No, We Haven’t Killed Each Other. Yes, We Have Been Tempted.

I mentioned on Facebook this week wanting to send Emma to her non-existent room. My stepsister laughed at my pain virtually and said what most people say when I talk about someone in my traveling party driving me crazy: I can’t believe you haven’t killed anyone yet.

No, we haven’t killed anyone yet. Despite living with four people in a tiny space and spending almost all of our time together, everyone remains totally alive and mostly bruise free. How do we do it? The same way you do it.

We remember that both abuse and murder is illegal.

It’s not that I think domestic violence is funny or a viable option. Really. It’s just that of course we get on each other’s nerves. My children roll their eyes and my husband bites his tongue. He also makes this spitting sound occasionally that is the. most. annoying. noise. ever. We snap at each other and say things that are unkind. We stomp, we slam, we refuse to speak.

And then we realize that the only option we have is to work it out.

Jared and I separated two years ago after what seemed like a fast and furious explosion. The reality was that our relationship had been slowly deteriorating for years, resentment and unsaid things eating away at our connection to one another. What we learned in putting our marriage back together was that it was not being unhappy or angry that was the biggest threat to our relationship, but the tendency to let the anger and unhappiness build up under the guise of “letting it go” or “keeping the peace.”

What does that have to do with living in an RV together?

It’s really, really difficult to pretend to let things go when you’re all up in each other’s space all the time.

Of course, we try.

Fighting in front of the kids sucks and we are almost always in front of the kids. Dealing with a pissed off spouse sucks, and so it is tempting to just “let it go” instead of “starting a fight”. Letting someone know you’re hurt or upset or even annoyed requires a certain amount of trust and vulnerability, and sometimes I’m just not in the mood to be trusting and vulnerable. All of those seem like very good reasons for not telling each other when something is bothering us.

But then the resentment builds up like steam in a very small pipe and BAM! It has to go somewhere. Before, we could go to work or talk to a friend or do any number of things to let off a little pressure temporarily, enough to get by as if nothing was building under the surface. The pressure valves are limited now and so we have to let it out. We have to work through it.

We don’t get along better than you imagine you would with your family because we’ve mastered familial relationships. We get along better than we thought we would because we have to.

We’re still trying to figure out how to prevent the steam from building up in the first place.

Have you ever been forced to get along with someone? What techniques did you use to make it work?

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  1. I recommend going the other direction…instead of holding it in and letting it pile up, say something soon. While it’s small. And try to work out some code words…give that spitting sound a name and refer to it by that name…”Do we have to eat with Fred tonight?”. Code words help with the issue of fighting in front of the kids too. It’s healthy for them to see you argue and to see you make up, but they don’t always have to know exactly what you are fighting about. Sometimes they don’t need that much information. ;-)
    Long walks…alone or together. Pup tent for the kids so they can sleep outside once in awhile. Long trips to the grocery store…alone. Email each other when the kids are around and you wish they weren’t. Or fight at the laundry mat, it’s noisy there anyway.
    Tina – 34 years married, 7 of them in an RV.

  2. Nanna says:

    I can’t imagine not having steam build up. You’re different, very strong personalities each in our own color and flavor. Of course you’re going to bump into each other sometimes. I think that’s OK. (Which probably says something about me.)

  3. Mandy says:

    Wow, what an adventure! I just found your link through yankee drawl’s blog and am excited to follow your RV travels. We are constantly traveling as well (though not in a confined space) and I can completely relate to what you’re saying.

  4. Allyson says:

    Pete and I explain ourselves to each other. A lot. It can be a little annoying sometimes to have the tiniest details explained as though I’m dense, but at the same time, we don’t fight – ever. Because when Pete tells me there’s an extra cup of coffee in the press, and then explains that while I’m welcome to it, he’ll drink it if I don’t get to it, I know exactly where my responsibilities lie. I don’t have to feel guilty for wasting that extra cup, nor do I have to wonder if he needs that extra cup. And it leaves me able to do what I would have done anyway without any uncomfortable misunderstandings.

  5. i love that your kids are getting to see what a good relationship can be. setting a fine example, lady.

  6. We moved from a 7 room house to a tiny apartment with one open kitchen/living room and two bedrooms. In the big house it was easy to avoid each other when we needed to. In the apartment we seem to be much more aware of giving each other time and space to be apart. I think we are nicer to each other in a way that doesn’t at all feel like pretending.

    I have a toxic relative that used to give me nightmares…when I was awake AND asleep. She and my Mom were next door neighbors and they had an on-again-off again relationship. I spent my whole adult life biting my tongue and “playing nice” for my mom’s sake, but I finally decided 2 yrs ago to wipe her out of my life. She had mistreated my mom one time too many and I could no longer pretend. I don’t care if I ever see her again. She knows exactly why and has responded by spreading rumors about me to all my mom’s neighbors. Mom has responded by putting her house on the market!

  7. Megan says:

    As much as we’re told not to fight in front of the kids, I don’t think it’s a bad thing as long as you fight fair and resolve it in front of them as well. It teaches them what to do when they are in a relationship. People fight, especially when they are important to each other. Resolving that conflict is a skill. My parents never fought in front of us – but I heard plenty from bedroom and it was horrible.

    I’ve had to get along with plenty of people that I don’t care for, but it’s not difficult for me because I don’t take anything they do or say personally and just ignore it. That’s 10 times harder to do when it’s someone who actually matters to you.

  8. KDrausin says:

    My husband and I have been together for over twenty years. Some things that have worked for us… 1. Talking it out if we’re not too angry 2. A short time away from each other preferably spent at the gym 3. Dinner out together without the kids – reconnecting 4. Discussing our hopes and dreams for the future

    • Miss Britt says:

      Wow. You pretty much summed up over a year of marriage counseling! lol

      Thanks for putting it so simply. Fantastic advice for all of us in long-term relationships.

  9. the muskrat says:

    It’s easy to get along on the Maid of the Mist!

    My parents made my brother and I ride in the back of an ’83 Suburban for two 3-week vacations in which we drove across the country (once from Nashville to L.A. and back; again from Nashville to Alberta and back). Somehow, we didn’t hate each other upon getting home, but there were some moments in Arkansas and in Nebraska when things were real ugly.

  10. martymankins says:

    There have been a few people in my life, mostly at work, that I’ve been forced to get along with. Outside of work was my ex-wife. For years, I bit my tongue as she trashed me to many people, including my daughter. As the years went on, she became more civil. Never apologized for all that was said for years, but I’ve decided that it’s best to leave that in the past as the present is much nicer.

    In general, I think it’s a personality difference that causes people to not get along. That and being hungry.

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