When I was married to my ex I was a horrible passenger. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust his driving, I said, it was all the other cars I was worried about. He gave me a sideways glance as if to say, “Yeah right.” And I looked at him back with a – what, you don’t believe me? – kind of look on my face.
In the past, I used this perfect example of driving in a car to explain the passivity of my ex husband. He would ask, “Which way?” I would reply, “I don’t care.” He would then counter, “But if I go that way you’ll say I should have gone this way so which way.” Most of the times I would then say, “Well left I guess…” But I couldn’t believe that the man could not make a move without my say so. I saw it as a particular weakness on his part.
When it comes to driving, I’m afraid I’m the same person no matter where I am. Even with Martin here in England, far away from the fast-track freeways of California, I suck air every time I see a potential disaster. Round-a-bouts get me all twisted up in particular. Double and triple lane round-a-bouts to be specific. But it isn’t just that. It was the red fox that darted out in front of our car as we drove at night along a country lane virtually tunneled with trees. It was skirting around tractors on narrow lanes with oncoming traffic. Mostly he laughs at me. Mostly I don’t mind him laughing.
When it comes to giving directions and figuring out how to get somewhere, I don’t like to be lost but I’ve always prided myself in being able to get around and eventually end up where I want to be. It’s a strength I’ve always thought. I have a good compass. But sometimes as I’m finding out, I use logic to a fault. And sometimes when you are with someone who is not quite so passive and has confidence in his own right – my, dare I say, obstinance in this area can cause…um…friction.
Who am I to tell Martin which underground tunnel to traverse toward as we walk like cattle with 40,000 others after a concert in Hyde Park? Who am I to tell Martin which path to take when we are looking for a stile and I don’t even know what a stile is?
I did think it had something to do with a fence but I now know after a morning run in the countryside of East Sussex through and around horse pastures, public pathways through forest glades, and country roads, what a stile is exactly. I’m a city girl. Who knew? And apparently among other lessons I’ve learned this week I also don’t like to admit when I don’t know what something is.
I did not mean to command the reigns, but according to Martin, I was so adamant about what made logical sense to me that he gave in both situations I mentioned only to find out later that I was wrong. For Martin it was my persistence that made him relent. Twice was enough for him. I said I didn’t want a lap dog. I said I wanted a man who knew how to lead. Did I say that? Oh boy, I did.
What might seem like a great scene in a romantic movie to someone watching it, felt horrible to live in real life. I don’t like to fight or have a row as he calls it.
Down a gorgeous dirt path by a golf course – “Livvy it didn’t say anything about a golf course on the map and what about that wall that was supposed to be on the left?“. “But there was a sign with an arrow on it saying to go this way?” “But the map says….” He begins taking charge. We turn. It’s not the way I would go. He’s right.
Along a narrow paved road with cars and lorries going 50 mpg or faster we are clearly no longer on a picturesque walk in the Cotswolds but on a mission to get back to the cottage. “Martin I’m scared! This is scary to me!” This is met with a – what do you want me to do about it – look.
He’s thinking at this point I should be apologizing for sending us in the wrong direction and I’m thinking he should be more worried about me getting ran over by car.
We take a left at the first dirt foot path we see to get us off that road. We practically run along only to find it unfortunately dead ends – Another one of my suggestions. I’m happy to get off the roadway but worried now that because I opened my mouth and said what I thought that Martin is mad at me. Somehow I was too sure when I wasn’t sure. And I clearly wasn’t sure when I pointed out the sign with the arrow. And I was definitely not sure when we took the dirt path although I’m sure I sounded sure.
“And way back there when I told you the fence wasn’t on the left and you insisted we turn…and now…” This is where it fell apart. I thought he can’t be blaming this one on me! There was a sign! All I did was point it out! He was potentially late for a meeting and was clearly regretting listening to any of my logic about 2 miles before. All around us was pasture. “And when I said but we should probably check this way, beyond the car park, for the fence and the stile? Livvy there was no stile.” Green and brown, gorgeous farmland. Beautiful yellow stoned houses and stables. As far as the eye could see there were rolling hills with hedges or fences enclosing the sheep, the horse, the two cows. More fields, but no path.
Stomping now in a field over thick weeds and dead alfalfa, his pace quickened and my back got more sore and I began lagging behind. I got angrier. “I can’t believe you are blaming this on me!” I said. And the debate began. I had no clue where we were. He had no clue where we were. As he got further ahead of me and I’m sure more angry at my slowness, I yelled out for him to at least leave me the paper map so I could find my way on my own. He had his maps app on his iPhone for goodness sake. I didn’t want to cry like a baby about my back. I didn’t want to admit any weakness or admit that I was wrong. I watched him as he bent over, placed the map on the ground and kept walking. “That &$!)(@*” I thought.
Among other things which I won’t include because they include expletives I use on the most dire of occasions only , I yelled, “Maybe I’ve made a mistake, a very big mistake! Maybe I should go home!” He stopped only to feel the words hit him hard and then kept walking eventually out of sight.
Now I’d done it. We were both so angry we didn’t speak for several hours. He went on his sales call and I refused to cry. When he got back it was like there was this big, thick, dark cloud between us. For the second time in less than 6 days I had managed to make him angry because I thought I was right about something just because it made sense to me. I have this way of declaring something as if to convince myself and wind up convincing others. I’m used to being in the lead. I’ve never been challenged before. I’ve never been with a man who when challenged himself fights back. I said I didn’t want a lap dog. I said I wanted a man to lead. Yes I did. Oh boy.
But fortunately for me I have found a man who is willing to talk things through to see the other side of things. It didn’t end in disaster with me packing up my bags and phoning my children in tears. We talked. We sat down and talked.
I have agreed to defer to his counsel when it comes to things I really have no clue about (brilliant move on my part I’d say). He’s agreed to listen to my ideas (as he always has) and made sure to tell me that I have lots of good ones and that I’m right more than I’m wrong. But we have also agreed that when we are at a juncture of any kind and we look at each other as if to say, where are we? If my logic is telling me one thing and his experience is telling him something else, he will say to me as affectionately as anyone would. “Livvy this is one of those times where you need to stop and listen to me.” And I have promised him that I will try.
I’m sure it will not be the last of our rows. When you have two strong minded people, it is bound to happen. But hopefully in the future we will recognize the sign posts better and detour away from an accident and get to where we are going along a smoother path.