During our dating stage, my husband and I had to survive that murky middle where couples start to tip-toe around certain grating habits. He burped more and more and complained about dog hair. I griped about how the children got everything they wanted. With jaw muscles twitching, we stabbed away.
My dogs slept in the bed with me. Reese preferred to be under the covers and against my belly. However, he also liked to sleep in the middle. Sometimes he and I were back to back leaving his stiff little paws to push against J, as if to say, "she's mine." Every night this frustrated J but he didn't comment because Reese was my Boo Boo. He understood that I loved my dogs and we had our ritutals.
However, he did sigh and grunt. He rolled around with emphasis night after night. I'd ask what was wrong but J didn't want to complain.
After a while, I quit asking.
Society teaches us to speak in passive aggressive language--never directly asking for what we need. We're taught it's rude and are encouraged to believe that our loved one ought to figure it out and do it for us; to read between the lines and prove that they know us perfectly. Instead, the loved one is bewildered and stymied. They grow angry because they don't know what's wrong.
For us, that meant there were many stunted quarrels and plenty of snipes because I came with dogs and my husband came with children--and we were equally fierce about each. Love me, love my dogs. Love me, love my children. And that meant accepting how the other dealt with their lovable baggage.
We were living in more and more silence and both suffering because initially, we could talk about anything. It was killing us to think it might not be real after all. We were so certain in the beginning that we changed everything to be together. The disappointment was too awful to face.
Finally, J told me that he didn't want Reese sleeping in the middle anymore. He said more but why didn't matter. From that night on, Reese slept along the edge. I'm a deep sleeper but I kept the little booger from sneaking in between us.
My husband was stunned. He told me what he needed and I complied.
Several months later I lost my precious Reese in one of the most horrible tragedies imaginable. J was at a loss how to deal with that much pain but he was there for me the best way he knew how. And though he and I were still struggling, we were also talking more and more.
J considers Reese to be the critical juncture in our relationship. Without him, J wouldn't have spoken up. In his previous life, his needs were often discounted, even intentionally disregarded. My response wasn't calculated. I heard him and it changed everything.
Slowly, we rebuilt trust with a simple tradition that continues today. We have deck night every weekend. We sit outside with beers and talk about anything that's bothering us: internal demons, professional fears, relationship needles, hurt feelings, and unstuff everything before it becomes a big ugly monster that haunts the dark.
Reese reminded us how to talk. To talk. And to spend time together making our own traditions.