I was usually nicer to strangers than I was to my wife.
People I didn’t know and would never see again. I treated them with patience, courtesy and politeness. But the person who lived in the same house, gave birth to my son, and did more for me than anyone else? I often didn’t extend those same courtesies to her.
While I was oblivious to most of my missteps as a husband, I was fully aware of this—something I’ve noticed about myself from childhood: I sometimes treat total strangers better than the people I love most.
From age 5 on, I lived with my mom nine months out of the year. I lived with my dad, who lived hundreds of miles away, the other three months (school breaks).
I was observably nicer to my dad than my mom.
Throughout my relationship with my wife, she would point out instances when she felt I was being mean, or impatient, or thoughtless toward her, and that it hurt her feelings because as she was feeling that way, she could see me being kind, patient and thoughtful toward others, even strangers. She wondered why I couldn’t treat her that way, too.
My defense was always something like: “I LOVE you. I married you. Everything I have is yours,” arguing that should somehow earn me the benefit of the doubt.
I don’t know why I did that, felt that, or thought that.
I have a little boy in third grade who I love in ways I don’t know how to articulate. He’s my favorite everything. But sometimes, I’m kind of a dick to him, and I hate it.
When he gets crumbs on the floor, or makes some mistake that is probably super-standard for little boys in third grade, or otherwise “fails” whatever expectations I have for him in a given moment, I sometimes respond with anger and a little harshness.
Sometimes I imagine if the last words I ever said to him were angry or prick-ish, and then I died in a car accident or something. I almost feel like crying when I mentally put myself there. I was nicer to other adults than I was to my parents. I was nicer to other people than I was to my wife.