One fall (not this last one), my husband was driving me to the airport when he asked, “Where are you going again?” and in the passenger seat I bent at the waist and sobbed.
First, we don’t normally drive one another to the airport. This small act alone felt unusual to our marriage equilibrium. Second, we hadn’t been on the same page for months, but we hadn’t been fighting, either. Third, he wasn’t flabbergasted by my passionate demonstration because we have been married for years and also because he pretends to be emotionally clueless but this isn’t exactly so.
Where I was headed on an airplane that night - the trip he was unsure about - was across the country to a retreat that was very important to me. When he casually asked where I was going, when it was a weekend I had been planning and obsessing over for weeks, it was the final flag waving that our relationship was in trouble.
On the freeway I lashed out, overflowing with resentment that our whole world is built upon the things that matter to him. I accused and pitied myself aloud. I climbed out of the idle car and pulled on the straps of my backpack and through a mess of tears I choked out my sadness over our mental disconnection.
But, when all that was over, when he’d spit out a few words of his own, I understood like a stone that he didn’t know where I was going because I hadn’t told him.
About six months before this airport drive, a few things had happened that had changed my life. Friendships had formed, connections were made, encouragement and life-giving words were spoken and it all went down online. A lot of my life goes down online. I choose this, and it chooses me, and I could never be sorry for living in the digital age.
My husband, an artist and innovator in many ways, doesn’t spend much time on a computer. His understanding of social media is limited. It’s not that he doesn’t get it, it’s just that he doesn’t live it. Therefore, on some level, he doesn’t get it. Two people living together without an understanding of the other’s passion can be dangerous.
Over time, it became too exhausting to explain how this-and-such happened on the internet. He didn’t know the key players, I’d have to give a ton of back story, he probably wouldn’t care about this silly thing anyway (I thought to myself). I wrote something I loved, I met someone I admired, my blog reached a milestone, someone else posted something that took my breath away. I never told him any of it. I decided for him that he wouldn’t care about trivial little things. So I stopped talking to my husband.
Oh, we talked every day. We’ve had a habit for over a decade now of just being in the other’s orbit. We would text and laugh and talk about mutual friends and our kids and remind one another to pick up milk on the way home. But the things that were happening to me that really mattered, that were reshaping my faith and my own words, I dropped that subject entirely. I wasn’t secretive, there was nothing untoward happening online. It was just that weeks then months went by and it would all be too hard to explain to someone who was very busy, and it exhausted me to think of backing up and starting at the beginning. Plus I was half convinced that he would raise his eyebrows at the online housewife I’d become.
My husband’s world is very big and very full. Even a strong woman could feel diminished next to his circus. When we are alone in our home as a family, I’ve never been more complete. When we are alone in our bedroom cheek-to-cheek, I’ve never been more happy. But in the large picture, standing next to a man of great stature can be very lonely.
So, by the time his car was speeding towards LAX, he knew very, very little about anything going on with me. Because I hadn’t told him. He hadn’t asked, necessarily, but I definitely hadn’t offered. It wasn’t a standoff, because it hadn’t been purposeful, but we had drifted apart while standing next to one another.
When I got home from the retreat, we sat down and I told him the whole story of the weekend, how it came to be and who was there and why it was important to me. I gave him a whole timeline of backstory and I told him dumb details. He listened to all of it and asked a lot of questions. I could feel him taking it in and processing. I apologized for deciding for him what he would or would not be interested in when it came to his wife. He apologized for not noticing when I needed to be heard.
For about a year after that I had to make a concerted effort to talk to my husband about the stuff that had mattered in my day. Our family routine makes it easy to keep to the same subjects over and over, so I would remind myself to tell him about my little victories or the tidbit of something I heard. I started to email him links to articles I’d loved and took the extra time to show him some of the social media stuff and how it affected me. It opened up a whole new range of topics in our marriage. We talk about current events in a different way, I’ve spoken more about my private thoughts on faith. I realized that I had been tailoring the way I spoke to him about these things, certain that he wouldn’t understand it in the same way as someone with my same passions.
But he does understand it because he understands me. And he cares about me deeply, so much that he wants to know the things bumping around in my heart. I don’t know why I ever started censoring myself in the first place. I stopped talking to my husband, but then I started again.
We’ve never taken one another to the airport since.