Forget the details. The details are not important.
He's been working extraordinarily long hours and I've been covering the homefront, which can be tough, because at the moment we have two very high-maintenance kids. Our 10-year-old will soon be making the transition to middle school and has major angst; our six-year-old happens to be in a major whiny phase. There there's my ongoing health issues, and the fact that I am facing a big fork in the road in terms of my career, and don't know what to do. His career, meanwhile, is going great guns; he is in high demand. I confess I sometimes find the stark disparity painful. He needs a break. I need direction. The kids need attention. We all have needs that are not getting met, because there is this thing called Life, which feels like a marathon, and which we must all get up every morning and run all over again or risk....what? I don't know. I just know that we have to run.
And then this morning he makes a comment that a bystander might classify as passive-aggressive, and I rip into him about it. So then the kids are out the door, and he and I are having one of those conversations all married couples have at times--one of these "It's always--" or "You never--" And I'm saying to him, you have a pattern of doing this, and he's saying to me, You always notice every tiny little mistake I make, and I say heatedly, That's not true, there's plenty of things I don't comment on--oh crap, where did that comes from?--and he says, Then I guess I am just a lousy person, and I say with exasperation, Come on, that's not true, it's just that sometimes little things bug me. I'm sure you could come up with a list of things I do that bug you, too. But the fact is, I realize even as I say this, I don't know what those things are. He's never mentioned them.
There is a pause. And he looks at me and says, I just feel like you hold me to these high standards, and I never measure up--and suddenly we are on the same page, I know exactly how he feels. There is not a day that goes by that I don't feel that way, I say, with deep conviction--like I'm falling short.
You should give yourself more credit, then, he says, because you work really hard. And I say, Maybe you should give yourself more credit, too.
And then there is this long silence while we look at each other, having reached a point of impasse or understanding, it's not clear which, and then he sighs and reaches for his car keys and goes out the door, and I retire to my study to cry for a while. And gradually it dawns on me that really, he is not the person I need to forgive; there's nothing he's done that's so awful. The person I hold the most grudges against is myself; the person I most need to forgive is me. Because maybe if I were better at admitting that I am only human, it would be easier to let other people be only human, too.
And with this realization comes an unexpected sense of peace. And I know that somehow--I have no idea how--things will be okay.