As it has probably a thousand times in my marriage to the Carpenter, our morning began with this question; “Are you okay if I write about this?”
While my husband has agreed to be the punch line of many of my columns, an anonymous character in a true story, there are lines I would never cross out of respect for him. This is one of those times that I wanted to be sure.
Like any other relationship, my husband and I have spats. I wouldn’t call them fights, because to me that suggests a level of aggression that does not happen in our home. We’re lovers not fighters. As such, our disagreements are rare, short-lived outbursts of frustration. It’s just not in our nature to flip out at each other, but love isn’t all humour and happiness.
This weekend, it was as if a powder keg of stress (finances, big life changes, post-holiday letdown, workloads, you name it) blew up in the heat of emotions, triggered by one wrong action that set off a chain reaction of explosive words in a quick, but heated exchange. Minor but maddening. Fortunately, even in our volatile moments, there is a mutual respect that exists in our friendship and an understanding that, in these moments, we both need space and time.
Even a writer knows when words won’t help. “I’m sorry” isn’t an instant elixir. Words matter, sure, and when the dust settles, there will be time to sort out what happened, or not. Depends on the issue. Giving space means knowing when to drop the argument, and let the air clear. When you are in reactive mode, sorry doesn’t cut it. It devalues the word. It devalues the intention behind the word. Actions speak louder.
This one move healed the moment. While I was putting the dinner dishes away and cleaning the kitchen, the Carpenter went to the living room. It’s not a long distance, but in the moment, the geography was enough to give each other space. I heard him shuffle about, adding a log to the fire, checking his phone for sports scores, the usual. I saw him pick up the TV remote, searching the TSN channel. Figures, I thought.
Minutes later, a calmer version of myself entered the living room and sank into the couch, wrapping myself in my cozy blanket. I figured the living room was big enough for the two of us now to sit in silence and stare forward at the flat screen, with the familiar Saturday night soundtrack of a hockey game.
But this wasn’t hockey. This was the Carpenter’s sorry in action. He’d found a livestream of the Toronto Rock game in New York. He doesn’t even like lacrosse. It’s my sport. That’s my team. I’ve not seen a game all season, and while I’ve not complained about that, he knows I miss my lacrosse. I didn’t even know the game was on our subscription service. Honestly, I will take that gesture of affection over flowers or “sorry” any day. Seriously.
When my game was over, I put on a spy-thriller with ridiculous violence and unrealistic plots, because that makes the Carpenter happy. We watched that in silence too. Shared space, shared silence, and a shared respect for our differences in sports, movies and emotions. We’re one team, not one person. Lovers not fighters.
Always best friends.