I read a post on The Drew Duality that stirred up a flurry of tiny memories.
Drew had a bad night with his partner, not because of some huge fight, but because of a couple of exchanges where his partner hurt him unintentionally.
It’s a post about expectations and saying the wrong thing.
We all have our moments of ‘wrong responses’ to things, and have all been on the receiving end of them also. And when I say ‘wrong responses’, I really mean those ones where we have careless interactions that are almost completely thoughtless in their nature. Those exchanges that we have day-in and day-out with our loved ones that go by without incident 99.99% of the time. But that .01% can really hurt.
There is sometimes an insidious power in those ‘wrong responses’, both when some reaction you wanted wasn’t forthcoming or when something carelessly uttered hits home: you can’t go back and there is no gracious way to recover from it. You know what I mean? Ugh, I hate it.
When I’m the one who lets the wrong thing leave my mouth, I often realise it the second my own ears hear it, and then it’s like watching something in slow motion. It hangs in the air for an eternity even while I’m mentally trying to claw it back, and I can see the very moment it registers, the flicker in his eyes as the hurt hits him, and I want SO BADLY to turn back time, to wish it away, to have a do-over.
But once it’s out there, there is nothing I can say to ‘fix it’: I can’t take it back, I can’t explain it away, I can’t insist it didn’t mean anything, I can apologise, but that doesn’t remove the damage done… it’s unfixable.
One time my boy did my washing for me. I had never asked him to: I came home and he was shyly proud of himself for taking the initiative to do it for me. Instead of being grateful for the sweetness and thanking him, I laughed and said something like, “Did you put my dress through the wash?!” I watched his face drop and I wanted to kick my own arse for saying the wrong thing. I didn’t care about the dress (it was fine), I thought it was kind of funny, but the words came out thoughtlessly, and it was like I’d smacked him in the face for doing something sweet for me. Ugh.
And the moment passed of course. As those moments do.
Sometimes they pass without comment even though you both know what happened. Sometimes you talk about it. But mostly they are small things that will go by and perhaps be forgotten.
But sometimes those small hurts, the paper cuts, are the ones that I am terrified he will remember until the end of time. That he will look back and think “Yeah, that… that’s what she was like…”