One day I am chatting with a friend.
“How did you end up with such a good man?” I ask.
“That’s easy,” she says. “My mom told me always watch the way a man treats his mother.”
I’m struck by the clarity of her words.
So simple but so telling.
Unfortunately, these words are finding me decades too late.
To be fair, had they found me in my twenties, I’m not sure I had the maturity or knowledge to recognize what I should be looking for.
I think I would have focused on their immediate interactions. I never saw my husband be disrespectful to his mother nor did I ever see them argue. To a girl from a big Irish Catholic family, the absence of commotion seemed enough to confirm a perfect relationship.
I would have been wildly unaware of the bigger ‘relationship’ picture.
There was actually an absence of a relationship.
My husband ignored his mother just as he would one day ignore me.
They lacked the type of emotional intimacy that caused my big family the occasional brouhaha. The kinda connection that makes you care enough to have an emotional rumble from time to time.
Because you are involved in one another’s hearts and lives.
You aren’t parallel playing within your relationship.
I should have noticed my husband and his mother’s dynamic or lack thereof far sooner. But like many young wives who believe they are doing the ‘right thing,’ I kept us connected. I made the phone calls, insisted on the visits, sent the cards, and bought the presents.
It took a surprising interaction to make me realize just how much I did.
One night I asked my husband to call his father.
“What will I say to him?” he asked.
“Your father is getting older you need to call him,” I say. “Just ask him how about those Eagles?”
I hear my husband repeat his name more than once. I understand his father doesn’t recognize his son’s voice. They have a good laugh over it.
A few weeks later, we are driving in the car.
I tell my husband he needs to be the one to call his mother this time. As I listen, it’s evident his mother does not recognize the voice on the other end of the phone.
At this moment, I am internally and externally shaking my head.
You would think it would be directed at my husband.
Quite the contrary.
I am realizing the absurdity of my own personality. How is it possible that I have spent this many years being the primary contact for my husband’s own family?
Not long after, my incredibly loving father-in-law says, “Colleen, I feel terrible I didn’t recognize his voice, but you’re the one who always calls.”
My husband neglected his mother.
In doing so, he demonstrated she had little value in his life.
He lived in his world.
She lived in hers.
There was no crossover.
For no other reason but he didn’t think of her.
He didn’t call her, remind her how much he loved her, plan a trip to surprise her, visit her in the hospital, check on her, or any of the thoughtful, love invoking commonalities of most relationships.
Let alone the mother-son bond.
Something which was difficult for me to understand. The men in my family, my uncles, cousins, brother, and nephews are all close to their mothers and treat them well. And in turn, are equally as good to their wives.
When my husband and I began having marital problems, I put my foot down about certain things. It wasn’t long before his family accused me of keeping the children from them.
Nothing could have been further from the truth.
I may have had problems with him but I valued family above all else. The reality was without me maintaining the communication and insisting on trips they didn’t happen. He didn’t care enough to go without me.
Now it was incontestibly obvious there was an absence of a relationship.
Between mother and son.
Sadly, I too, now understood I was experiencing an absence of a relationship. I was ignored, neglected, and not valued. There was no emotional intimacy. We parallel played.
Much like the relationship with his mother.
I was a symbolic part of the structure of family not the connection of one.
He lived in his world.
I lived in mine.
There was no crossover.
For no other reason but he never thought of me.
This post was previously published on Hello, Love.
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