Thinking about boundaries today.
My therapist has said more than once about my current marriage, “You married your mom*,” because of some ways she and my husband were alike. But I think it may be true of all three of my marriages, that I unconsciously saw something in these men that would let me address old, old wounds from childhood and “do it right” and “fix things” this time.
So foolish. And so common.
Here’s one example from my childhood and from my first marriage. When I was a kid, we had one bathroom in our small house. The door didn’t lock. My mother never, ever learned the courteous act of (1) knocking and (2) waiting for a response before she barged in — whether she was just putting new towels in the linen cabinet, telling me supper was ready, or letting me know I had run enough damned hot water.
Made me furious every time. Then one day I noticed that the linen closet, just inches from the bathroom door, opened toward the bathroom door. That meant if I left the linen closet open, my mother would smack the bathroom door into it, alarming and annoying herself when she was barging in, and I would feel a tiny bit of power. She still did this enough times that she gouged a divot out of the linen closet door. Never learned.
Years later, in my first marriage, I noticed that my first husband always seemed to want to come in the bathroom when I was in there. Almost certainly it was about control, how he would suddenly need a Q-tip or nail clippers or something RIGHT THAT MINUTE, and he was mad that I locked the door.
In frustration, I told him that some bathroom things were private. He lifted up his head, sniffed haughtily at me and said, “NOTHING should be secret between a husband and wife. My mother and father walk in and out on each other all the time.”
My response: “Well, bully for them. I don’t think it’s a particular ‘secret’ that shit smells like shit, and farts are a funny but embarrassing noise, and yet I still prefer to keep all the bathroom functions to myself, thank you very much.”
He never got that. Truly.
One day toward the end of our marriage, I was sitting on the toilet, taking care of business, when I heard him rattle the doorknob. He hadn’t knocked; he was just trying to walk in. I told him, “Occupied. I’ll be out in a sec.” He said to unlock the door, that he needed to come in right then. (We had another bathroom he could have used; he wanted to come in THAT one, right then.)
I was getting mad and trying to hurry up, while he started pounding on the door and yelling at me to OPEN THE DOOR RIGHT NOW! OPEN IT!
Then there was a sudden silence, and I could hear him walking away. I thought, “Finally. That’s a relief.”
The next thing I knew, I heard running and he slammed into the door, full force. I think he was hoping the door was weaker than it was. I started yelling at him that HE WAS INSANE. He hit the door a couple of more times before I had finished washing my hands. I eventually opened the door and said, “By all means. Be my guest.”
There is little wonder now why I really, really, really always lock the bathroom door at home. Even when I’m home alone.
*Note: I said my husband and mother “were” alike because my mother passed away a few years ago. Not intending to imply that either my husband or mother ever substantially changed. HIGHLY IMPROBABLE.