Every now and then my wife cold shoulders me, freezes me out, gets angry at me, puts me in the doghouse, gives me the silent treatment, pick any or all of the above.
It usually lasts two to three days, and can be extremely hurtful, since when it is happening, the only things she will say to me are criticisms or spiteful observations, or threats (to leave).
The cause can be anything – but you can be sure that she will make it look like something I did or said, or failed to do or say.
Currently I’m in the middle of a freeze-out, the reason being that I reacted less than positively when she announced that she intended to buy a handbag for £800 off Ebay. A second-hand Louis Vuitton, no less. I expressed my opinion that no handbag was worth that much, and it was a bit of a crazy thing to do when we were trying to save money for some fairly major life changes (involving emigrating half way across the world) and she was already working her notice at her job.
My reaction seems to have brought out some normally well-hidden insecurities about the fact that after we emigrate, she will be fully dependent on my income, something that I have absolutely no problem with (and have expressed this many times), and normally, neither would she – it’s just that when she goes off in high dudgeon like this, all the things that would normally not bother her, suddenly rear up and become huge issues in her mind. And now when I approach her I’m being treated to comments like “I can manage on my own”, “I can pay for this myself”, “I can be independent”, “I’m going to look for somewhere else to live”, etc etc. I generally don’t respond as I’ve realised that if I rise to the bait, things get worse.
In other episodes, it’s been a different issue that suddenly gets magnified – like can she trust me to stick by her when we’re old, or any number of other things that, honestly, people in their millions successfully ignore because it’s not something that justifies worry, or that worrying will help to resolve.
Sometimes, in the throes of one of these freeze-outs, I’ve taken a passive, apologetic stance, treating her as the alpha of the couple and agreeing that I was in the wrong (no matter whether I was or not). At other times I have stuck to my guns, when I know that my position is rational and logical, and hers isn’t either of those things. That’s what I’m doing this time around, and I actually think in this situation my Aspergers helps me keep a cool head because I can just use my autistic shell to retreat into and protect myself from all the emotion flying around. Not that it stops the hurt I feel inside. Curiously enough, whichever stance I take seems to make very little difference to the outcome – which is that, after up to three days of alternating silence and spiteful barbs, she transforms back into a normal human being and following a lengthy heart-to-heart all is forgotten.
Right now I’m hoping that today is the last day of the current episode and things will start getting back to normal overnight and tomorrow. She headed out an hour ago for ports unknown saying “don’t wait up”, so at the moment it’s anybody’s guess what I’m in store for when she gets back.
In the six or so years we’ve been together I’ve endured at least nine or ten of these episodes. Two or three were my fault, but not so the rest. Filipinos have a word for it: Tampo (link is to an enlightening article on Wikipedia).
At the end of the day, I endure. I do my best to hold my tongue, or to say placatory things if I think that’s appropriate, and I wait it out. I do this because, when it comes down to it, I love her more than I’ve loved anyone else in my life, I want her to have the best, happiest life possible, and I honestly believe that her life is better with me in it, and vice versa.
The things we do for love.
POSTSCRIPT: Sure enough, after almost three days of tampo, she apologised, explained how hard it is for her to be straightforward and express her anxieties when she’s upset, and everything returned to normal.