“What the hell do you want from me Steven?”
Steven turned away from Marie as she yelled at him. He had heard this so many times before and he still didn’t have an answer. This was how their arguments always ended – with her shouting this question and him walking out of the house. Today, however, was going to be different.
“Marie,” Steven said as he turned to face her again. “We need to talk about this when you’ve calmed down a bit. I don’t want to argue with you any more, but there are some things I have to say.”
Marie looked surprised. This wasn’t what she was expecting. Steven was supposed to storm out of the house – he always did once things had progressed this far. What was she meant to say, or do, now?
Steven left the room and walked to the kitchen. He filled the kettle and methodically went about making a pot of tea. He needed to do something to calm his nerves. Concentrating on measuring the leaves into the pot, he started to breathe slowly and deeply. Steven knew that if he lost his resolve he might not have another opportunity to speak his mind for a very long time.
Marie did not emerge from the bedroom until Steven was half-way through his first cup of tea. The variation from their normal argument ‘routine’ had thrown her. Confusion replaced anger and she was becoming anxious about what Steven would say. Why had she been angry in the first place? Marie couldn’t remember exactly what had set her off, perhaps it was the tone she had detected when Steven had asked her what was for dinner.
Not knowing what their argument was about was nothing new. Marie often wondered later what they had been fighting about. All she knew was that Steven would say something, or do something, and then they would be screaming at each other and she would ask him what he wanted from her. Then Steven would leave the house for an hour or so, and when he returned it would be as if nothing had ever happened.
Steven always left the house. Always.
Steven poured tea into a cup for Marie as she came into the kitchen. He motioned to her to take a seat at the dining table, and he took the cups over to sit with her. As he sat down, Steven looked at Marie and took a deep breath.
Exhaling slowly, Steven asked, “Are you feeling a little calmer now?”
Marie nodded but did not speak. She was not sure what she should say.
“Marie,” Steven said, “There’s some things I need to talk to you about. I know this is probably not the best time, but I don’t think there will ever be a good time.”
Marie took a sip of her tea. It was hot and burnt her lips and tongue, but she swallowed slowly and indicated for Steven to continue.
“I can’t do this anymore, Marie,” Steven said. “I can’t take one more argument about nothing. I can’t watch you go through your rollercoaster of emotions anymore. I can’t live here any more Marie. I’m sorry.”
Marie willed herself not to show any emotion. She had known this day would come. She had known her emotional instability was too much for Steven to bear. She had seen the signs that he was no longer able to cope. She understood his need to leave her. All of this did not, however, lessen the pain caused by the confession of his feelings.
“Steven, we have talked about this before,” Marie said. “We talked about what we would do when you could not cope anymore. I have tried, you know that. I appreciate the support you have given me so far, and I know it hasn’t been easy for you.”
Steven lowered his head and said, “I am really sorry Marie. I know you are doing everything you can, but I just can’t keep walking on egg-shells all the time. I never know what mood you are in from one minute to the next. What was a joke five minutes ago can become a full-on war without notice. I just can’t take it anymore.”
“So, what do we do now?” Marie asked.
“I’m going to pack a bag and find a place to stay,” Steven replied. “I’ll get the rest of my stuff when I’ve found somewhere permanent.”
Steven couldn’t look at Marie as he spoke. His eyes were brimming with tears, and he didn’t want her to know how much he was hurting. He also didn’t want to see the pain that he knew he would find in Marie’s eyes. Yes, they had talked about what would happen if it all became too much for him, but those conversations had always made the decision seem easy. Neither of them had considered that they would still love each other when the time came for the decision to be made. Well, he had never considered it.
By now, Marie had completely forgotten that they had been fighting less than an hour before. All she could think about was how much pain she was in, and how hard it must be for Steven to tell her this. She had seen the tears in his eyes and had started berating herself for being such a horrible person. Why did she have to be the cause of so much pain? Why did she have to be so abnormal and have no control over her emotions? If she were normal, Steven would not be going through this right now, and he would not have had to endure ten years of hell while being in a relationship with her.
Steven left the table when he saw Marie become focused on her thoughts. He could guess some of what she was thinking. She almost glazed over when she started turning on herself, and he had seen this so often before. This time though, Steven had to be strong or he would be in danger of losing his own sanity. He would go and pack his bag, but he would call Marie’s counsellor when he left so someone could come and stay with her. He knew the consequences his leaving might have, but he couldn’t think about that now. He had to go.
Marie was still sitting at the table when Steven came back with his overnight bag. She looked up at him and could not stop her tears from overflowing. Wiping them away with the back of her hands she said, “It’s okay Steven. I understand.”
Steven nodded and touched her on the shoulder. “I’ll give Jeff a call and let him know what’s happened. He’s been a good counsellor for you Marie, you need to keep seeing him, okay? You need to keep working on this. I’d like to say that I’ll be there for you, but I really need a break – some time to work on me. Who knows though, maybe someday…”
“Steven, don’t make promises you can’t keep,” Marie said. “Yes, I’ll keep working on it. You take care of you. I’m really sorry. I know you’ve been through so much because of me. I hope you find some happiness, I really do.”
Steven patted Marie’s shoulder, then turned and walked to the door. He didn’t turn before he went out, and Marie didn’t say anything more.
Just like that, she was on her own – and she had no idea what to do now.