Home is where the hate is
The thousands of words on Twitter reflected my own emotions as I watched ABC TV’s The Slap last week. One tweet said: “it’s totally brutal!”, another: “searing, uncomfortable melancholy” and one more: “did anyone else’s heart sink tonight watching The Slap?”
Mine certainly did and I was not the only one. It was a bit close to the bone for many, as it shone an unceremonious light on characters’ Aisha and Hector’s 16-year marriage.
As I watched Aisha fake anger and hurt at Hector’s admission of his minor infidelity, all the while withholding her own more major dalliance, an image of marriage popped into my head: Marriage is a bonfire stack piling higher and higher with hurts, waiting for a spark to ignite an explosion of desire or destruction.
Unfortunately popular culture would have us believe every argument ends in make-up sex but the reality is closer to Aisha’s lack of emotion.
The pain we cause each other over years seems to numb us and more often than not. Nothing ends in nothing, with one in three marriages unfortunately ending in divorce rather than unquenchable desire.
Having been married for eight years, this statistic doesn’t surprise me. It is amazing that it isn’t higher given how cruel we can be to the one person we are meant to love the most.
We seem to save our empathy and kindness for the stranger we strike up an impromptu conversation with or the little old lady that needs a hand up the stairs. Our partners, however, get full-blown resentment, rudeness, neglect and disdain.
These emotions are often balanced with intimacy, trust and loyalty but why, when things are going wrong, do we turn on the person we thought we could not live without?
It’s probably because marriage is tough. And it’s even harder when children come along.
The cute little blighters turn hairline cracks quickly into structural damage.
But they’re not fully to blame and often just accentuate underlying disappointment, which is the real culprit.
It’s any wonder we are set up to fail when the start of a marriage mimics a red carpet event. The wedding is such a pivotal event in our society, you and your spouse never looked better, you have this huge party with friends and family and then you go on holidays somewhere beautiful for at least two weeks.
This fun series of events never happens again as you settle in to living with someone who has a unique type of annoyingness designed to drive you slowly insane.
You hit the treadmill of working towards a home and a family, money issues come up, time together is minimised by work, looking after kids or rare, but sanity-saving time to yourself.
Next thing you know you are old and living with someone who is your co-parenting housemate and that’s about it.
For me and I think a lot of women, the disappointment is based on my expectation that I would have a deep connection with this person as soon as we said ‘I do’.
I obviously had no clue about blokes, where often the only thing that is deep is their inbuilt ability to hide their emotions.
Everyone’s challenge is slightly different but our own unique disappointment ends up looking a lot like Aisha’s face every time she looks at Hector.
Her bonfire of pain is so large she buries it so as not to feel hurt every second of the day. She blames Hector for it and punishes him so she’s not the only one feeling so bloody awful. It is dysfunctional, unkind and near the opposite of love.
But it is human nature to avoid responsibility for your own unhappiness. It is so much easier to blame your partner for trapping you into a life you didn’t expect than facing your own inner flaws and personal failings that got you there.
And looking for a solution in another human that looks as sparkly with potential as your partner once did, well that’s even easier.
As I watched Aisha consider leaving Hector, I thought of my own marriage and imagined if it was over. My heart broke at the thought.
I wouldn’t remember that my husband didn’t hear human voices if sport was on, or that he made the bathroom look like a great dane had just shaken himself off in there.
But I would desperately miss all the things I take for granted. His patience with the boys, his calmness when I feel like I will lose my mind, his pragmatism that balances my dreaminess. His shy blue eyes looking at us with love and wonder and his stoic confidence and ability to just get on with it when others would fall in a heap.
I’m no expert on happy marriages, but seeing the hate and numbness of Christos Tsiolkas’ characters made me realise where I didn’t want to end up.
So I’m off to slap my hubby - with a big fat kiss and if he’s lucky… with some much-earned kindness too. Okay, a bit of something else may be considered. Just don’t tell him, I’d hate to disappoint…
Nicole is a blogger at MyIdeaLife.com.au, a freelance writer, social media junkie and corporate marketer.
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