How Making Up With Your Partner Can Hurt

Couple having morning coffeeMarcie remembered the good old days but she tried not to because they made her cry. On days they popped into her mind, she remembered Mel speaking softly, looking into her eyes. That was breathtaking. It was such a bygone era.

She got busy with her work. Why in the world did she have to subject herself to this cruelty? All she needed to do was concentrate on the report she was working on. It was really interesting, actually. She was learning more and more about the global economy in this new and fascinating job. She was so lucky to be here, especially in a time of epoch unemployment. She brightened, thanking Whomever for her good fortune, and plunged into the report. Mel was gone from her mind, and it was a good thing, too.

The moment Marcie got off the train her heart sank as if on cue. The bright and beautiful day withered in anticipation of another horrible evening.

She walked in the door and started getting dinner ready. Her children came tramping through the house shortly, home from practices and after-school activities. She enjoyed them immensely; she didn’t know how she would have survived the last 15 years without their chatter and their energy.

Amanda, the oldest, started telling her mother about the bickering of the girls on the volleyball team. There were complaints as to who would receive—or not receive—the ball. Certain girls thought they were more skilled and ought to be given the ball as a matter of course. “That doesn’t make sense,” Marcie responded. “I don’t know that much about the game, but isn’t who you throw it to more a matter of who you are closest to and is the most logical throw?”

“You would think!” answered Amanda, walking out shaking her head. She felt better because Marcie had validated the conclusion she’d already come to. She bounced upstairs to her room, in a better frame of mind to start her homework.

Wishing her own troubles could be so easily resolved, Marcie got involved in her dinner dish. When she didn’t feel rushed, it gave her pleasure to come up with something really tasty yet different.

The front door opened and closed. Mel came in quietly. He announced himself with a “Hi,” and began to head for his room to work on the computer. They were just strangers living under one roof. “What’s wrong with me?” Marcie thought. “Am I ugly? Stupid? Why can’t we talk anymore?” Those are the thoughts she shouldn’t have had. They would always bring her down that path to what was good once and how empty everything was now.

But she couldn’t help it. Somehow, she’d had enough.

“Mel!” Marcie exclaimed. Mel looked up, a serious, distracted expression on his face. He’d brought work home from the office and he felt pressure to get it done. In this awful job market, he had to do way more than he should just to hold steady. People had been let go, and now the rest of the firm was doing double the load.

“Can I talk to you?” she asked. He knew her request was reasonable. First of all, they never talk, so he surely could indulge her. Second, it was dinnertime, a normal time for couples to talk, and he knew that.

“What’s on your mind?” Mel said pleasantly.

Before she knew what was happening, Marcie was crying. She hurried to the door to shut out potential underage intruders, but the tears didn’t stop. “We’re strangers! She blurted out.” Mel’s eyes narrowed, uncomprehendingly. He waited for her to go on.

“Don’t you see?” Marcie asked. Why is it that with men you have to draw them a diagram, she wondered. But she went on, “We never talk, do we?” Mel agreed. “We never do anything together any more. It’s all work, stress, responsibilities.”

“Well, it is,” Mel said defensively.

“Mel, this is not life. We could be trying and trying to get our heads out of the water and never even make it, who knows? We can’t predict everything. There’s only so much a human being has control over. What if we did all this for nothing? Wouldn’t it be better to have a normal marriage in the meantime?”

Mel was silent, deflated. All his hard work trying to be a provider was not appreciated! He was about to turn around and head to the computer and just ignore all this, but something Marcie said rang true. “What do you want me to do?” He said, tiredly.

“Well, let’s talk more. Let’s take a walk. We can talk and walk, how about that? And when you come home, come over to me to say ‘Hello.’ Don’t just shout from another room. How are these things for starters?”

“I can do that,” Mel said, thinking a walk would probably be good for him anyway. “It doesn’t seem so hard.”

That was a Tuesday. They both got up and took a walk. They made a plan not to talk about the stresses they were under. They fished and searched for topics and it wasn’t easy; they were so out of the habit of talking. But at least it was different and they were together.

Wednesday, Mel came home and remembered to go over to Marcie to say “Hello.” He even managed a smile. They made time for a walk. The children were amazed. Marcie’s heart started to warm. She felt so close to Mel. She imagined it was like the old times again. She felt so good when he took her hand! This was wonderful. She opened up to him and started to tell him some of the thoughts that she had not expressed for many years. She felt connected. They even were intimate that night, the first time in a long time. Marcie woke up with tears in her eyes, thinking of how special this all was.

But that afternoon, Mel’s boss let him know who would be getting their pink slips on Friday. Mel was disturbed because two of those individuals were his key people. What was the company up to? Why did they do this without consulting him? What message was this supposed to be?

Later, as he walked in the door, he was still turning this problem over and over in his mind. He forgot to say “Hello,” let alone say it to Marcie directly. He went over to the computer and mindlessly opened it up, but he couldn’t concentrate. He stared at it.

This unexpected backslide caused Marcie intense pain. She had been anticipating Mel coming home with a sense of rare pleasure; she was open to good things for a change. She was vulnerable. And then she was slapped in the face. She collapsed in a chair, crying openly, heaving great sobs. Mel didn’t even hear them from his office. His mind was elsewhere.

Cut! Dim the lights! Intermission.

This happens to people a lot. And then they get divorced because they say, “We tried reconciliation and it only lasted a day. Hmmmph. Snort.” From their viewpoint, it looks like making up is really bad for your marriage. And if you used one day as a measure of how well it works, you’d be right.

But you’d also be right if you gave up piano or tennis or ice skating after one day because “it doesn’t work.” Neither a sport nor a musical instrument nor a marriage is going to be learned in one day.

Let’s get back to Act II—because Marcie wasn’t about to give up.

Marcie told the curious children to go to their rooms and she went into Mel’s office, closing the door softly. He looked up, suddenly realizing his omission. “Do you know why it hurts more today than it did the day before yesterday?” she asked.

Mel looked blankly at her. “No, why?” he asked.

“Because I thought we’d finally made it, that we were finally a couple, that we had finally created a real marriage. I was happy for the first time since I-don’t-know-when. So when your expectations are really high, they go down much faster and harder when they are dashed.”

Mel narrowed his eyes, still looking intently at Marcie. “I’m sorry I let you down,” he said softly, “but I’m in a terrible frame of mind.” He told her the story of work.

“Maybe you need a hug,” Marcie said. Mel brightened and got up, went over, and hugged his wife.

Marcie and Mel may have to remind one another often to stay on track and keep the marriage front and center. That’s okay with them. No one can tell either one of them that making up was a mistake. By the way, although the names have been changed, this is a true story.

Related articles:
Understanding: It’s What’s Missing in Most Relationships
Living with Frustration in a Relationship
Falling in Love Again with Someone who Hurt You

© Copyright 2012 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Deb Schwarz Hirschhorn, Ph.D., Relationships & Marriage Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment

    June 7th, 2012 at 11:22 AM

    This is a great story about one couple’s real struggles to get their marriage back on track. But you see how sometimes someone has to almost reach her breaking point before they even find the strength or the courage to say what they are reall feeling. Why is that? Why do we tend to wait for things to practically fall apart before we find the nerve to confront our partner and say all of the things that have surely been building for a long time. I am convinced that this is why so many couples end up getting a divorce. They wait until the relationship practically gets to the brink of collapse before they decide to do anything about it. And by that time more than likely the other partner has had enough and doesn’t have the energy anymore to fight about it and they hang it up.

  • Kylie

    June 7th, 2012 at 1:08 PM

    I am pretty sure that I hold things inside too much to ever be an effective marriage partner. I am not one who is going to blurt out every single thing that I am feeling, no matter how bad it makes me feel. That’s always been me, so I guess that’s why I end up getting run over time and time again because I let it happen. But I just hate confrontation and would rather say that everything’s fine instead of admitting that there could be something wrong. Just not the type who likes to rock the boat.

  • ridge

    June 8th, 2012 at 4:29 AM

    I don’t have a problem with apologizing and making up.

    What I have a problem with is being the only one willing to apologize and compromise.

    Why should I have to be the one always giving up a part of me and mhy own self esteem to make someone else happy?

    And as I typed that statement it dawned on me that that’s not making that person happy, just giving him a chance to gloat that I caved again.

  • Mason Smart

    June 8th, 2012 at 2:45 PM

    Perhaps I am way off base here, and that’s okay, I am kinda used to that. But what I don’t understand is how you live with someone for years and you can’t see (or refuse to see?) that thyey are hurting and that they need more from you than what you are giving. My wife and I have been married for several years now, and I can tell from the moment she walks in the door whether there is something going on that we may need to talk about. It may have to do with work or it may have to do with me, but either way, it’s there and it needs to be talked about because obviously it is an issue. A marriage is about a partnership, one that requires teamwork and communication. When you get married you promise to do that. Why do couples let things slide so far away from that original intent that surely they had together at some point in their lives? Why else would they have gotten married in the first place?

  • juliet

    June 9th, 2012 at 7:00 AM

    It does hurt when my husband ignores my needs, but I know that I am guilty of doing the same thing too.

    I don’t really know when or why we started letting other things get in the way of easch other, but we have and now it feels so hard to get back to that point where we actually supported each other and cared about what the other was thinking.

    I know it’s not impossible to get there, but I know that it will take a lot of work too and I am not certain that either of us is willing to make that kind of commitment anymore.

    That’s pretty sad considering the time we have been with each other and how much we have invested in this relationship.

  • Kemper

    June 10th, 2012 at 8:39 AM

    Kind of along the same vein as Juliet, it hurts when your partner is not even willing to meet you halfway. When you feel like you are doing all the work and she isn’t willing to meet in the middle, you start to give up and wonder what’s the point anymore.

  • Stella

    June 10th, 2012 at 2:06 PM

    I am the first to admit that I know there are times when I put my own life and my own needs ahead of those of my spouse. I am sure that he feels pretty neglected but he would never say that to me.

    But thinking about it, why won’t he talk to me about it? Is it because he is afraid I won’t listen or is it because in the end he really doesn’t care to be bothered with it anymore?

  • marco

    June 11th, 2012 at 5:25 PM

    We all have times when the relationships ebb and flow.
    You can’t be on all of the time.
    But the one thing I do know is that you don’t let it get out of hand.
    You still have to pay attention to your partner and know enough about him or her to know when they hurt and when they need something from you.
    It doesn’t have to always be lovery dovey, but there has to remain a standard for communication that you don’t fall beneath.

  • Connie Rivers

    June 12th, 2012 at 4:35 AM

    Where did this idea that marriage is always easy come from? And why does it matter whether it hurts sometimes? Everything good has to hurt sometimes, and the same is true with any marriage. So what if you get your feelings hurt? That does not mean that you withdraw, you apologize and do what you have to do to keep the marriage on track and to do what you need to do to remain a good person within that marraige.

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