So my husband has told you all about the aluminum foil debacle. Lovely, right? I’ve had finer moments, I can tell you that much.
Actually, it was pretty hard to read the piece my husband wrote. I wish I could go back and let him buy the big, expensive aluminum foil. Buy two, honey—it’s really not a big deal. In the moment, however, I wasn’t connecting the experiences of his past to how he was feeling in the grocery store. And, at the same time, I was carrying my own past experiences as I battled to feel heard in our argument.
We are shaped by the stories we live. Marriage is hilarious and hard and fascinating because we’re bumping up against our differing stories and constantly figuring out how to give space to each story, how to blend stories, or how to totally rewrite them for the future.
Sometimes, as was the case with the aluminum foil, our stories are tied to deep wounds that lead us to pain, fear, or defensiveness. Not every story that shapes us ends with a pretty bow and a “happily ever after,” and that’s what can leave us battling it out over a roll of aluminum foil in the middle of the grocery store.
In my relationships before meeting Darren, I would often feel heard but dismissed. While I could manage to speak my opinion, decisions would often be made in opposition to my voiced desires. This can soon lead a person to feel disrespected and unworthy. I began to feel like I had to fight hard for everything because of how dismissed I’d been in the past. Add to that the experience of living in third world countries for two years, followed by a couple of years in grad school living below the poverty level — my anxiety around money was clearly not helping the situation.
Here’s the thing: We both just wanted to feel heard and honored. Our fear of hurtful habits and unhealthy relationships being repeated between us was understandably heightened, so we each fought like hell against the voices and experiences from our past that told us that what we want or think doesn’t really matter. So we butted heads and had this incredibly irrational blowout about aluminum foil that wasn’t actually about aluminum foil at all.
As we stood in that aisle at the grocery store, what we were really saying was, “Will you hear me? Will you respect me? Does my voice matter to you?”
It didn’t play out perfectly in the store that night. We know that. But what matters is that we reconvened and, with a little more clarity, could talk about what was really going on. Going forward, we each became more sensitive to the others’ past and, together, could write a new narrative for how we would treat one another in this relationship.
And that was the start of something new for me—the reconvening. The silent and disconnected walk home from the grocery store all felt very familiar. I’d been there before in past relationships. It was when we quietly approached one another, several minutes after arriving back to my apartment, when I saw my scars and fears slowly become covered up by a new story. In that moment, we chose to not let the past dictate our future, and it has made all the difference.
Darren and I still joke about aluminum foil every now and again. The absurdity of the surface level of our argument can be funny now because we addressed what was underneath. We’re still far from perfect in our marriage and sometimes the old wounds still creep back in and impact us, but we’re continually learning how to rewrite the stories that said we’re not worth it. They never were very compelling stories, anyway.