G. How I Felt, Continued

Your unpredictable snapping, attack-withdraw behavior, and general hostility took a huge toll on me. I lived in constant fear of you attacking me, either for something I said or did, or just out of the blue for no reason at all. Your incessant nagging made me feel that no matter what I did, I was doing it wrong in your eyes. Your ridicule of my personal beliefs, opinions, and tastes hurt me and, in a sense, silenced me. All of these things as a whole, affected nearly every single area of my life. And I could not even address anything at all with you, because when I did, you would escalate the same behavior, criticize me for even bringing it up ("God Chris, youíre too sensitive!"), or furiously push me away! Here are just some random examples pertaining to everyday life, and how your behavior regarding these things affected me. I would like to note, that all of these things hung over me, right to the very end of our relationship.

Driving--There was no way I could relax, with you sitting next to me. I had to do everything perfectly. And things I had done for years with no ill effects, such as leaving the radio on when I shut off the engine, and using windshield wipers that I could see perfectly well with, became subjects of nagging and criticism. Even the routes that we took became reasons for you to turn hostile--for example, you would always become upset whenever we ran into heavy traffic on the expressway. Now, my parents have used that route almost exclusively for 25 years, and I have been taking it for all my driving life. The traffic simply does not bother me--I only get upset if itís delaying me for something really important. However, you would always get into a foul mood if it got slow, and blame me if it were my suggestion for going that way! And God forbid if we got stuck and didnít move at all--you would begin fuming. Geez, itís only a traffic jam!! Big deal! But I was constantly afraid of your getting into a bad mood over the traffic. Did you notice, how I always deferred to you, about which route to take? This was because if we took the expressway as I wanted, and we ran into traffic, you would get into a foul mood, and it just wasnít worth it.

Another thing about driving--When we got lost in an unfamiliar place (Toronto really sticks out in my mind), you would began snapping at me as if I were a complete idiot with no sense of direction. However, for years before I met you, I had successfully driven around by myself in literally dozens of places--Chicago (in 1986 when I interviewed for med school), San Francisco (again, ten years ago), Vancouver, Portland, Seattle, Baton Rouge, Pensacola, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Dayton, Champaign, and even Kalamazoo, MI, just to name a few. How do you think it made me feel, to be yelled at while driving around as if I didnít know what I was doing, when I had done it a million times before??

Eating--Whenever I ate with you, whether at your place, my place, or a restaurant, I felt like I had to be extremely careful not to drop anything, or to take anything more than fifty percent or whatever of a dish unless okayed by you first. Otherwise, you were sure to make a comment, snap at me, or make me feel like I was being "messy" or "selfish." Even while I was eating, I felt like everything I was doing was being judged. I just could not relax at a table with you.

Washing dishes--I had to do it exactly right (according to you--I personally donít feel that there is an "exactly right" method of doing dishes, as long as they get clean), or you would make a comment. At your place, I always felt I had to wash every single dish in the sink, or face being snapped at for "leaving it for someone else."

Selecting my own groceries--I simply do not see what is wrong with consuming diet foods or drinks. If I canít really notice a huge difference, and it has less calories or fat, why not? But you constantly criticized people who consumed these, frequently mentioning Sandy as a prime culprit. I became afraid to have anything "diet" in my refrigerator or cupboard. In fact, I became afraid to purchase a lot of food items, for example frozen dinners, because of your attitudes about them. You would have voiced utter disdain had you seen a "Lean Cuisine" in my freezer. Yet, for years before I met you, I ate these things, and did I develop any nutritional deficiences? Did I become underweight or overweight? I was perfectly fine! However, you seemed to needlessly ridicule people who ate certain things. It was just easier for me to purchase things you would "approve" of, then to get things I really wanted, in order not to have to deal with your disdain.

Sticking Kitty--[Terry had a cat who was ill and required fluids several times a week.]  This deserves special mention. This was always was a time of great anxiety for me. Especially during the first few months, but even continuing until much later, you would snap at me if I got a leak, or if there was any fluid tinged with blood. You would yell at me to get a paper towel to wipe it up immediately. And I was such an idiot, to cower to you in these instances! Consider this--putting up IV bags and running in fluids are a part of my everyday job. During a typical heart case, I may hang and give up to twenty bags of IV fluids. Everybody, including the most fastidious people who have been doing anesthesia for twenty years, spills stuff and has leaks. Itís not something to get upset about. Iím good at what I do. Yet, you would yell at me for even a few drops on the table! I felt like I couldnít do anything right around you. Furthermore, you would constantly nag me (in a scowling tone of voice) to point the needle straight down. You would constantly nag me to make sure the clamp on the tubing was closed. How would you feel, if everytime you used, say a saw or a power tool, something which you had used many times before, I stood there telling you to do this or do that, and snapped at you as if you were such an idiot that you didnít know what you were doing? I feel that this entire thing, giving Kitty fluids, was a convenient forum for your hostile attempts to dominate and control me. Today, I cannot believe I put up with this. However, I know why I did--because if I had said anything, you would have gotten even nastier toward me, and I was just trying to protect myself.

Making the bed--Even something as trivial as this became a whole source if anxiety for me. Initially when I would try to help you make the bed, you would snap at me for pulling the sheets up too much, leaving a wrinkle, etc. So then I thought that you would be happier just doing it yourself, so I backed off for a while, only to be then yelled at for not helping you! So the only thing I could do, was to make the bed as perfectly to your specifications as I could, and hope that you would not yell at me. This filled me with a certain level of anxiety, every single time I made your bed. Even when we were getting along wonderfully, I still couldnít let down my guard. Today I would like to know, what was so fucking important about the way your bed was made, that merited your yelling at me over it?? I feel that this was yet another opportunity for a power trip on your part. Today it is absolutely clear, that I was an idiot for putting up with this. Back then, I think I subconsciously realized this, yet I continued to tolerate it anyway---with the end result being a chipping away of my own self-esteem.

Other everyday things--Besides not making your bed perfectly, I was also constantly afraid of committing some other capital offense such as leaving "muck" on the dishes, misplacing something of yours or mine, accidentally stepping into your pile of dust while you were sweeping, putting the wrong thing out on the table (paper towel vs. napkin), etc., etc. I felt constantly under the threat of being yelled at over these things, yet at the same time I just could not see why you attached such importance to them. For example, you continually nagged me to put the toilet cover down before I opened the linen cabinet. I know for certain, if I had ever failed to do this and a towel fell in the toilet, I would have really been screamed at. ("Youíre so stupid!! You never listen to me!!") I would have never heard the end of it. However, my attitude at home is, if a towel were to fall into the toilet (and after years of my not lowering the toilet cover, one never has), then either I throw it in the wash with some bleach, or if it is really gross, simply throw it away. What is the big fucking deal??? Life is just too short, to get bent out of shape over things like this. No wonder you have an ulcer.

My love of the Stones--I got the feeling that you thought the whole thing was ridiculous (similar to Sandy liking Jimmy Buffet). You were absolutely uninterested in any of my recollections or photos--they barely even merited a lukewarm response. Did you ever wonder why I never really ever played any Stones for you at all? Because there was the very real possibility of you criticizing me for liking it--if not at the time, then at some other point when you were mad at me over something else--and I say "very real" since nothing was immune to your criticism! I knew that such criticism would hurt me to the core, simply because this is something so sacred to me--which is why I never even let you near it.

Speaking of your disinterest in my Stones experiences--I felt that you had a similar attitude regarding all my good life experiences. For example, if I happened to reminisce in general about good experiences in high school or college, you would simply became quiet, sadly saying things like, "I hated high school" or "I didnít have a good time in college." I am truly sorry that they were not happy times for you, and I am not criticizing you for merely having bad memories. Furthermore, I am not saying I wanted you to jump for joy at the mention of my past good experiences. What I am saying, is that you seemed not to value or acknowledge them for what they were--positive pieces of my past, shared spontaneously--instead you just saw them as reminders of your own lack of similar good memories, and responded accordingly. In fact, my mention of these things sometimes seemed to invoke a mixture of jealousy, depression, and bitterness on your part. You just didnít seem to want to hear about it. This is a subtle point, but it led to my being hesitant to mention positive things from my past, because of the neutral "Gee thatís nice" (at best), or depressed or silent (at worst) response from you. Why should I share a good memory with someone, who responds as if theyíd rather I hadnít brought it up at all?

There were a number of other things that I just couldnít mention in general conversation. As a small example, suppose I had had a two-minute conversation with Karen at work. If I even mentioned this to you, you would start putting her down and expressing disdain. I would wonder why you felt you had to do this, yet if I even questioned you at all, boy would I get yelled at!

Your constant expressions of hostility toward others, made me feel totally stuck and helpless. It simply was not pleasant to be around you when you were angrily complaining about this person or that person, whether it was someone you knew or a total stranger. I would be left wondering, "Why is she so hostile??" yet I wouldnít be able to say a word. This was even worse in situations when you were complaining about what someone else said or did, but I could see that the other person had been merely responding to your initial hostile attitude! And as I mentioned before, you seemed to brag about yelling at people, and seemed to expect my approval. I had no choice but to go along and agree with you, because if I said even a word, you would direct your rage at me, for taking the other personís side!

The times I did engage in arguments with you, I felt that you saw me only as an opponent to be vanquished at all costs. I understand that in every relationship there will always be conflicts. [Another Susan Forward quote here:] These can be negotiated with caring and respect. However, in our relationship, negotiation and compromise were in short supply. It was a grim battlefield where you HAD to win and I HAD to lose. What springs to me mind right now, are the many confrontations we had in your bathroom. You would storm off to the bathroom and begin plucking your eyebrows, refusing to talk to me. When I tried to say anything you would use every trick in the book--ignoring, countering, blocking, diverting, blameshifting, accusing, and criticizing. Your primary concern seemed not to be to resolve the conflict, but to win the argument by any means possible. And you were really good at these things, which is why, most of the time, it was fruitless to even try to argue with you.

To add to my frustration, I gradually became aware of what seemed to be a huge discrepancy in what we wanted out of our relationship. I had no problem with dating for a certain period of time. But after a while, I wanted us to become more intimate in the routines of everyday life. I was genuinely in love with you and I wanted us to become closer. I wanted you to stay over my place--was that such a crime? But I encountered enormous resistance to this idea. Simply put, it really hurt me that you never wanted to stay over. And I couldnít figure out why you didnít want to, and whenever I tried to address it with you, you would become angry and defensive.

I began to see that if it werenít for my efforts, staying over your place all the time, our relationship as it was wouldnít even exist. Because you never wouldíve stayed over my place, and how much growth together can a couple accomplish when they are separated every night? I began to suspect that you were content to merely have me over a few nights a week, comfortable in never having to reciprocate. I began to feel that all the responsibility of the logistics of our relationship, rested on my shoulders. If I didnít stay over, we would simply see less of each other, and you wouldnít really care. It bothered me more and more, that it was all so easy for you--you didnít have to lift a finger, to alter your normal routine--you could just have me over all the time (or a lot of the time), like a live-in lover. You didnít have to give up your normal surroundings, you didnít have to live out of a suitcase, you could continue being fed and sheltered by your mother. In a way you could have it all. I began to suspect that you would have been content to do this forever. And I saw that with this mindset, you would never be able to graduate to the idea of us eventually living together. The realization of this saddened me and frustrated me. Yet, as I said, anytime I tried to address this with you, all I encountered was resistance and anger.

Not only did I feel like I had to stay over in order to maintain the relationship, but when I was there I was, by default, a third party to the normal couple of the household--you and your mother. Now I do care for your mother very much--she is a very nice person and was always very kind to me. But was it so horrible, to just not want to be part of a triangle all the time?? After all, I thought we were two adults. I just wanted to have a normal mature adult relationship, which should not involve being in a forced triangle with a parent! If you donít agree with me then we obviously have very different ideas about what a normal mature adult relationship entails.

I became more and more aware of this discrepancy in our ambitions and dreams. With a partner, I had hoped to eventually share a household together. However, it seemed that your idea of a relationship was just to have someone available to do things with and have over several nights a week, while maintaining your primary relationship with your mother. It filled me with more and more frustration, to realize that our desires for the future, were lightyears apart.

So perhaps you are wondering why, if I claim it was so bad, did I stay with you?? Because at the same time, I had so many loving feelings toward you, and we did have many good times together! There was absolutely no question that you had many positive and endearing attributes, and that I was in love with you!

All the negative feelings I had about our relationship just not being right, were mixed in with all these positive feelings. I relished the good times, but the bad times always returned. It was upsetting and extremely confusing. Everytime you hurt me, I was again thrown into this state of confusion. I had no previous experience to compare it to--I kept asking myself, "Is this the way love is supposed to be? Is this normal??" I hung in there and just tried to do the best I could. I loved you and hoped that things would get better. However, if anything, they only got worse.

Another thing which made it even more confusing, was that I thought we had a decent sexual relationship. I asked myself, "If things are good between us sexually, how can anything really be wrong?" In hindsight, I now see that the sex we had, served as a powerful "hook" for me. For a long time, it lulled me into a false view of the relationship as loving even when other factors were warning me it was not. Later, despite being treated poorly outside the bedroom, I clung to our sexual relationship as a sign that we really did love each other and that we truly belonged together. I hung on to this, right up until the very end.

More reasons to yell at Chris--summer 1996:

56. Chris wanting Terry to come when Chris's relatives visited.
57. Chris showing the slightest hint of enthusiasm for her upcoming trip to Disney World with her sister.
58. Chris sitting down on toilet seat to brush her teeth in the morning so she could be closer to eye level with her lover.
59. Terry not being able to fix vacuum cleaner properly.
60. Chris accidentally dropping her purse and leaving it in Terry's bedroom.
61. Terry having just banged her knee.
62. Chris trying to go across the top and around the other side of the Sheraton parking garage instead of down through the blocked entrance.
63. Chris not having a towel or sponge available for Terry to wipe up her water spill around the sink.
64. Chris placing a can in the regular trash when a recycling bin was nearby (Chris didn't see it).
65. Chris suggesting a seat at the movies which was only one row away from where they ultimately sat.
66. Chris offering to reserve tickets to a blockbuster, selling-theaters-out-all-over-the-country movie on Chris's credit card, in order to avoid going all the way up to the Springville Mall and having the thing be potentially sold out.
67. Chris potentially getting less than nine balls (worst possible loss=25cents) at Dave and Buster's.
68. Chris not putting Terryís book back on her bookshelf immediately.
69. Terry being concerned about the kids in the Chinatown alley placing a bag in the middle of the road.
70. Chris suggesting that perhaps the EMS at Springville would have the shoes Terry was looking for.
71. After they saw Fargo, Terry obsessing about the wood chipper scene and talking about it for twenty minutes straight, then promptly yelling at Chris for even mentioning it once.
72. Chris revealing that she'd rather keep Chris and Terry's "pet names" a special secret between them.
73. Chris accidentally hitting Terry's foot when Terry "wasn't feeling well" and didn't know where or if she wanted to go out to dinner.

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