A tricky business, is anger. Many of us find it frightening. We hold so much in, trying to keep peace, to get along, to win the love and respect of our gay spouse — we hold in and suppress and even deny the very healthy and needed benefits of anger —
Benefits? Yeah. I’ve come to think of emotions as something of a barometer. Anger is one of the emotions that should register with us that something is wrong, somewhere. Either someone has violated something very important or threatened to do. Something is out of balance, needs to be identified and dealt with.
But when we’ve been — or felt — compelled to suppress anger (like Scarlett O’Hara, who always put off dealing with unpleasant situations: “I’ll think about it tomorrow.”), then we deny ourselves the opportunity to diagnose a problem and to figure out how to deal with it.
There’s not a lot of allowance for anger in marriage with a gay man. We have to be the “sweet” one, we have to keep peace, sacrifice even ourselves in order to get along.
This is part of the abusive nature of the relationship, of course: Shut up or you’re a bitch. You don’t have a right to be angry. Your needs are inconsequential. You are inconsequential. You are stupid. You are unreasonable. You are demanding. It’s all your fault. Everything would be just fine if you’d quit nagging, quit actually expecting anything of me.
Wait a minute. It’s my fault because I expect you to behave like a husband instead of an employer? a dorm-mate with whom I am barely acquainted? It’s my fault because I have expectations? You mean, you want me to sit down and shut up and leave you alone? You can’t, or aren’t willing, to stretch yourself to be a husband, a companion, a lover — and it’s my fault because I actually believe the spousal relationship means something? It’s my fault because I won’t let you get away with ignoring something when, truth be told, you just don’t want to be bothered?*
This is where anger kicks in and gives us power: No. And, what’s more, HELL NO. I will not take the blame. My expectations are not unrealistic — your laziness and apathy are unrealistic. What’s more, you’re a selfish, cruel s.o.b. to expect me to live without companionship or even basic affection. You’re an abusive s.o.b. for thinking all I’m good for is to be a front for you, so you don’t have to accept responsibility for yourself.
I’m not willing to live this way. No. Hell, No. (and I’m really not being profane, saying “Hell, no,” because it is a taste of Hell we experience in that situation).
*DH actually told our joint therapist, a couple years before we separated, “I know a good marriage takes a lot of work, but, frankly? I don’t want to be bothered.” He said it in front of me, and I sat there and I took it. Numb. Too messed up to fight back. Too cowed, too messed up to even have alarm bells ringing that something was gravely wrong for him to say that. Memories like that still pop up from time to time. I have flashes of anger, in remembering — now I’m angry; then I was dead, inside.