When I met my husband, I knew very little about him. I ‘d heard that he had “lived.” I didn’t really know what that meant at the time. I was 20 and he was 30. His hard exterior attracted me to him.
I’ve always been someone who wanted to break through the tough exteriors of people; the tightly sealed onions that I’ve secretly willed to peel deeply apart.
It’s something in their eyes; the people who have experienced the shit that the rest of us have not. Their eyes give a glimpse into what’s hidden beneath the surface. I am keen on scoping those people out. I want to know those people. I want to penetrate them, I want to be the one that cracks them wide open. It’s like an insatiable sickness.
My husband was no different.
Our childhoods were completely different. I was raised in a home with married parents; he was not. I had close family relationships; he had none. We were both raised by loving parents, but just so, so differently.
I am a “feeler.” I really feel. If something makes me laugh, I usually have tears streaming down my face and a stomach ache that follows. My husband? Not so much. A monotone “That was funny,” is just about all I get, all anyone gets, really.
And you know what? It drives me fucking crazy.
I read an article the other day that a woman wrote about a very detailed account of her cancer and how she knew she wouldn’t grow old to see her children graduate from high school, get married, or have children.
I sobbed, absolutely wept.
My husband came through the door while I was reading and I made him sit down next to me so I could read it to him. I read, from start to finish, the entire article. I stopped six times to wipe my tears and I had to repeat at least nine sentences because the trembling in my voice prevented audible words.
Upon completion of reading, my husband stood up, brushed his pant legs and said: “That was sad.”
I was furious. I wanted to get up and smack him.
How could something so incredibly powerful, so raw, so full of emotion; how could that garner a simple “that was sad” response? How?
I thought about it for two days straight and I came to a realization.
It’s a pretty well-known fact that what we experience in our life, both good and bad, affects us and how we absorb the world around us. However, I’ve really only looked at that with a one-sided lens.
I’ve been through a few tumbles in my life and I believe that to be the reason I am mostly empathetic to others. The bumps and bruises I’ve endured have allowed me to feel for others deeply.
While my own trials and triumphs have shaped me in my way, my husband’s have formed him entirely differently. He is calloused. His entire body is protected and shielded because of his life experiences.
My life has cracked me open and allowed me to wear my heart on my sleeve, while my husband’s experiences have done the opposite, they have sealed him up emotionally.
I laid awake the other night and thought about all the things he has shared with me over the years. Stories of prison, stories of jail, stories of drugs, rehabilitation, lying, stealing, cheating; many stories of sorrow.
One evening, while watching a crime-drama on television and seeing a character being shot in the head, I said “Oh my God, could you imagine witnessing something like that? I can’t even fathom…”
He responded with: “I have witnessed that.”
He then proceeded to tell me the story. Apparently, he rounded a corner at a house party back in his wild years, and a man had a handgun placed to his own temple. With the swift pull of a trigger, his brains splattered all over the room and everyone within a ten foot radius.
My natural response was: “What did you do?” “What did the police say?” “Did you try to revive him?” “Did you know it was too late?” “How did you feel?”
His response? “I don’t know. We were all up to illegal things, so once it happened, we all left. It wasn’t the first time any of us had a gun to our temple, it just so happened to be he placed it upon himself and followed through.”
I was horrified. I know that my face showed it, but rather than coddle me, he continued:
“I used to buy drugs off a South American Drug cartel and sell them in smaller quantities to others to make money. The Cartel got word of one of my exchanges, and where it was taking place. They showed up with automatic machine guns, instructed us all to lay down on the ground while one tied us up. The others held the barrels of machine guns to our foreheads, and they took back the drugs I had purchased from them, along with all the money.”
At this point, I was shaking. The man I was married to was telling me that he’d not only witnessed someone shoot themselves in the head, but that he, too, had had a gun placed to his own head, too.
I asked him what he did after it was done and over. His response? “I stopped selling drugs.”
There are so many more of these stories that I’ve heard over the years; stories that make my knees shake and sweat pour down my back, but I’ve realized that those experiences, just as all of ours do, have not only whittled him into who he is today relative to what he can mentally tolerate, but also how he responds to life.
A dying woman’s letter to her children made me sob uncontrollably, and I was furious that the only words he could muster upon my completion of the article was: ‘That was sad.” In reality though, that is what he felt. It was sad.
While I may be a bit more proficient in terms of detailing my emotions, relatively speaking, the two of us did display exactly what we felt. My ‘sad’ just happens to look different from his. To the naked eye, it sometimes looks like he just doesn’t care, but as a matter of fact, those are his actual feelings, and that is how he expresses them.
I get upset when I find something so hilarious that I cannot breathe, and the response I get from him is a simple smirk. I want to call him an asshole when all he can muster is a “That was sad.”
What I really need to do is understand that my husband’s emotional response to events, situations, stories, to life is different from mine. I respond like a newborn baby to almost all life events, as that is in my nature, and because of the experiences I’ve endured. He responds like he is coated in Kevlar because of the roads he has also traveled.
While we are different, we feel the good and bad no differently, we just absorb and respond differently. His smirk and “that was sad” is how he details his emotions, and I need to learn to respect and love him for that.