree in psychology; and besides, she claims, that’s just common sense. I bit my tongue because my immediate cruel response was to say well if you know so much about it why the fuck do you speak to me like you do. Of course, that would not have benefited either of us, and probably would have made things worse. So instead I reiterated the value I’m finding in trying to take that non-confrontational approach where before responding you try to consider what the person’s needs are.

It didn’t feel productive. It felt like me sharing what was going on but getting nothing back. However I won’t let that phase me. I’ve hurt her. She’s going to need time to let her guard down.

The way things are right now, I don’t know how we’re going to get to the point when we have a truly open, honest discussion. The tentative steps I’m taking towards that seem almost laughable. However I must persist. I will figure out my needs. I’ll figure out hers too, with or without her help, though with would be easier. And in doing that I will work out whether or not either of us really stand a chance of meeting one another’s needs.

There are things I want the person I spend my life with to know. My passions. The things I’m good at. That I get satisfaction from. Yet to do that would be to devastate her. I know this. What I don’t know is how to reconcile this need to be transparent with her against the knowledge that fulfilling this need could destroy her.

On the other hand, to live the rest of my life suppressing so many things that I derive pleasure and satisfaction from would be to destroy myself.

 

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