At the end of a long day at work, I came home to find him lounging on the couch. Laundry had piled up in our bedroom; dishes streaked with crumbs littered the living room; the toilet was ringed with grime—and why couldn't he put his toothbrush in its holder rather than on the edge of the sink? I changed into comfier clothes, feeling the familiar anger bubbling.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
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"Nothing," he said.
Erupting into a litany of complaints, I left the apartment. I raced down two flights of stairs then stopped to take a deep breath. I ought to go back, I thought. I hadn't asked him nicely to clean up; I'd just gone off like a tea kettle. But I couldn't quite reign myself in. Instead, I called up the stairs, "I'm upset... but I'll be back!"
"Lisa, sometimes I worry that you're really going to leave me," he confessed some years later after a lively fight.
This struck me as ridiculous; I knew in my heart I would never leave. I just needed space to cool off, so I could stop hurling insults long enough to solve the problem. Still, I didn't intend to make him feel insecure.
In the self-help section at Borders, expert tips advised me to fight fair. I was to stop accusing him, own up to my feelings and keep my goal in mind during the scrap. I should also stop yelling and hold my husband's hand while we grappled. Self-Help Your Way To Love
Really? Where was the fun in that?
By the time our first daughter was born, I no longer actually left the house in anger. I couldn't abandon the baby, and did I really want to ditch a man who came home early from work to play with his new daughter? A man who routinely offered me snacks and a magazine while I breastfed her?Me, My Husband And My Baby: Who Owns My Breasts?
Instead, I let it stew until she was tucked in and then threatened to leave him with our screaming Pink infant for an hour ALL BY HIMSELF.
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He surprised me by offering to do so anytime. A few weeks ago I left both our girls—now ages two and one—with their daddy for four days while I retreated to Chicago to visit friends. He never once called to complain.