How One Woman Let Go of Wanting to Change Her Husband
"Fine," he said, clearly stunned. "I didn't throw up much, either."
That night Rick said ten words for every hundred I spoke. I wanted a charmer, a smooth talker—a talker, period. But Rick was sweet, and our mutual friends insisted we were a match, and I soon saw that the little Rick said, he meant. He opened up about his parents' divorce, his childhood visits to Weight Watchers. I lamented my career woes and chubby knees. We bridged the gap between his stoicism and my verbal diarrhea, married, and had two daughters.
Raising kids, it turns out, is hard . I wanted to talk about how hard it was. Rick wanted the kids exposed to zero negativity. I had to edit myself, which infuriated me. I'd hiss, "Why shouldn't kids know that life is tough? That's reality."
"Elyse is 2," he'd say. "It's not her reality."
I'd keep mum around the girls, but at night, my floodgates would open: "Why do so many cars park in front of our house? Did you know preschool will determine whether Elyse has a happy life? She drank milk today out of a toy tea set from China. Will she get lead poisoning?"
Finally, Rick said, "I'm enacting a rule: No stressful topics after 8 p.m."
"So when do we discuss things?"
The answer, it seemed, was never.
For the first time, the divide between my chattiness and his reticence felt terminal. We now had rules guaranteeing silence. And silence engulfed us. We didn't discuss it when Rick moved to the guest room. It took me months to tell him I worried he loved our children but tolerated me. When I did, he said, "I feel like nothing I can do will make you happy."
"It would make me happy if I had a husband I could talk to!" I sputtered. "I want to be myself!"
Then it hit me. I was staking my marriage on the belief that Rick could change who he was, but I was asking to be me even as I declared he couldn't be him. Plus, while a looser-lipped man might be fun socially, life isn't a dinner party. Center-of-attention guys might gravitate toward shindigs at which they shine and be less apt to stay home and read to whiny kids.
Now I don't fret over what Rick doesn't say because I see love in all he does. It's in the peaceful home he wants for us, in his willingness to listen. I wouldn't trade that—or him—for anything. And so we've found a balance. I yammer, but stay positive. When Rick speaks, I don't push for more. We make dumping appointments: I visit his office and spew to-dos, concerns, neuroses du jour. Once I finish, Rick says the words I still feel, after all these years, so lucky to hear: "Okay, talk to you later."