Friday, November 09, 2007

Marital Stalemate--Compromise Update

Here's what's going on, in a nutshell (a big, misshapen nutshell). Alex and my brother-in-law, Chip, planned a hunting trip for next weekend. Deer season opens in Arkansas this weekend. Let's don't get into a big thing about whether or not it's right to kill Bambi, because I'm conflicted enough. Deer populations can get out of control quickly, I understand, and I know that the Game & Fish Commission does a very good job in setting limits to counterbalance what's going on with individual species' and interspecies ecosystems...but the fact is, those deer, they still look like large, big-eyed, velvetey dogs to me. I would starve to death as a survivalist, yes. And yes, I am a big fat hypocrite because I eat all kinds of animals. And I even pick up deer bones from the butcher for the dogs every fall...

ANYWAY. The current state of strife in our marriage is not over next weekend's planned trip. Not at ALL. I'm very happy for my husband to be getting out into the woods with a buddy and doing he-man stuff and all that. My issue is over THIS weekend. Alex has gotten so excited about going hunting, that now he can't wait until next weekend. Just. CAN'T. Has to go THIS weekend. Alone. Which is the sticking point over which I lose my mind. The topic of hunting has come up before, and I've never been against him doing it--he's a crack shot, he's patient, he can--this is the part that's nearly unbelievable to me--be very quiet for long periods of time. Just not at home. He loves the outdoors. It calms, soothes, and renews him to spend time outside doing "guy" stuff. This is FINE with me. MORE than fine, because he's more pleasant to be around when he gets back, like we all are when we've gotten a "getaway."

It's the ALONE part that is killing me. In every conversation we've ever had about him going hunting, the single stipulation that I've requested is that he not go alone. I know that lots of people DO hunt alone. I don't really care. I also know how very many things can go wrong, and my mind can create scenarios ranging from a slip and fall/concussion to a fall out of a tree stand, to getting accidentally shot by another hunter (this happens way more often than I'm comfortable with), to a mountain-lion attack, to dropping his rifle out of the tree-stand and having it land so that it shoots him in the face, to a life-threatening asthma attack, to getting shot by a dog.

My point is, say something happens, and, well...there he'd be. Injured, unconscious...who knows, he could get crazy and eat a poisonous mushroom. And not only would I not know where he is (not within several miles, anyway), I wouldn't even know anything had HAPPENED to him until, oh, what would be a reasonable time to start worrying--an hour after he's supposed to be home? Two hours? And say something happens and somehow I DO know, or he's able to call for help--how long will it take them to reach him? This hunting trip is not happening close to home, either. He'll have to drive an hour and a half, and then walk another half-hour or so to get to the stand.

I'm unhappy because he always told me he would never go hunting alone, and now he plans to do just that. But more than that, I'm unhappy because I know the sickening feeling of worrying over something you have no control over, and waiting for the clock to crawl those minutes along so that you can STOP worrying. It sucks.

He's unhappy because this is something he really wants to do, but at the same time, he doesn't want me to be unhappy with him. And he doesn't want his good time sullied by thinking that he's making me miserable. In his mind, he's feeling like I think he needs a "chaperone," which is not at all the case. He feels like I don't trust his skill and/or caution with guns, or his ability to get around in the wilderness. This is also not the case. The man has a compass in his brain. You could drop him, blindfolded, anywhere in the world, spin him around three times, and he'd tell you precisely what direction he was facing within half a second.

If I'm being totally honest, I have to admit that I'm also a little upset because, when there's something my husband wants to do, well, he can just make his plans, take off, and do it. He has a built-in, automatic child-care system that he doesn't have to question or even, honestly, consider. Whereas, if I want to take off and do something (say, the flickr meetup at Two Rivers Park tomorrow), I have to plan for my daughter and my pets and all the thousand little details that go along with those things. I also might, possibly, have had something in mind that I would have liked to have done as a family at some point during a three-day weekend, aside from sitting around waiting for my husband to get done having fun.

Also, maybe a mother just thinks differently? My most favorite thing to do in all the world is to get on a horse and go trail-riding in the woods. Some of my fondest memories are of doing this alone. Granted, I always wore protective gear, and I never went without leaving word of my route and an estimate of the time I'd be gone with someone, but I did sometimes go alone. Trail-riding sounds tame, but when you're talking about a live animal, anything can happen, especially out in the woods where there are wild animals and other spooky things--and I HAVE had a horse once wind up at home without me, having dumped me into a gully at a dead run after being spooked by a wild pig. In that case, someone came to my rescue on a 4-wheeler, and found me within 15 minutes or so of my being unseated. My point is, STUFF HAPPENS, even when you're careful and know what you're doing, and now that I have a child, I would NEVER just saddle up and head out into the deep woods all by myself. I can ride all kinds of horses, and my best horse is 16 years old and the best-trained animal under the sun, but still...I just. wouldn't. do it.

So, we're at a marital stalemate. If Alex goes hunting alone, I will be unhappy, for the myriad of reasons you're already sick of hearing. Also, some of the joy will be sucked out of it for HIM, because he'll know that I'm unhappy. On the other hand, if he DOESN'T go, he will be miserable and feel horribly deprived, and I'll feel bad for keeping him from doing something that he really wants to do.

Right now, he's planning on setting things up tomorrow afternoon, then hunting on Sunday and Monday mornings. That's potentially our entire holiday weekend spent on hunting and unhappiness...and then he gets to go again next weekend, so there's that part of me thinking, "Seriously? You can't wait ONE WEEK?" But in my heart of hearts, I WANT him to get out and do things that lift him up. He needs that. We all need that. I would just prefer that, in the event he gets shot by a dog, he can get help as quickly as possible, instead of bleeding to death on a carpet of lovely autumn leaves.

I'd also maybe like to be asked if there's anything I'd like to do during a three-day holiday instead of being told after the decision had already been made, that, um...I won't be doing anything.

NO DISRESPECTING OF THE HUSBAND IN THE COMMENTS. Not only does he read here, but I'm not mad at him. Not really. Just bummed over the fact that we can't seem to find a happy medium here.

UPDATED to add that the tempest is now at nice, manageable, teapot proportions. A livable compromise has been reached. There will be the "setup" trip Saturday, and then hunting on Sunday morning, during which regular "I am not dead" text messages will be sent. Bella and I will go up to the lake house (which is near the site) around lunchtime to join Alex, and then he'll go back out that afternoon while we hang out and take pictures up there. Unless he gets a deer in the morning, then we all just come right on back and try to cram the thing in the basement freezer, I guess. I don't think anyone's thought that far ahead, frankly. Then Monday, the fam gets to go to the ZOO together! (Kyran, wanna come?) Or something equally family-friendly that will make Bella happy.

So now Alex is happily puttering around packing his knives, flashlights, and pee-bottles, and washing all his hunting clothes in special scent-masking detergent, then hanging them outside to air. Sooooooo sneaky, are the deer hunters. And I'm able to concentrate on my Saturday RealMental.org post, as well as try to think of something suitable for the Times blog (why is that one SO hard for me?).

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18 comments:

  1. Okay, bear in mind: I've never been married, you asked for thoughts, and I'm always one to have thoughts.

    So here are my thoughts, spoken in love (honestly. no offense intended, ever):

    I think someone is going to have to give up their right to be unhappy.

    It seems like you both have that hanging over the other person's head as some sort of a modifier if they choose to go through (or not go through) with their plan.

    That means that, whatever decision gets made, something is going to suck.

    I think that's adding more issues to the actual practical concerns you have and commitment Alex made to you: he said he wouldn't hunt alone.

    To go hunting alone the week before you leave for another hunting weekend also seems a little indulgent on his part, especially given the promise he made.

    If you choose together for him not to go, I think it's unfair for him to hold anything over your head, as a result. He's a big boy. He can wait a few days.

    That said, if you really like the impact these trips have on Alex's happiness and you choose to have him go, you're going to have to find a way to not hold the worrying over his head, since it will cease to be his responsibility if you agree he should go.

    You can't have it both ways. I know you will worry anyway, but you have to let him know if you have him go that you're not going to make him responsible for that or punish him for it later.

    Does that make any sense?

    To me, Alex just needs to wait, and you guys can find something to do this weekend to tide him over. Something Bella can do, too.

    But if he doesn't wait, give him your full blessing, without a guilt trip.

    It always used to drive me nuts when my parents would "compromise", but then hold the other person emotionally hostage for the choice they made.

    And that's my full sharing of ignorance. Woo!

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  2. You are 100%, exactly right, and that's the whole deal, right there.

    Granted, when he told me he wouldn't go hunting alone, he wasn't getting any opportunities to go. It would be kind of like if I promised him that I would not ride an A-rated Open Jumper. Pretty easy promise to make. Until I happen to be somewhere where someone says, "Hey, I just dropped $250K on this packer of an open jumper--wanna take him over a couple fences?

    We're working on some kind of a compromise--text messaging to let me know he's OK, something. And I might hang out with my sister, who is also husbandless (though not a hunting widow) this weekend.

    But I absolutely HATE the holding of grudges. Hate. It. I can pretty much guarantee I won't do that, and I'll try not to be openly sour.

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  3. B,

    I think in the writing of this post you got down to the things that are really bugging you, and that's going to take so much of the volatility & resentment out of the situation. It's so easy to hyperfocus on the thing that "sounds" like what we are upset about, and build a whole case around it, and completely overlook our real feelings and motivations. Objectively, hunting alone is risky, and you could certainly make yourself nuts obsessing about it, but ultimately life is full of risks, and we're each entitled to take them, no matter how boneheaded.

    I feel that my husband is being irresponsible to continue to smoke, to himself, and to his four dependents. I can (& have) made a bfd out of it. Did nothing but create strife. I've chosen to let it go.

    The hunting alone is something ultimately out of your control, like the smoking is out of mine. I can set terms about keeping it away from me & the children, and you should absolutely be able to set terms about communication, and timing.

    My only advice would be to spend at least if not more energy & creativity negotiating with yourself over what Belinda needs to do to get Belinda's needs met, as you would in dialogue with alex. I think you are already there.

    also, everything that Meaghan said.

    xo

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  4. I have the most smartest friends on the entire intarwebs.

    I should make him take me WITH him. No, wait--who would that be punishing?

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  5. Just... wow. What thoughtful comments. I don't have much to add, really. It really sucks that unless that elusive compromise can be reached, you'll both be unhappy no matter what happens... sounds like just venting here may have helped at least take the edge off a little bit.

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  6. You would be correct. And now we're all much happier. Update posted.

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  7. I just wanted to say that I feel the same way about being the automatic child sitter when the husband makes plans. If I am going somewhere, everything has been planned for him. If he goes somewhere, I'm lucky to be told the same day because he assumes that I'll be here. Sigh. Maybe it is a male/female preparation issue as well. I'm glad you came to a good compromise and hope everyone has a good time.

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  8. So glad you found a compromise. Srsly, you are one of the best communicators ever. And you are not wrong to feel a bit taken advantage of because your mom-taking-care-of-others instinct is strong. Glad that you all were able to make it work out, and looking forward to seeing your meetup photos!

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  9. yup, yup and yup!

    Kudos to those who have already commented and to you Belinda for your clear headedness. And I will give Alex a nod of the head too even though I am one of those taken advantage of wives who sits home while her husband goes out weekly with his buddies to see a movie. I know he is not doing this too me. And he tells me to take time for myself but I don't. I am too tired or stressed or tired. But that is my thing. Not his.

    I hope you have a marvelous weekend and everyone is happy. What more could we want than for those we love to be happy while we maintain a bit of it ourselves.

    (omg this word verification is gonna be challenging! 8 letters)

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  10. Glad to see it all worked out. I was going to suggest text messaging and you guys already jumped on that one. I would suggest that Alex prewrite his text message and save it as quick text in his phone so he only has to hit a few buttons and not miss his deer.

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  11. Thanks, all. And yes, there are pre-,made text messages, including "KILLED A BUCK." Heh. Very optimistic.

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  12. THANK YOU!

    My husband hunts. And he goes alone. AND he has once fallen from his tree stand.

    And yet -- I have to nag him every single time to call me when he comes out of the woods so that at least one person will know that he hasn't been shot, rendered unconscious, blah, blah, blah...

    And yes, I know what you mean about the ease with which they depart for these weekends, whereas I must jump through hoops to garner one evening for myself.

    I know he loves it. I just wish he would realize that ever since he toppled from a tree, I do worry about his safety out there.

    (and when he gets back, i am soooooo going out for margaritas with my girlfriends while he tends to the youngins.)

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  13. I hope the compromise works out!

    If I'd have written earlier I would've said to stick to your ... ummm ... guns.

    Some day he may understand it has nothing to do with a macho self-image as Natty Bumppo in the wilderness.

    Solo adventures in the outdoors are the most healing (unless they make you need even more healing). They just aren't the most responsible thing for a parent to do.

    One of the most celebrated solo adventurers of all time was Joshua Slocum, the first person known to sail around the world by herself/himself - 46,000 miles.

    The second time he tried it, he disappeared forever. Stuff happens.

    Yup, I'd have said to tell him no and let him sulk if he wanted to. His choice - he doesn't have to act like a kid.

    Surely you're used to the other kids sulking, right? Same thing. ;-) Just tough it out.

    And I'm sure I would have said the same thing back when I was married, too! ;-) ;-) ;-)

    I empathize on the child-sitting issue too. In our home it often happened in the other direction. A certain amount of give and take is called for so the bad feelings don't keep building up.

    Anyway, like I said - I hope the compromise works out!

    Just keep in mind that cell phones, GPS, and other fragile consumer-grade electronic gizmos that require batteries and radio signals are very slim threads from which to hang a life.

    Have an iron-clad deadline for his return after which you = WILL = call for help. Unless you've heard from him in the 15 minutes immediately before the deadline and know that he's on his way out.

    (In the interest of full disclosure, I've done it too. Not during hunting season, but backpacking at 12,000 feet. My wife didn't really care whether I came back - what bothered her was that I bailed out on Fourth of July weekend. But "Do as I say...." etc.)

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  14. Wow, you sure have some smart friends. I have no advice to add but I am glad to read you guys came up with a workable conclusion.

    Arkansas makes Chicagoland sound pretty darn tame. Wild pigs? Mountain lions? Gun-totin' dogs?? Holy moly.

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  15. Aw, see? Nice compromise. Everyone is happy. Glad when a plan finds fruition. Yay marriage!

    CP.

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  16. compromise, difficult as it is, is good. No, it's gold.

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  17. The compromise sounds good. As does the fact that you expressed your anger to him rather than JUST to us.

    I think women in general have to work harder at taking time for themselves w/o feeling "guilty" and making exotic childcare plans to cover every eventuality, but surely that's genetic.

    Everyone deserves some alone time, and I hope you both get some.

    (And some googly eyed together time, too!)

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  18. I'm not sure what this post said. I saw the words "setup" and "not dead texts" and then even noticed that you're writing for RealMental and that's fine and dandy.

    But I'm stuck. I can't move any further past the fact that Kyran lives close to you and that y'all can get together when you want. Or that you could go to the zoo. Whatever. I'm just really jealous.

    Please refrain from throwing it in my face.

    Oh, and best of luck with the "not dead texts" and all.

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