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.
"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.
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.