The other day, I was reflecting on how this past year has gone. For the most part, I rate myself a 7 out of 10 but in the last four days, since returning to Taiwan, I’ve dipped to a 5 or 6. The thing I’ve come to realize is this: there are few things worse than being misunderstood. And boy has this year been chock full of people misunderstanding me.
It’s been another rough year for John and me. Feels like it’s probably been a rough COUPLE of years, actually. At some point in the last several months, we even considered a trial separation. We somehow managed to dodge that bullet, and we started therapy again. And what I learned from therapy turned out to be so disappointing. All this time, as I have scrambled desperately for ways to help him out of depression, he has only come to see me as someone who is judgmental and who enjoys tearing him down by highlighting his shortcomings.
For months, maybe even years, I tried to hide my frustrations with his inability to cope with the stresses and pressures of his work; I tried to be patient as he tried to figure out a way out of the darkness. I tried method A, method B, method C. I felt like I had tried everything, even if it meant re-training myself or even denying my own person… When the internalization grew so overwhelming, I found myself voicing my displeasure to him. I found myself verbalizing what I saw as inconsistencies between what he said and what he did. Instead of him acknowledging my pain, instead of him appreciating my concern, instead of him apologizing for anything, he only reacted defensively, and our distance and disconnect grew larger. When we returned to therapy a few months ago, all kinds of disturbing secrets surfaced. He accused me of name calling; he said I was a bully. I suppose he was only being honest about his perspective, but words matter to me. I only say what I mean and mean what I say. His words hurt me. How was it that all my good intentions and heartfelt efforts had been received in this manner? I had done so much out of love, and in the moments when the frustration finally made me crack, I was criticized for being unsupportive and unloving.
I had been trying to explain my loneliness and sadness at feeling neglected and un-treasured. And suddenly, all of this had been misinterpreted. This drama has since passed, but I still feel sad just thinking about being misunderstood by the one person in the world whom I had thought knew me best.
Every time I see my mother, we get into some kind of fight or argument. She presses my buttons by trying to guilt trip me about this whole child-free choice. I then try to explain that witnessing the situation between my brother and my parents is a large reason why I don’t want the baggage of raising kids. She then turns it into some fucked up interpretation of me being jealous that he’s the first born and that they are still spoiling him and supporting his ridiculous lifestyle and not doing the same for me. Seriously, how many times do I have to explain that I don’t care about material things. I don’t need or want their financial support; it’s not about feeling financially cheated as the other child. I really don’t give a fuck. But she always twists it into some version of that. And it drives me insane.
The thing is, if he were a considerate person, if he actually demonstrated some selflessness and sincerity in loving my parents, I couldn’t give a shit if they spent their entire savings on him. But he’s a selfish, self-absorbed asshole, and they want me to stand by and support this obscene scenario where they just keep giving without receiving anything in return? I won’t do it. I won’t be quiet about the matter. So this bullshit just goes on and on unchanged. Ten years ago, I had to cut him from my life. At the time, he had been living with us in Virginia. The hubs and I were slated to move overseas to Shanghai in three months. My brother went on “vacation” in Taiwan and then never fucking came back. Who had to move all his crap out of our house on top of handling our own overseas move? Yes, exactly. And that is just one example of his long history of inconsiderate behavior. After that, I had to extract him from my life, because I was done with all the fits of rage and blowouts this person caused. So we are estranged, and you know what? I have not had any more fits of rage since. This is what I had to do to obtain some peace of mind. And instead of understanding and recognizing that, my parents and relatives to this day still say that I have a hard heart, that I don’t understand the concept of “blood is thicker than water.” Somehow, I’m now the villain.
It’s all a pretty frustrating state of affairs. The thing is, I spend a tremendous amount of time cultivating relationships– friendships, my marriage, my parents… I do a lot of thinking, planning, communicating… it is downright exhausting, but I do it because I actually give a shit. So when all this effort and thought gets warped into some fucked up misinterpretation, it’s really upsetting. It makes me want to just become a hermit. It makes me sad that I take classes and read books and watch lectures on communications and social intelligence and somewhere, somehow, people just think the worst. If my spouse and parents– people who have known me forever can’t see the good intentions, what’s the point? Is it really that difficult to “get” me?