When my daughters were babies I tended to be the one who got up in the middle of the night with them. First, because I was nursing; and second, because my husband was doing his residency in pediatrics and worked such ridiculous hours he really needed the sleep when he could get it.
But occasionally he’d be on a light rotation, and so we’d agree to split the nights. On “his” nights, if the babies woke up, I’d shake Keith. “Rebecca’s awake,” I’d say. “I know, I can hear her,” he’d reply. “Are you going to go get her?” I’d ask. “I will in a minute. Let’s just see if she goes back to sleep,” he’d say. And then we’d continue to have this two-way conversation, and I could never get him out of bed.
One night, I got up, went to the phone, and dialed the hospital. His pager went off, and he was up like a rocket. He dialed in, and the receptionist said to him, “Go get your baby. She’s crying.” Mission accomplished.
Keith has this amazing ability to carry on full conversations while he is totally asleep.
So last Wednesday, at 11:30 p.m., when we were all in bed, the phone rang. It was the alarm company. My mom was out of town, and the alarm at her house was blaring. “There may be intruders at Mom’s place,” I told Keith. “That’s awful. Are you going to check on it?” he replied. “Well, I thought you could,” I told him. “I’m kind of tired, honey, and I don’t even know all her codes for her doors and alarms and such. Why don’t you just go?” And this went on.
Once I realized he wasn’t budging, I put on a sweater, got in the car, and thought about how terrible my husband was for making me go battle potential burglars by myself. Thankfully the police were there when I arrived, and they checked out the place with me and ensured a lack of People of Evil Intent. I headed home. “What happened?” he asked. “The police were there,” I told him. “They sent backup, since they never go into a potentially dangerous situation alone,” I said. “That’s smart,” he replied. “Just glad you’re home now, honey.”
The next morning he called me. “Sheila, did something happen last night? Something about police?” I laughed, and told him that he had sent me off to battle burglars. He laughed too, but then he was a little perturbed. “You know me,” he said. “You know I’d never send you in a dangerous situation alone like that. You should have really woken me up.”
And I do know him. And I should have woken him up. But his conversation seemed so normal I forgot all of that right then. I forgot that he was acting out of character. I forgot that he would never really do that. And I assumed the worst and got caught up in the moment.
I have put my husband through several similar things lately. As I shared last week on the blog, this whole perimenopause thing has not been treating me kindly. My hormones are totally out of whack, and there are times when I almost feel like I’m having an out-of-body experience. I’m mad at the world, though the world has done very few mean things to me. If my husband dares to smile or have a good time while I’m in the middle of one of my funks, I take personal offense. How dare he have fun if I have work to do? How dare he not share in my mood?
And then the day passes and I’m fine again, and I look back on the monster I manifested the day before and I so wish I could banish her forever.
But most of all, I wish that people would see that that is not the real me.
And so my husband and I have come to an agreement.
We will not assume the worst of each other.
From now on, when someone says something out of character, we will not assume the worst. We will try not to take offense. He will back the truck up and say to me, “You look like you’re just really overwhelmed right now, and I don’t want to contribute to that. I love you, and I want you to relax, so I’m going to leave you alone for this afternoon and I’ll take care of myself and Katie.” That’s far safer for both of us. And me? I’ll get a spray bottle of water by the bed so if I ever do need him to wake up, I know it will be a done deal.
How many times do we cause extra heartache because we assume the worst and forget the truth about those we love? Instead, we judge them by what’s going on right now. Maybe if we could take a step back, and not get so caught up in the moment, we could see the totality of the relationship. We could keep perspective. And that would help us love more, give more, and forgive more. And if we capture some burglars while we’re at it, all the better.