Last night I totally lost it at Jeff. Not the first time, of course, but the first time in long enough that I had forgotten what it feels like -- that dry, throbbing ache of having hurt someone you love; the emotional equivalent of a nasty hangover. For Jeff and me, fights all follow the same script: I (the vocal, emotionally volatile one) get upset about the fact that Jeff (the silent, emotionally guarded one) is not as vocal or emotional as I am. For instance, last night the fight centered on the fact that Jeff wasn't making conversation with me as we walked. At the time, I felt extremely justified in my criticism of what I interpreted as his disinterest in me. However, as I worked myself into a tearful fervor, I suddenly stopped being able to rationalize why I was picking a fight with a man who so clearly hadn't done anything intentional to hurt me. Instead of stopping the fight then and there, however, here is my patented next move: I start to feel ashamed of myself, and guilty that I've picked a fight, so I switch gears from angry to incredibly insecure. I am the worst girlfriend, my insides scream. He is not going to be able to put up with this abuse for long. We are doomed.
Here's the thing: I'm three months away from getting married. My parents are on their way to divorce. It's much harder than I thought it would be not to, for lack of a better term, feel really fucked up about that. I am, by all accounts, a hopeless romantic. I believe in true love. Or, believed? My parents, who were quite happy for most of the thirty years they were together, have dealt with their separation as amicably as possible. There are no screaming fights, no suicide threats, no drunken warnings to never get married. I cannot, reasonably, blame them for my shaken beliefs. At the same time, I am scared. It's hard not to look at the problems Jeff and I have now as seeds that will someday grow into cracks that will break our future marriage apart. And that fear, I'm pretty sure, has the potential to be self-fulfilling. If I am to have a healthy and happy marriage, I need to stop envisioning its inevitable end.
Jeff pointed out last night that I always pick fights after we've spent time with one of my parents, usually after I've had a bit much to drink. He's right. Unconsciously, I think, I'm pushing him. Seeing my parents, while often wonderful, flips some kind of switch in me. I'm reminded of the end of their marriage, and it makes me test the strength of my own. Are you sure? I seem to be taunting, as I find some excuse to point out Jeff's shortcomings as a partner. Can you really love me forever, even when I'm being a manipulative, needy asshole? The answer, of course, is yes, he can. And I can, too, though Jeff is rarely, if ever, manipulative, and only occasionally needy or an asshole (only the very advanced can pull off all three at once).
Jeff is pretty wise. "We'll always have problems." he said to me last night as I stood, wiping my tears on an East Village stoop. I know he'll forgive me for last night, and for all of the other nights to come when I let my insecurity get the best of me. It's not often you find someone who still loves you at your darkest, most selfish hour. I just want to be able to let go of whatever it is that makes me keep testing him. I want to believe in love without fearing its end. I want to be as trusting and wise and strong as the man who, in three months, will be my husband.