Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Hi Carolyn: Before we got engaged five years ago, my husband took some time out to decide whether we were a long-term prospect. We’re now married with two young children.
I recently came across an email he sent to himself at the time, which was essentially a pro/con list. It didn’t make happy reading for me, including because my looks were on the latter list.
I’m not going to discuss it with him, but is there a way to come to terms with this?
DEAR PRO/CON: Ouch.
I suggest you recall your mental list about him, which no-doubt-at-all-not-even-a-shred contained a few items that weren’t positive about him. Right? You chose him because he was A, B, and C, which made it easy for you not to worry about X, Y or Z. Plus, X may have grown on you as you got closer.
This reframing can at least help you absorb the problem as one of seeing the list in black-and-white, not that it exists, because such a list exists on every imperfect being ever taken as a life partner by another imperfect being.
Another interesting exercise: What would your list have included then, and what would you put on it now?
I’m not sure you shouldn’t say anything, though. “I found this. If you ever write another one, please delete it.” Better than holding it in.
Re: List: My husband had come across some posts I made on a members-only parenting forum when I was suffering terribly from postpartum depression. He was so angry and resentful it nearly destroyed us.
He said nothing but took out his frustration on me in subtle and cruel ways until he just looked at me with contempt. I had absolutely no idea why. He finally said something in a therapist’s office.
Don’t let your own resentment go that far. Please tell him what you read. Give him a chance to tell you why he chose you and why he’s still there. You can take the power away from those words.
Also don’t assume this is his “real truth.” People use very different words/language when they’re working through big things on their own. You can move on if you are otherwise living the life you want.
DEAR ANONYMOUS: Great stuff, thank you.
Re: List: How did the wife happen to “come across” an email the husband sent to himself? Snooping, perhaps?
DEAR SUSPICIOUS: Of course it’s possible, and of course snooping is bad. But there are other, perfectly innocent ways spouses run across each other’s stuff.
Re: List: Is it that making such a list is bad? Or having the other person accidentally see it? Because it’s exactly something my analytic brain would do if I was trying to work out a relationship issue. I wouldn’t mean it as hurtful, it would just be a way of putting things down in black-and-white to focus on the real issue.
DEAR ANALYTICAL: Lists aren’t unwise, saving them is.
Re: List: People can grow more attractive as we get to know them. I can’t tell you the number of guys who I originally didn’t think were cute, but who got attractive to ME as I got to know their quirks.
DEAR ATTRACTED: So true.