A Man and His Shrike
Mel put his finger on it the other day. He had been watching old videos and was struck by how stressed he used to be. It was like I was being followed by a shrike, he said. That pretty much summed it up - there were three of us in the marriage for a long time: Mel, his shrike, and me. This was the hard part of the relationship, the make or break part - you know, the part that either bonds you or tears you to shreds.
There were a few things which were especially bad about the shrike: first, how very attached Mel was to it; second, how it showed up at the most inopportune times; and third, how Mel would get me confused with the shrike. Do you know what I mean? That horrible feeling when your husband (or it could be your wife) responds to you as if you are some malevolent crazy person and you have no idea what you have done.
The shrike, of course, is blind and deaf, but it is not dumb in any sense of the word. It tends to be very loud and extremely crafty. In addition, the shrike is totally irrational and feasts on confusion and destruction. In technical terms, the shrike thrives on projection and loves to create paranoia. The shrike gleans strength from argument, and is adept at manipulating language, so the more you argue with it, the more you will prove it right.
There are several ways to defeat a shrike. One approach is to starve it out. This may mean withdrawing into a remote corner of the house and seeming busy. A quicker tactic can be to do something unequivocally loving (but remember, this must be non-verbal because words are too vulnerable to misinterpretation.) I discovered that if I showed up with a corned beef sandwich on rye or tickets to a Yankee game I could lure Mel from shrikedom. (Do not make the mistake of getting corned beef on rye with mayo. I did this once, and Mel still claims that this was such a gross misunderstanding of who he is that he can't believe he ever married me.) However, the very, very best defense against the shrike is humor; it cannot stand the sound of laughter.